Fat, and all, I Still Love Lagos!

By Tunde Kolawole | USA

After a rather relatively long absence from the city, I returned to the ever-bustling city’s warm embrace late last year.  If I expected to find a lean, mean machine, the reality on the ground was a big shock to me.  The svelte sweet sixteen that I left behind has added quite substantial flesh here and there, and morphed into a voluptuous, but still beautiful city.

The dictum “the more things change, the more they remain the same” nonetheless fits the new Lagos perfectly.  In spite of several changes and developments going on in the city, Lagos is still the same, albeit in a nice way.

Oshodi of old may be dead, and its sepulcher lined with leafy green vegetation, but relics of its once acute madness are still noticeable in the neighborhood.  For instance, Mushin is still the same cacophonous convergence of restless and resilient spirits.

Across the lagoon, the tidal wave of human traffic remains equally overwhelming.   On the island, the beat of human traffic resonates stridently.  From this perspective, the expanding waistline and hems of my darling Lagos are more conspicuous.  From Oniru to Ajah, and beyond, new housing estates, naturally priced outside the reach of the poor, have sprung up and dotted every square meter of the swampy stretch of land from VI to Epe.  This is where the super rich, nouveau rich and the barely rich jostle for whatever space they can reclaim from the docile lagoon.  By the way, I was told the once raging bar beach has been tamed — banished far beyond sight!  I didn’t get round to seeing that but I saw the Chinaman and his handiwork everywhere.  From construction to commerce, the Chinese are supposedly helping us build our country.  Or so they say.

Well, for the first time in a very long time, I heard, saw and felt Mother Nature in her unadulterated form.  I took off my shoes and felt the soothing warmth of sand and soil on the soles of my feet.

I saw the red-headed gecko scampering about and playing hide and seek in crevices of concrete walls.  I heard the throaty cackles of the bright colored cock excitedly chasing the coy hen down the street, hell-bent on letting off steam.  The cock’s got to have it!  

I smiled ruefully, and for an instant, transported back in time to Ibadan, and thoughts of what we did to dogs sighted in similar situation flashed across my mind.  Father, forgive us, for we knew not what we were doing!

And while at it, I learned a few choice words which the prevailing socioeconomic condition in the city and the country at large has added to the lexicon of the people — some amusing, some annoying — words like inverter, collabo, credit (as in phone credit) are just some of the new lingo I learned in Lagos.

And again for the first time in a very long time, involuntarily, I intoned the often said prayer of a typical Lagos resident subjected to the whims and caprices of the power supply company and the gas stations selling fuel for the private generators.  “Lord, please let us have light … “ Pray, what has God got to do with ensuring a steady supply of electricity?

The Holy Book was right: “Ye do not receive, because ye ask wrongly.”  No wonder such misplaced prayers are yet to be answered decades after we’ve been fasting and praying for it!

Yet, warts and all, there is something about the dusty air of Lagos — the brown sandy sidewalks, the feel of unpaved, rugged ground on your feet, the stream of hawkers swarming all around you in traffic jams like predatory bees, and the ceaseless suicidal dashes of pedestrians across multilane highways –  that just makes one feel at home.

My darling Lagos is fat alright, but I’m still in love with her!


Reflections at a Milestone

By the time you read this, it will be long overdue. In fact, another one is just around the corner!  However, it was not an oversight, but rather a deliberate strategy on my part to tarry awhile and take it all in.  What if it was all a dream?  Apparently, I needed months to have a clear head and mind, not befuddled with sheer emotion or excitement at hitting a monumental milestone in the life of a man.

Now that I am where I am, do I feel differently?  Well other than the sea of grey hair furiously sprouting up on me in all imaginable places, the once straight, strong and strapping back which, now seems embroiled in secret romances with minor aches and pains, and the creaking sound that I hear in my knees once in a while, I think I can still do backflips and summersaults like we used to do at PUNCH, This Day and Sunday Concord almost 30 years ago.  I lied.  Not quite!   The Kobra can’t spring and strike like we used to do back in the day anymore.  Yet, by His grace, I am still standing and flourishing like the palm tree, even in old age!

So I started out writing this with my ears cocked at an angle, ready to hear and transcribe the voices of the muses.  I heard them alright.  But the dominant refrain of their sing-song discourse with me as I ponder over these several years of my life was curiously limiting.  The tall order that I received was “Shelve the long-winded, small talk; lift up your voice and say, ‘Thank You!’”

So here am I, (as much as I would actually love to enter into small talk, for once), I bring nothing but praises to His Holy name for all He has done and is doing for me and my family.  I give Him all the glory for the journey thus far.  For not counting the sins of my youth, and my transgressions against me, and for the mercies that I receive daily, I say “thank you.”   For constantly thwarting the schemes of the evil ones and nullifying their pronouncements in my life; for blessing the works of my hands;  for the grace to rise above challenges; and for His continued assurance that “It is well,” I give Him all praises.

Lest I forget, it’s not yet time for “ejo wewe”!   To everything, there is a season, and an apt platform.  For now, help me lift Him up and give Him all the praises as I sing:

Oro mi o gbejo wewe, (I will shelve the small talk)

Ki nsa ma dupe loto (I will thank Him continually)

Ki nsa ma dupe loto (2ce)

Oro mi O gbejo wewe

Ki nsa ma dupe loto