I Conquered Lagos


My cousin had told me that I’d get what I wanted in Balogun market but I wondered why I should move all the way from the mainland to the Island just for one item. Does that make sense? So, everyone who lives on the mainland must travel that distance to get it? I decided to ask Google and it showed me shops at Tejuosho. 

Called the driver who usually drove me around whenever I got into town and he said his vehicle was bad. Before he could talk about making alternative arrangements, an idea struck me. Take public transportation. See Lagos. Know Lagos. If my friend who is not a Nigerian can boldly taunt me with photos of him freely moving around in Lagos without fear, why can’t I own my place?? 

I asked questions. They said take a taxi. No! I must overcome my fear today. “Take a taxi. You will cry today oo.”. No!!! “Oya na, take Keke out of the estate to Kilimanjaro. From there, take another one to Cele. Then enter a bus going to Yaba. Come back like that”.

Getting to Cele bus stop wasn’t difficult. Problem started with knowing the bus that was going to Yaba. I entered four  different buses but none of them was going to my destination. I didn’t hear what the touts were saying. I could only pick out “wole!!”. Yellow rickety buses with no paddings on the metal interiors and I kept jumping in out of them with fake confidence. I believe those buses can only be seen in Lagos.

I asked the first man, he pointed (without his finger going beyond his nose), “na that one for front”. Second man, (looking in the opposite direction), “na that one”. Third man, “go back. You don pass am”. Fourth one, “madam come enter this one”.

Determination battled with fear. Book a ride immediately and be safe. No. These are human beings moving up and down, even older people. The former won. 

I got to know my bus was the first one I walked pass. Finally, sitting in the bus, I understood that they were shouting “Yaba Ojuelegba Yaba” all the while I moved from bus to bus. Another one was shouting something CMS. Then the other places I couldn’t make out but people were entering freely. How they pick out the destinations is what I don’t know. 

The driver took off with the door open. Halfway, he parked, came down and closed the door. I guess that was the routine. I can put money down that the bus hasn’t known a shock absorber in the last ten years. One could practically feel the metals rubbing together like gritting teeth. “Collect your money line by line. Five five hundred”.

Done with my business at Tejuosho, I was heading to where I’d get a bus heading to my area when I saw roasted plantain and ground nuts. What is Lagos without Bole and guguru? Never tasted it but I’ve heard stories about it, just like bole and fish of Port-Harcourt. 

Out to fully conquer Lagos in one outing, I bought the hot delicacy and headed to my bus. While seated, I bought water, washed my hands, asked the lady sitting close to me if she minded me eating groundnuts in the bus (the smell can be offensive especially in a closed setting) and she said no. I munched away while the different voices kept shouting around me; hawkers, traders, touts calling their different customers for patronage and boy, I somehow liked the chaotic bustle. Two women were busy talking so loudly at the last row of seats like we didn’t exist. Perhaps we didn’t, in their world. The hot sun and sweat while we stayed held up in traffic helped to give the complete Lagos experience. At least, one would have a very big reason to have a thorough bath.

Somehow, when I got home, I felt so accomplished like I did the first time I traveled abroad. As I was falling asleep, I smiled happily and hugged myself warmly. Ijeoma has done it again. 

I have finally come to Lagos. A very big achievement. Eko o’ni baje! Go on joor. 

Ijeoma Felicity Uba

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