by Omonike Odi
Last week, I was in Lagos and in true Las Gidi style; I had the experience of my life. I was totally out of my element; I rode on the back seat of an okada, and then took bus rides in very razz buses from scary bus stops. Yet surprise a la Lagos wasn’t over, I finally bumped into celebrity musician, Ashionye.
My Lagos adventure continues…..
“…so I pulled my skirt above my knee and attempted to raise a leg. That’s when I heard a tearing sound.”
Lagos has never ceased to provide firsts for me and I didn’t think my last trip would be any different. On a Monday night, I found myself waiting in the crowded Murtala Mohammed airport for two hours to board a flight from Abuja to Lagos. My flight had been shifted once already hence the two hour wait.
Overtime I have learnt to expect certain things from Lagos; like bumping into a Nollywood star, seeing the ocean, being rudely addressed by a bus conductor and being stuck in traffic on the 3rd mainland bridge. What I didn’t foresee however, was to be ousted out of my role as an observer and given a part in the movie called Lagos.
My experience flying into Lagos was surreal, but my experience one on the road the next morning was anything but that. I set out of my Isolo home to attend an event at the Four Points on Victoria Island. I had been told to negotiate N1500 for the cab fee once I got to the junction. For the occasion, I dressed up carefully that morning in a smart skirt suit supported by black suede, runway Next shoes with 6 inch heels but there was no cab in sight. A “Marwa’s or “Keke NAPEP” tricycle stopped to let off a child in uniform and I quickly approached the driver to ask where I could find a cab.
The driver began a rapid explanation complete with gesticulations and I nodded to encourage sense out of him. The man seating behind him suggested I joined them since they were headed in the same direction the driver had mentioned. I lifted the weight from my heels to support my legs on the metal floor of the tricycle.
As I held a rod by the window for support, I wondered if I should be thankful for the intervention or wary of help from these total strangers. I instinctively pressed my handbag close to my body and resolved to be vigilant. Soon enough we arrived at a place on another street where I could see two cars with the sign “hire” set on their tops. I found my feet on the tarred road before asking the driver what I owed him. He smiled an old man smile and said “No worry”. I was surprised but pleased and took it as a sign of good luck. After thanking the old man, I proceeded to the parked cars.
“VI!” I ordered in my strongest no nonsense voice.
“3, 500,” a voice returned.
A man in a native tunic and trouser inched towards me and I could see he was looking me over. I hesitated. That was too much for a cab and it wouldn’t do to go back home with a sad tale of how I parted ways with N3500 for a cab ride. My cousins would laugh hard and put it down to my being a JJC. I shrugged off my cool and barked back: “N1500!”
The man adamantly refused and I walked on feigning annoyance like I would have done in Abuja hoping he would call me back to re-negotiate. It always worked without fail but this time, I didn’t hear a thing. The man had retaken his seat and was now chewing hard on his chewing stick. He wasn’t budging. So much for luck, I thought. a security guard who had been observing me from the side of the road walked over and asked me if I was going to VI. I once again pressed my bag to my sides and hardened my face.
“Yes”, I answered in a voice I hoped sounded confident.
“Why don’t you take a bike to Cele bus stop for N100 then from there enter bus to CMS then when you get there you go get taxi easily to VI”.
I looked at the man for a second, and then I glanced at the time on my wrist watch. The watch decided for me, I had to make a move. While the idea of a bus did not appeal, I reasoned that if I could get to the next stop, I would be further ahead than where I was and would find a more agreeable cab driver. The security man hailed a bike that had just stopped a few feet away.
He addressed the man as “Molla”, and I felt a little more comfortable that the “okada”driver was Hausa. I spoke to him briefly in his language and he assured me I would find a cab at Cele bus stop so I pulled my skirt above my knee and attempted to raise a leg. That’s when I heard a tearing sound. It was the lining that had given way thankfully so I repeated the move and hoisted myself successfully onto the bike.
My mind slowly drifted to the horrid stories I had heard of Lagos.
When I raised my head to see there was a dirty helmet in my view.“Take!” the Hausa man was pushing the helmet into my hand. I shook my head in disbelief and put the thing over my head with a deep sense of regret. I calculated the price of the hair extension on my head before peacefully coming to the realisation that at least, it was protecting my head from the dirty helmet.
Cele bus stop was many streets later and I still couldn’t find a cab. By now a lot of time had passed since I left home. I was an unwilling member of a crowd. Nobody looked like me and I could see I was out of place in a black suit, briefcase, handbag and high- heeled shoes. My hair was getting into my eyes and my false nails where too blunt to pick them all out. I was a contrast to the dirty streets and aggressive people around me. I became worried for my safety and constantly put my hand in my bag at intervals, feeling for my smart phone.
“All the load wey you dey carry go fall you o!”
The warning was directed at me, and I turned around to see the owner of the cracked voice. A short man with dirty dread locks and dirtier clothes was coming towards me. I quickly remembered my survival instincts and barked back at him in Pidgin English.
“Na you e go fall, Ode!”
I grimaced at the sound of my own voice- where had that come from? I wondered. Thirty minutes slowly passed me by in Cele bus stop. At this point, the thought of going back home crossed my mind but again I didn’t know how I would explain myself when I met up with my colleagues who were waiting for me at the event.
“Why don’t you take a bus to CMS if you are going to VI?”
I assessed this new entrant who was offering me bus stop consultation services to see if I was looking at a potential heckler. How did they know where I was going? Had he observed my aimless walking and decided I was a good target? I had not heard any conductor call for CMS so I questioned him about that.
“They are calling Orinle. Go to Orinle and from there to CMS,” he replied.
The bus was dirty, old and rickety and I was given the seat next to the conductor. I came to respect the man after observing his fearlessness when the bus veered very close to other buses. He never flinched! I had decided that as long as I was moving closer to VI, I was better off than if I kept waiting at Cele. When I boarded the bus, I noticed that the man who had advised me to go to Orinle, followed me into it, I held my bag so tightly it began to hurt.
My mind slowly drifted to the horrid stories I had heard of Lagos. One friend had been robbed in a bus while another related the story of a robbery that occurred in broad day light. The armed thieves robbed from car to car in the congested traffic. From my pondering, I heard the engine sputter and then stop. This woke me out of my thoughts. The driver said “Ekpo ni” meaning it is fuel. I was lost for words now and didn’t know who or what to blame for my predicament. Suddenly, I wished I was far away from this situation, as far away as Abuja. I started to pity my legs at the thought of another possible trek. But just as dramatically as the engine died, it regained consciousness and the car came alive. Our journey progressed slowly through traffic and fifteen minutes later the bus turned off the road. On cue, I asked someone where we were.
“This is CMS”, he answered.
I hurried to my feet and with more directions found a garage where a jolly old man agreed to take me to “Four Points” for a thousand Naira. Relieved to be in his cab, I took each tired feet out of my now dusty shoes. As we drove past, I enjoyed the view of the ships docked on the ocean then a thought occurred to me and to snatch out my make -up case and assess the damage to hair and makeup. We made more progress through light traffic while I tended to my appearance.
Finally, the cab pulled into the prestigious hotel. I looked at my watch and shook my head in disbelief. It was 10:30am! It had taken three hours to get here.
I joined my colleagues who had been worried and for the first time all morning I felt safe. They were surprised at my story and got a good laugh from it. I had ridden an okada, hung around bus stops, hopped on buses and seen the life of a Lagosian who lives on the mainland and has to catch several buses to work on the island. I told myself I would not do it again but for what it was worth, I had just had another first in Lagos!
Omonike Odi is a freelance writer and a media content provider on all media platforms. Hang with her on her blog at www.omonaikee.blogspot.com or follow her on twitter for daily inspirational quotes @omonaikee