CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY
One house, one church
One feature that most Lagos residents share is their passion for religion. Everywhere you turn in the city, mosques and churches abound, the noises from their speakers pervading the entire neighbourhood from dawn till dusk and sometimes through the night. The mosques seem a bit modest in their activities. But for the churches, there is hardly any restraint in their expansionist inclinations.
In Lagos, hardly would you find a street without a church. From the major ministries occupying whole communities to mega cathedrals to miniature, one-room prayer missions, churches are perhaps the commonest item in Nigeria’s most popular city.
But one common thing in Lagos, especially among the indigenes, as well as other Yoruba folks, is religious liberalism. Most indigenous families in Lagos have members practising both Islam and Christianity. The husband might be a practising Muslim while the wife is a worker in a Pentecostal church. Little wonder names like Abraham Isiaka, Abdulwahab Emmanuel, Ibrahim Benjamin, Ganiyu Solomon are commonplace in Lagos.
Where lawlessness is law
But if there’s anything that the churches and mosques have not succeeded in ridding Lagos residents of, it is their penchant for lawlessness and rebelliousness. In the City of Excellence, everyone delights in disobeying the law. Virtually every resident is guilty. As you ride around Lagos, whether in the day or at night, what you’ll find is sheer lawlessness walking about on all fours.
Road traffic laws are disobeyed with impunity. On the expressway, danfo buses and even private vehicles face oncoming vehicles with reckless brazenness. Most of the aesthetically inviting pedestrian bridges built by the state government across the city now serve more as tourist sites than pedestrian bridges. The pedestrians for whom they were constructed simply disregard the bridges, preferring the deadly dash across the highway. The presence of policemen or Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officials near the bridges, and the realization that their brains might come popping out if they are hit by speeding vehicles, are definitely not enough reasons to get Lagos residents using the pedestrian bridges.
Lagos motorists generally see the traffic lights as an irritant. They are not patient enough to stop for anyone at Zebra crossings. “Why I go stop,” a danfo driver queried the reporter. “Dem dey call am zebra crossing. If I see zebra wey wan cross, you go see say I go stop.”
Danfo drivers are particularly guilty of every offence in the book. They stop in the middle of the highway to pick passengers. Most of them drive like persons with psychiatric challenges. The danfo driver does not wait for a U-turn sign before making a U-turn, even on the highway. Whenever and wherever the driver feels like turning, he simply turns, climbing the median to accomplish his desire. And when there is some traffic on the highway, he simply converts the median into a road!
Along most roads is a thriving market. Many roads in Apongbon, Idumota, Ikorodu and other parts of Lagos have even metamorphosed to markets, with entire lanes taken up by traders in the evenings. Even when the state laws prescribe tough penalties for street traders, nobody seems to bother. Occasionally, state officials, KAI operatives, policemen, members of the Security Task Force on the environment and other teams perfunctorily visit the ‘highway markets’. They seize the goods of some of the defiant traders who are unlucky to have stayed while their peers engage in a dialogue with their legs. But as soon as the officials leave, the traders return, and buying and selling continue on such roads.
Lagos is one place where you might never visit the stores, and you’ll still always get to buy whatever you need. Even if you don’t go to the market, the market comes to you. In Lagos traffic, there is hardly any easily movable good or household item that is not on sale – from electronic devices to clothes to foodstuff and more.
The state has outlawed begging. In the books, it is an offence to beg, just as those that give alms to beggars are culpable. But that is where it ends. Even today, on the streets and highways of Lagos, begging and beggars flourish like catfish in a swampy locale. No one makes any attempt to stop the beggars and their benefactors.
The BRT corridor in any part of Lagos is a dedicated lane for BRT buses. But even when the other general lanes are free, many motorists – private and commercial – seem to get a kick from taking the BRT lane. Once they cannot find any policeman nearby, motorists quickly detour to the BRT lane.
Touts on the loose
A major part of the lawlessness in the city is the continued activities of touts, known as agberos, at every major bus stop in the metropolis. For every commercial bus driver and bus conductor in Lagos, the fear of bus stop touts is the beginning of wisdom. Wearing a perpetual frown, and brandishing sticks and cudgels, the touts often number up to four or five as they forcefully collect various levies from each bus driver and his conductor. A light argument with them might result in a bloody face for the uncooperative driver or his conductor. Some openly display wraps of marijuana while sprinting after moving vehicles to retrieve their ‘dues.’ Major bus stops like Oshodi, Mile 2, Cele, Mushin, Abule Egba, Iyana Ipaja, Mile 12, Ketu, Ijora and others are permanent homes for the touts. They resume operations as early as 4.am and they would be there till well after 10pm.
They seem more powerful than the government. Apart from some respite during the military era, successive civilian governments have generously indulged the touts and their activities.
Mr. Chuks Arinze, an insurance executive with a firm in Palm Grove, was visibly angry when he spoke with the reporter on the activities of the touts. “They are area boys,” he asserted. “But it becomes more painful when you realise that these people don’t pay any taxes to the government. So all the money they make from the commercial drivers, what is the percentage that goes to the government? Nothing. So the question is, why has the government not regulated their activities? Why are they allowed to continue inflicting pain and trauma on innocent drivers and conductors doing their legitimate business? I think they have a partnership with government. I learnt that they serve the politicians well during campaigns. And I learnt that their leaders are quite connected to the politicians. That is why they are so powerful and operate with impunity.”
A female passenger on a Mile 2/Festac First Gate-bound mass transit bus in Oshodi told the reporter that even the police officers detailed to direct traffic just after the Oshodi Bridge had since devised a means of collecting their ‘daily dues’ from the commercial drivers. “Some of the touts are working for the police officers. They collect money from the drivers and bus conductors and pass on the money to the officers. They are then settled by the officers.”
City of fun
Lagos residents are also fun lovers. Pubs, otherwise called beer parlours, abound in every street. And there seems to be something for everyone, no matter the status.
From elite lounges to bars and pubs to roadside joints selling mixed alcoholic concoction, known as shepe or paraga, there is something for everyone, no matter your status.
Every evening, most side streets become emergency bars, with hot pepper soup, nkwobi, Isi-Ewu, roasted fish and other delicacies to accompany the drinks. A drive around Lagos communities in the evenings would get you wondering whether the lull in the economy has any effect on alcohol connoisseurs in Lagos.
Lagos is also the city of great and not-so-great hotels, restaurants, cafetarias and local canteens. And in every part of the city, you will also find guesthouses and brothels that have for long been satisfying the philandering, libidinous needs of many a man.
Lagos has always been a city of fun. As a result of its early contact with Europe and Europeans, its status as the nation’s commercial hub and former capital, nightlife has always thrived in Lagos. Besides the bars, the hotels and the guesthouses, nightclubs, stripper clubs and assorted entertainment centres that flourish mainly at night have also been an integral part of the Lagos metropolis for long.
But over the years, a number of factors, especially security and the unstable economic climate, caused a negative effect on the city’s nightlife. As things gradually picked up, nightlife returned, but the entertainment centres were mainly concentrated on the island and Ikeja on the mainland.
These days, nightlife is fully back in Lagos. The good, old Island still has some of the best clubs, whether in Lekki, Ikoyi or Victoria Island. Ikeja is still the headquarters of night clubbing on the mainland. Scores of bars and strippers clubs where young ladies bare all to entertain guests litter all parts of the Lagos State capital. The clubs are usually at their busiest at the weekends, especially on Friday nights.
But for night crawlers living far away from Ikeja and the Island, there is a bit of good news. These days, nightlife seems to have commenced a renaissance and it’s springing up anew in all parts of the metropolis. Whether in the exclusive neighbourhoods or in the suburbs, nightlife in the Centre of Excellence has received a fresh breath. Surulere, Igando, Abule Egba, Ikorodu and indeed, all parts of Lagos are very much alive in the nights with a string of activities.
Mr. Patrick Elesho lives and works at Wawa, a community close to Mowe along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. He told the reporter that every Friday night, he unleashes himself on Lagos for some entertainment.
“Driving around Lagos in the night is now an enjoyable experience,” he informed. “The administration of Governor Ambode has done very well in terms of security. And the Light Up Lagos project, through which streetlights have been fixed on virtually all the major roads and highways, has made the roads secured and safe to navigate in the land. I move around easily, with no fear of traffic. I go out mostly on Friday nights. Occasionally I do on Saturday nights. But I can confirm to you that nightlife in Lagos is thriving.”
Penury amidst plenty
Lagos is the city where some of the wealthiest men and women in Africa live. It is a city of palatial mansions, breathtaking high-rises and glittering automobiles. It is a city of power, glitz, and glamour. But it is also the city of the hoi polloi, where millions of penurious, pauperised souls dwell in ramshackle, makeshift shanties in slums and swamps scattered across the state.
Nowhere is this paradox so glaring like in Eti-Osa and the Ibeju-Lekki/Ajah area of the city. These are the communities that have exotic, gated neighbourhoods like Ikoyi, Banana Island, Victoria Garden City, Lekki Phase 1 and a few others. But it is also where you’ll find rural villages like Ogoyo, Alaguntan, Ito Omu, Magbon, Maiyegun and Oko Abe, among others.
In some of these villages, power is a non-existent commodity, schools, hospitals and health centres are luxuries that could only be fantasised about, and good roads are facilities that exist only in dreamland.
At Otodo-Gbame, a makeshift community in Ikate area of Lekki, 20 children died mysteriously early in the year. They were said to have succumbed to the fatal pangs of measles.
Recently, some of the communities in the Ibeju-Lekki axis were given a lifeline by the state government. Last month, 67 communities in the area that had not experienced power in the last five years were connected to the national grid by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. But many other communities remain in Lagos without basic social amenities.
What’s in a name?
What’s in a name? To the legendary dramatist and poet, William Shakespeare, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But some in Lagos insist that certain names depict the character of particular communities.
“When you hear the names of certain communities in Lagos, the pictures you see are those of wealth and affluence,” Timothy Jude, a Bayelsa indigene who was born and raised in Lagos, informed the reporter. “For instance, what images do names like Banana Island, Ikoyi, Victoria Garden City, Magodo Estate, Palm Grove Estate, Victoria Island and Lekki Phase One evoke? You need no one to tell you that these places are the abode of the rich and powerful. Now, can you compare those names to ones like Oworonshoki, Okokomaiko, Ajangbadi, Kirikiri, Alagutan, Alapere, Monkey Village, Alagbado, Alakuko, Isheri-Olofin, and so on?”
But his assertion was punctured by Gbenga Adesina, a Lagos indigene who lives in Alagbado. “The man that told you that is a jester,” he submitted. “Names mean nothing. What he said is utter rubbish. Ajegunle, the popular community in Ajeromi/Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos means ‘wealth has settled here.’ Would you say Ajegunle is the wealthiest part of Lagos? Please don’t be deceived.”
Cultists on the prowl
Like in every major city, crime is a daily occurrence in Lagos. From the petty crimes – bag snatching and pick-pocketing – to robberies, kidnapping and other villainous acts, Lagos has its own share of vices.
In the past few years, street gangs and cult groups have seized the soul of Lagos. In many parts of the city, deadly fights between rival cult groups and street gangs have led to many deaths and destruction of property. Places like Bariga, Shomolu, Fadeyi, Ikorodu, Mushin and other parts of Lagos have been the epicentre of the bloody wars usually fought on the streets by gun-wielding young men. Lives have been cut short, while limbs, homes and vehicles have been destroyed in the cult wars. Hardly has anyone been comprehensively punished for these acts of villainy and unbridled brigandage.
Lagos communities and their character
Lagos isn’t just one large metropolis; it is an amalgamation of hundreds of separate communities, with each having a distinctive character. Even though there are hardly any visible boundaries demarcating each neighbourhood from the rest, Lagos communities still retain their unique features and distinguishing personalities.
Lagos Island can be accessed from the mainland through the Eko Bridge, Carter Bridge or the Ibrahim Babangida Boulevard, which is commonly known as the Third Mainland Bridge. Isale-Eko, which stretches from Eko Bridge to Apongbon, Ebute Ero, Idumota, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Dosunmu Street, Idumagbo to Adeniji Adele Road, Martins Street, Broad Street, Balogun Street, Oluwole, Mandilas and Tinubu Square is known for its 24-hour rambunctiousness. It is the nation’s major commercial hub and home to many markets, banks and other financial institutions. It is where you’ll find the popular Idumota Market where you can get clothes, shoes and other fashion accessories in large quantities and at cheap prices. The area is very congested with the houses, mostly two or three-storied, cramped close to one another.
Indigenes of the area, it is believed, have a deeply sentimental connection to their roots. “If you’re an Islander, that is, an indigene of Lagos Island, no matter your status, you would never want to leave the Island,” Martins Wale Mohammed, an indigene and journalism teacher in one of the government-owned colleges in Lagos told the reporter.” Even if you’re a landlord in Surulere or Ikeja or wherever, you would want to retain your room in the family house on the Island. And mind you, you might even be sharing that room with two or three other siblings or cousins. And here, you don’t need to cook or even have a kitchen. There is no food you cannot get to buy at anytime of the day or night.”
Until a few years ago, Oluwole Market in Lagos Island was a den of forgers. At the peak of its infamy, there was no document or signature that couldn’t be faked and reproduced at Oluwole. University certificates, international passports with valid visas, vehicle documents and many others would be manufactured with relative ease at Oluwole. But in 2007, Oluwole’s long reign came to an end. The shanties were demolished and the forgers dislodged. In 2010, an ultra-modern market was opened at the place.
Surulere is an upscale neighbourhood in Lagos. It houses two international sports complexes – the National Stadium and the Teslim Balogun Stadium. It also houses some of the best boutiques and shopping centres in Lagos.
Mushin is a crowded Lagos community dreaded by many for its notoriety. Known as a major den of gangsters and street toughies, Mushin is also a commercial town that never sleeps. It is the birthplace of many Yoruba music genres, notably Fuji music.
One of the most important towns in Lagos is Ajegunle, a cosmopolitan community located in the Ajeromi/Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state. To many within and outside Nigeria, Ajegunle, also called AJ City, or Jungle City, is the most notorious ghetto in the country. A place packed full with people from all over the country, Ajegunle was the boundary between the old Western Region and the defunct Lagos Colony. The area called Boundary in Ajegunle was the boundary point.
Ajegunle is loathed and dreaded by many for its filthiness and criminal tendencies. The streets are congested and unemployment is a major feature of the community.
Zika Bobby, an editor with The Sun, was born and raised in Ajegunle. He explained to the reporter: “An early morning visit to the area would shock you, as young boys sit in groups discussing all manner of issues. Many of them who still live with their parents have taken to gambling just to survive. Most of the girls who take to prostitution are now breadwinners of the home. Hotels, bars and nightclubs are seen on almost every street.”
But Ajegunle is not all tales of woe. Many of Nigeria’s successful football stars, including Samson Siasia, Odion Ighalo, Taribo West, Peter Rufai, Emmanuel Amunike, Tarila Okorowanta and Henry Nwosu were Ajegunle products. Popular artistes like Daddy Showkey, Daddy Fresh, Baba Fryo, Oritse Femi as well as the comedian, Bright Okpocha, aka Basket Mouth all have their roots in AJ City.
The Tolu Complex in Ajegunle is perhaps the biggest school complex in West Africa. There, 37 primary and secondary schools struggle for space.
Agege is the origin of the popular Agege Bread, or Buredi Agege, a daily meal for the average Lagos resident. With or without its usual accompaniment – Ewa Agonyin (a mashed beans porridge served with a spicy pepper sauce), Agege Bread remains a daily delight for many. It was the bread that was being hawked by Olajumoke Orisaguna before she was spotted by the artiste and photographer, TY Bello. The bread seller has since been transformed into a model.
Shomolu is the headquarters of printing and printers in Lagos. In the community, one out of every three houses accommodate a number of printing outfits. Lawanson, at Surulere, is the home of second-hand refrigerators. Oshodi houses the largest number of ‘area boys’ in Lagos. Until recently, it has a very thriving clothes and electronics market.
Although some do their shopping while on the road, Lagos still parades some of the largest markets in West Africa. And certain communities have been made more popular by their markets and the items on sale in such markets.
Mile 12 Market is perhaps the most popular food market in Lagos. But it isn’t the only one. Some other popular food markets are Daleko Market between Isolo and Mushin, Oyingbo Market at Ebute-Meta and others. Epe and ijora both have large fish and assorted seafood markets.
Ladipo Market, Mushin, Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association (ASPAMDA) Plaza, International Trade Fair Complex, Ojo and Owode-Onirin Market, along the Mile 12-Ikorodu Road, are the largest auto spare parts market in Lagos. Alaba International Market in Ojo is the largest electronics market in the state.
The most popular market for books in Lagos is, quite shockingly, in Ajegunle. The Books Village, located on Bale Street, Ajegunle, houses hundreds of bookstores selling academic and professional books at wholesale prices.
Agege has the popular Abbatoir Market where cows, rams, sheep and goats are slaughtered and sold daily.
Aswani Market, located around the Five Star bus stop in Isolo is a large clothes market. On Tuesdays, there is usually some traffic congestion between Toyota and Five Star along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, as thousands of people within and outside Lagos troop to the market for their clothing needs.
Still a tradition hub
Lagos might be a mega city and the nation’s major economic hub, but it’s essentially a traditional Yoruba town in many ways. You’d be shocked that most of the festivals and rites done in Yoruba communities are also done in Lagos.
During the Oro festival, for instance, entire communities are on total lockdown. Residents of the community are warned not to venture out of their homes. Most times, the Oro festivals take place in the night, but it’s also daytime affair at certain times and certain places.
When an Oba dies, or meets the ancestors, as the Yoruba claim, markets are closed, trees are cut and other traditional rites are carried out.
Even robbers and hooligans obey the unwritten traditional laws. During the Oro festival, you would never hear of any robbery operations in such communities. No one wants to be slaughtered by the Oro deity, not even the AK 47-brandishing bandit!