Lagos has become so dirty and mean. I have not been away long enough to have lost touch with the erratic throb of Lagos’ hard life, but see what monster she has become this short while. I felt a breeze of encroachment surround me like a swarm of flies on a decayed carcass where I have anticipated the bliss of “home-sweet-home”. Already, as soon as I stepped off the wobbly boat, I missed the gentle air of freedom I have enjoyed at sea since I was gone from Lagos. I had anticipated bliss in the welcoming arm of the city I hate to hate, but no, I was to learn, in sorrows tears and blood, that the city now plays dirty, and has become meaner than I knew her. The general air of disorder did little to hide the ugly, rotten core of the growing-yet-dying ancient dragon, even the worrisome stink of her decadence.
Everything was rotten. What didn’t stink of rottenness had the look of shit; even the monies that were constantly changing hands, were dirty, too dirty to touch. It was as if the avaricious peoples of Lagos have been freely helping themselves from the dump of waste currency notes, for all that filthy Naira notes in circulation. After spending hours in the queue, waiting my turn to use the broke ATM , I discovered that my card won’t woo out money from the mean machine. “have I been defrauded?” Nay, she says that my mastercard has been expired. Indeed, as I disconsolately found out, the validity for the little-bit-of-convenience has expired since September, seven months to date. I changed a few dollar bills in order to have Naira to spend. The aboki ladden me with so much soggy mass of naira notes that you would think the stinking wad of filth was a means of aiding the Boko Guys to rid Lagos of the harams the bastards are hell-bent to eradicate from the surface of the the Nigerian earth. The notes are so sinfully filthy that you could physically see the germs feed on the flesh of your hand at a touch- if you are not too nauseated to look closely. But the scourge could’ve been Sanusi’s way of getting back at the rest of us, who knows? All the shabby BRT, and shabbier danfos I rode on to get around kept handing me changes of similar filth till I resolved to forego collecting my changes from the fares.
Despite the forlorn state I found my dear Lagos in, I had looked forward to some small delights. For instance, I planned to take away with me- when I ultimate extricate myself from the throbbing din, from the urine-cum-marijuana smell that comingle with asphyxiating reek of exhaust fume, from the grilling heat, away from the hopelessness of the surging mass of people milling about like hordes of maggots on the decaying body of a huge predator- such small joys as I could derive from the dung heap. No, I didn’t think to get laid, I only planned to sample the rapturous feel of some of the best coffee, tea, books and relaxation hangouts in Lagos- Terra Kulture, Bogobiri, and Quintessence. Terra Kulture for the great food, arts-exhibition and new books; Quintessence for another discovery of a great coffee blend, arts on exhibition and more books; and Bogobiri, for the good company, enlivening music and relaxation. One can hardly find a better home-away-from-home around the exclusively stiff-upper-lip environs of that part of Lagos. Bogobiri is just the place if you are a lover of art and life. There was Lifehouse too, but I don’t know where they are now, since they moved or were moved from their usual location in Victoria Island.
It was quite a shattering blow to realize that the other haven of bliss at Ikoyi, being Quintessence, has also moved or been removed from the spot they have always occupied prominently, next-door to the book paradise of Glendora. The shopping complex in which Quintessence was located has been demolished- demolished as in pulled-down, pulverized, wiped-out, destroyed. All that remained were rubbles, and debris of the edifice that once beautified the landscape; what a colossal waste? But what can a brother do more than drop a few tears for the memories of great teas, coffee, wine, beautiful store attendants to ogle, the cozy evergreen music playing from the still-functioning ancient turn-table, arty git items, and new books that are in inexhaustible supply at the place. I called to mind the exhibitions and book reading/signing that I have attended at Quintessence in Falomo-Ikoyi. I had a mind of spending some good time and money there, sadly, nobody could even point me to my way in search of their new location. What a loss, what a devastating mean loss.
The devastation so weighed me down that I couldn’t make it to Terra Kulture. I had to alight from the taxi at Silverbird-another change of very bad naira note was handed to me like a judgment-day summon, by the hand of mean-looking, and badly-behaving, deep-scars-face, taxi-driver.
“oga driver, no worry, keep the change” I exhorted, expecting to be thanked in Ijebu language.
“oga, abeg take your change jor…”
“no, I dash you…”
“Why you wanting to be dash me the money, sé I am look like a begger for your eye ni?”
“…no, but the money no good na, too fucking dirty. I don collect too many of them today…”
“Sé na because the money durty…? Dem go take am na, you go take am buy fuel…”
“but, I no get motor na…”
“If you no get mutor nkò, sebi you get generator for house, abi na I Pass My Neighbour generator naa ni”
One would think I know Lagos, but the Lagos I landed in, to spend my 24 hours shore leave was a “changed” Lagos- a “badly change” Lagos. I think all Lagosians must cease chanting the mantra and turn to praying that “Eko ‘oni baje o!”
Copyright by Okiri C.R.