Friday, 31 January 2014

Losing Your Soul To The City

I love Lagos for its irreverence, its exuberance. The city can be likened to a kid unleashed in a candy store. Too much energy. Everybody hustling. No slacking. I remember this one time. I had travelled out and was away for a bit. I got back and on my way home from the Airport, I saw two touts fighting by the roadside. I felt shame when I realized I was grinning with affection at the sight. I had obviously missed the city; and not for its peace and quiet.

I came to Lagos in ’96 as a fresh faced and na├»ve teenager from up North. Looking over Oshodi bridge with eyes as round as saucers, I asked my sister, ‘Where is everybody rushing to?’ The words were barely out of my mouth when a woman, with a backside big enough to sit on, pushed me and spat, “Comot for road jare, Johnny just come.”

Honestly, it’s been almost two decades and I’m still wondering where everyone is rushing to. There is something about this city that will take your soul if you let it. It will cut your ties with family, make you forget your values; turn you into an individualistic hypocrite with survival of the fittest as the only rule of the game. Surrounded by wealth and squalor at the same time, you will feel the urgent need to prove your mettle and keep up with the Jones; never mind that the Jones are trying so very hard to outdo you.

In your bid to ‘hammer’, you will barely have time for the things that should truly count. Lagos is the place where you might see the sun rise and set only twice a week – Saturday and Sunday. This happens because you get to work before sunrise and leave after its dark.

Lagos is the city of opportunity and the city of delusion. Opportunity for the truly hardworking because quite frankly, you can be anything you want to be. Delusion because there are those who are so lost, they have adopted complexions, accents, pedigrees and tastes and will break an arm and a leg, to prove it's the way they've always been.

I have tried to keep my circle tight. I try to surround myself with people who understand the deeper issues and stand for something other than Valentino’s latest collection. I will not begrudge you if you can dole out 650K to make your hair; it is your money and your prerogative to do with as you please but in the midst of all the madness, I just choose to live differently. 

My friends are beginning to seem utterly frustrated with my ‘this life na jeje’ attitude but then; life no be jeje? I refuse to be a hamster on a wheel, running 100 kilometers per minute so there can be enough for the Landlord and all the crazy bills that come with living in this town. I have come to understand that activity is not progress and success should never be defined by all the symptoms of consumerism from which we all suffer. While I may seem like a tortoise, don't get it twisted, I know exactly where I'm going. At the end of the day, it will not be how far but how well.

Lagos can make you. Lagos can break you. If you let it. If you let it...

©Naomi Lucas


Anonymous said...

Lovely piece Naomi,'it ll take your soul if u let it' very true!!

Tunji Ajibade said...

Well, a perspective from you there, Naomi. Let me commend you for some of your topics that seem to send me on talking/writing spree, even though they are topics I wouldn’t voluntarily make a theme of on my own. But you have a way of framing them such that I can’t resist putting in a word.

Alright, Lagos. I have never been comfortable in that environment. When I arrived for my first degree at UNILAG, and whenever I went out of the campus, I never felt at ease until I returned to the campus. You know why, the campus was a semblance of a FG research institute where I grew up. Here, everyone was on his own, you never get to say ‘hello’ to a neighbor unless you purposely walk some 100 meters to get to their houses. Those growing up years make me – being uncomfortable in a crowd, and if I do find myself in a crowd, how to escape soonest is the next thing on my mind. I saw quite a bit around me on Lagos streets, and I was initially shocked (when I came to Lagos) at the ‘soulless manner’ many go about some things. In the end, once I left Lagos after my first degree and went to serve up North I never desired to return to Lagos. While up North and some fellow Corpers who grew up in Lagos hungered to return to Lagos, talking glibly about what they called ‘happening place’, I always looked at them with wonder. Different strokes.

You are right – Lagos makes, it breaks. That place can be soulless and can make a person become the same. But I guess any environment can have both negative or positive effect. One thing is core though - Internal air that one carries with him will determine how far an environment affects him, and I mean in terms of character, value, and the destination the person has in mind. To me, a person can exercise control on how he’s affected by what is external to him. That’s one thing one shouldn’t ever lose control of, wherever he may find himself.


Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Anon :)

Naomi Lucas said...

Tunji thanks for the compliment :)

I totally agree when you say a person can exercise control on how he’s affected by what is external to him but I'm not sure a lot of people know that...