By Job Osazuwa
At the moment, Christmas and New Year celebrations are gone. High and low-level partying, picnics and visits to family and friends have all taken the back seat.
All long and short holidays declared by companies and government have since elapsed. Every worker is back to business, and the schools, from the kindergarten to the university, have resumed academic activities.
Lagos, with its estimated population of over 20 million people, has roared back to life. The perennial chaos dominant on the streets of Lagos has resurfaced and is staring residents in the face.
It has become a yearly tradition for many Lagos residents to desert the busy city during the Yuletide. The just-concluded season wasn’t an exception. In their numbers, they headed for their respective towns and villages to celebrate with their loved ones.
Many, however, expressed surprise to have also witnessed the same phenomenon in 2017, given the poor state of the country’s economy and the attendant agony being experienced by Nigerians. The unfriendly economy was further compounded by a hike in transportation fares due to a harsh fuel scarcity that hit every part of Nigeria in December. Some parts of the country are still enduring the scarcity.
To other parts of the country, especially the South-South, South-East and Western states, Lagos dwellers went, leaving the mega city almost empty. Transport fares were no longer normal, as they began to succumb to the oppressive law of demand and supply, but the travellers were simply irrepressible in their determination to reunite with their loved ones. All that has become a thing of the past as they are back to confront the reality of life in Lagos.
It is indisputable that, from dawn to dusk, Lagos is alive with activities that amaze and enthral at the same time, thereby forming a mixed grill. In some parts of the state, the environment and its dwellers hardly rest or sleep.
The city’s intimidating soaring population, the growing number of upscale settlements, high-rise buildings and companies make Lagos a home of big-time opportunities. From the length and breadth, climes and cultures of the country, everyone comes to Lagos to have a bite of the limitless opportunities. These armies of opportunity-seekers are either permanent residents or visitors who come to transact one business or the other.
But now that the holidays are over, the great number of automobiles are back on the roads. Many who didn’t travel out of the city wish that the short break from strangulating gridlocks were not over yet. The days of commuters being kept on the same spot for hours, characterised by gnashing of teeth, have returned.
Mr. Edobor Monday, a commercial bus driver who shuttles between Agbara and Mile 2, told the reporter that Lagos became so dry for business during the holidays that he began to appreciate the importance of the busy side of the city. He was of the belief that non-residents make a better percentage of the population of the state.
“The Christmas and New Year holidays yearly remind us that non-indigenes are the major drivers of Lagos economy. They come from far and near to run the small, medium and large-scale businesses. This is my sixth year of not travelling out of Lagos during the festive period and the difference between December 24 and January 10 and the remaining part of the year is clear in everything,” Monday said.
Speaking from a commercial driver’s point of view, he disclosed that life is more pleasurable during the Yuletide but admitted that business is always at the lowest ebb. He said the reduction in hustling and bustling during the period made the environment conducive for those left behind.
“The traffic jam, noise pollution and other ugly sides of Lagos are gradually building up. But they are somehow needed to keep us alive in business. Although I still cannot meet up with my usual daily savings of N5,000, it has been improving from last week. The first week of the year was not easy for those of us who are drivers. There was a day I angrily closed and went home early because the passengers were not just coming out,” he said.
A trader who deals in provisions at Ile-Epo Market in Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Areaof Lagos, Solomon Eze, told Daily Sun in his shop that he returned from his Anambra hometown on January 7 and had to hit the ground running the next day.
“My customers have started coming to patronise me. Many of us that travelled to the East are back. All my colleagues in the market have returned since last week. If anybody is still in the village by now, his relatives and friends must be asking him or her if anything is wrong.
“Lagos is a place to hustle and make genuine money. That is why many people believe that it is a no-man’s land, even though there are actual owners of the land. Everybody, especially in this area that we are, enjoys the peace of the land. For more than 10 years, nobody has intimidated my family and me over anything. There has not been a single robbery in my shop or at home,” Eze said.
At the Mile 2, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Agege, Egbeda, Third Mainland Bridge and other axes of the city, nightmarish traffic has welcomed the residents into 2018. On Monday, January 8, various popular bus stops in the city were a beehive of human and vehicular movement. Many passengers paid through the noses to get to their destinations, no thanks to the fuel scarcity that still lingers.
An employee with a newspaper house in Lagos, Mrs. Obinna O., said she spent more than one hour at Iyana-Ipaja bus stop before she could get a fairly cheap fare to Oshodi on that particular Monday afternoon. She lamented that she spent over three hours in a gridlock instead of the usual one hour ride to her office.
“How I wish the streets of Lagos would continue to be lonely as they were in the last two weeks,” she said. “It is too early in the year to resume suffering on the road. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes that government is constructing has increased our suffering on the road too.”
Obinna called on the road traffic wardens to deploy more men to the route in order to curtail the recklessness of commercial bus drivers who take pleasure in facing traffic at the expense of other road users.
Uchenna Nedu, who sells all kinds of clothing materials at Tejuosho, said he had spent virtually all the money he made in 2017 while he was in the village. He said he took the risk because he knew he would recover from the huge expenditure within the first two months in 2018.
“I hosted my town union members and that cost me a lot of money but it was fun. I quickly came back to Lagos to sell my goods and to recover from the expenses. There were other social activities that took place in my village that dug a hole into my pocket. I love Lagos because it is a place where you can get buyers to purchase any legitimate wares you display.”
The reporter’s visit to Tejuosho Market in the Surulere area of the state a few days ago revealed that sales were gradually picking up. The traders, who are mostly from the South-East, were happy to be back to business after the short break. The popular Odu-Ade Market, along Orile-Mile 2 Expressway, where ceramics are sold, and most shops in Balogun and other markets on Lagos Island have awakened from their Yuletide slumber.