From the first day I arrived till the last day I decided to retire my citizenship status as a Lagosian, I’ve always held a grudge against this city called Lagos. At the entrance of major cities around the country, there is always a signpost that says “Welcome…” I was upset with Eko when I passed her entrance and in place of a warm welcome message, I got a warning “This is Lagos…” Why are they warning me? Who do they think I am? That I probably missed my way or Lag isn’t for people like me? I’m from the capital! Utter nonsense! To be honest I found it rude and somewhat disappointing which made me more eager to get into the life of a full-blown Lagosian – You shouldn’t have Nuel, you shouldn’t have. You should have taken the welcome warning and turn back; now you will learn.
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I took the grudge personally and for the next three weeks I spent at the orientation camp, I told everyone who cared to listen how rude their city was because even up till then I haven’t still been told a simple welcome! Well, I didn’t have to wait any longer as I got my welcome a day after leaving camp. I found myself at the alleged bus terminal where you can take a bus to anywhere in the world, including Jerusalem- Oshodi. I was actually shocked there is a place that’s as rowdy as this and everyone was just walking fast – no turning and no greeting. Being a black man whose first intuition is to follow suit before finding what they were walking fast from, I joined the gang, occasionally I turned back to see exactly what everyone was walking fast from- I saw nothing. When I decided to slow down and catch my breath, I heard a very thick and coarse voice shouting “alaye! gbe body e!” I was terrified so I just jumped and the side mirror of a yellow bus brushed past me with speed. I had to ask myself, “Is this how they welcome people here? Jesus!” Well, you wanted a welcome, that’s your welcome. Welcome to Lagos.
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The day for collection of acceptance letter at the office came and my destination was Alausa, Ikeja. I got dressed in my khaki, crested vest and my jungle boots (those boots were sleek by the way) and got moving. As I tried to find my way, the people around me gave me the directions and also a stern warning- “If you will ask for directions to anywhere, ask only a LASTMA official so you don’t get mis… Let’s stop here for a moment. I began to wonder why did they tell me I should ask only a set of people? Ohh! Do these people think I can’t find my way by asking any other person? “I’ll prove them wrong”, I said to myself. I took it as a challenge (which I thought was the way they challenge themselves around here). Again, you shouldn’t have Nuel, you shouldn’t have. You should have listened to the complete reason and take heed to the warning.
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When I got to the bus stop, I got directions from a man in a suit. He was even kind enough to put me in a bus going to my destination, I thanked him and we were off. Forty minutes later, the bus conductor yelled “Last bus stop, oya all passengers down!” “Okay, this must be Alausa” I thought, now let me find the office. So I met another man in a suit (since the last man in suit gave me the right direction; pure wisdom) and asked politely “Excuse me, sir, good morning, please I’m going to Alausa, Ikeja, how do I get there?” I could see the confusion on his face as he asked “Where are you coming from?”, “From Gbagada sir”, I replied. His eyes popped when he exclaimed “Ahh! Coppershun!! O ti so nu- you’ve misplaced, this is Mowe-Ibafo, Ogun state, see the signboard there, you’ve lost your wa… Let’s pause, now rewind to the initial warning and play the complete thing “If you will ask for directions to anywhere, ask only a LASTMA official so you don’t get misplaced also ask at least two people, this is Lagos.” This was just my first day out on my own and my first month in this city and I have travelled to another state already, how sweet! As I entered the bus travelling back to Lagos, I remembered the warning sign “This is Lagos”. I now I fully understood the meaning, don’t trust men in suits, if you ask for directions and when there are too many hand signals (e gba bayi, e gba bayi) RUN! Ask three more people.
From there on it was game on for me- scores: Lag 2-0 Nuel. She (Eko) was telling me something and I didn’t just listen- It’s going to be a long year, we’ve only begun. Welcome to Lagos.