Debo Adejugbe: Lagos State Of Mind
Lagos is a lovely city, No doubt.
Even with all the fumes from the old exhausts of Danfos, the various loudspeakers blaring magically remixed versions of songs that the artistes themselves never get to listen to, the several twists and turns an average Lagosian displays while dealing with others or the various bus-stop pastors who belch out rhythmically explosive sermons. It is a city where wonders are birthed.
Lagos! Where we rush to do everything imaginable on earth. We rush to sleep, rush to wake up, rush to eat, rush to work, rush back home, rush to make calls, rush to the cinema, rush to get married, rush to give birth, rush to make money……… We rush to Live.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if I conclude that “we rush to die” in Lagos. It is embedded in our genes and if you don’t have the “rush attitude” yet, you are obviously not a Lagosian. Even those who breeze in once in a while for holidays have this trait in them.
The other day at Agidingbi intersection while waiting for the green light, the man in the car beside me (an IITA branded vehicle)was eating from a food flask with his left hand firmly on the steering control. He kept eating while we moved towards Allen Junction and this was a Saturday. These are things we see on Lagos roads.
I’ve noticed a really annoying attitude that gets me worked up whenever someone pushes that panic button safely tucked in my head. If you drive in Lagos, you’re either a victim or perpetrator of this attitude. At traffic light points, if the highly esteemed red light cuts you off your journey temporarily, with your car at the head of the queue, you must have experienced the senseless honking of those behind you immediately the light turns yellow. It begs the question: Where the heck are y’all rushing to? Honking when the light indicates you should get ready?
One incident evergreen in my memory happened in 1998 when we moved from Shogunle in Oshodi area to Casso in Kollington area of Alagbado. A cousin was around then and he helped with the movement of household stuff. The first week after we moved, we visited a friend in Shogunle and when it was time to go back,my cousin hurriedly boarded a bus and I jumped in with him. Everything was ok, even the bus fare was cheaper than what we were used to and I had to ask him again if he was sure the “Molue” was the rightone, to which he affirmed that it was.
My fears got confirmed when the “Molue” veered onto the bridge going to “Shasha”. I had to tap the bus conductor close to me and asked him what was happening. He told me we were on the bus to Shasha. We got down and the subsequent job of getting the right bus to Alagbado fell upon me. We laughed over it at home but it doesn’t lighten the burdens we face as an ever rushing horde of hustling animals. Lagos can do that to you. Just pray that you get the memo on time when it’s your turn because it wouldn’t be funny if you have no cash on you when it happens.
So, few days ago while going to Ikoyi to see a friend, I had made up my mind to take a taxi but decided against it because I needed to write and sometimes the things I see or hear on these buses help open my brain up to amazing possibilities. Ordinarily, an obviously able-bodied man begging for alms (citing one problem or the other) wouldn’t be out of place, but it took me back to an experience I had a few months back. These buses can rouse even a dead brain into action.
There is a lady at Ojodu-Berger. She is beautiful, soft spoken, calm and convincing. Yes, convincing because I fell for her tricks several times. The first night she accosted me, she complained about not having the required transport fare to Ikotun and blessed me in advance even when I was yet to decide on what to do about her request. In any case I succumbed,gave her the transport fare and went my way.
I’ve noticed the same scenario playing itself out over and over with this lady, almost every time I don’t drive out, she accosts me and delivers her lines impeccably – always looking for transport fare to Ikotun – I always oblige, hoping I was helping someone genuinely in need. She gestures with her hands and knees, thanks me and we go our different ways. It became a cycle, not necessarily always but too frequent to be ignored.
One night, on the conclusion of a very bad day, I was going home “jejely” with the little strength I had left when I saw her being scolded on how she perpetrates her duping business. The cat in me was curious to hear more. I studied the face this time and I could see the same face as the perpetually stranded “Ikotun woman”. True to her trade, after she left the man, she saw me as the next mugu. I politely told her that I had given her Ikotun fare more times than I care to remember, urging her to stay put at home if this is how she goes begging to go back. I’m very sure she lives around that area, but brings Ikotun up for effect and sympathy.
There is a new trade in town. Now, I know there are genuine beggars or those who definitely care for others, seeking for ways to help them. But the new craze is about orphanages and the suffering of children in these places. Countless people are trolling Lagos with envelopes, they are seen in buses, market places, offices etc asking for money on behalf of orphanages to meet the basic needs of these kids. They tell you the most ridiculous stories laced with suffering and neglect, invoking whatever sympathy you have, so that you can part with something for “their kids”.
The reasons why they troll the streets range from the highly ridiculous to the plain stupid ones. They lay out how many spoons a baby needs for a measure of food or where the babies were found, painting an exclusively grim picture of the future if you don’t part with money. And you, thinking it might be true, will decide to drop a little to help these kids. Ask them about the Orphanage and how you can get there, their breathing becomes rapid and they make vague descriptions, and when asked for the contact there, they look genuinely hurt that you are doubting them. It’s part of the Lagos story.
I, For one, doubt if the orphanages look for help through people so starved -that you can see it in their faces – and worse off than the children they are supposedly begging for. But who knows? I might be wrong. It’s just that Lagos is awash with stories of those who dupe you, without actually duping you -because you gave willingly to their cause- and it’ll never stop. Using kids as an excuse is a new one and I’m sure by the time people get tired, a new method will definitely take its place.
Lagos and her unending drama. The more you look into it, the more you get sucked in. What can we do, other than say “Eko o ni baje” ju bayi lo?