Lagos and Its Ebbs

A Lagosian can pretend not to have legs, eyes or hand in order to make ends meet. These body parts are quite insignificant to them.

Tobiloba Adejumo
Tobiloba Adejumo

Lagos is very stressful and upsetting. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything special about the state. Apart from the obvious fact that the city is densely populated and the high rate of price exploitation by bus conductors, the commuters are also making it worse. Hardly will you meet any commuter ready to help you. Those that might even consider helping you are perhaps very new to the system. This is so because an average Lagosian by all means is ready to steal, kill or destroy to make a living, or as we say in our local parlance, “hustle”.

A Lagosian’s hustle is quite different from the norms. A Lagosian can pretend not to have legs, eyes or hand in order to make ends meet. These body parts are quite insignificant to them. They can tell you about their “wives in hospital beds” or “their children in psychiatric homes currently looking for funds to complete their treatment”. Most of them walk about with baseless prescriptions when making such illusory claims. I wasn’t startled when I one day read the prescription and I saw “paracetamol” and “gascol”. To make their claims even more bona fide and legitimate, they walk in pairs; for instance, a husband and wife, with a nice suit and comely gown telling the members of the public a carefully designed fable. Sometimes, they pose as beggars on the street, asking for alms using the platitude “God will bless you” including other forms of conspicuous orisons to swindle unsuspecting Nigerians. In few cases, these so called beggars are aggressive; they hold unto your legs thus hampering you from walking until you yield to their demands. Having an experience with one or two of these people will make you loathe rendering help to Lagos beggars. You might be biddable at first but believe me with time, you’ll learn.

Beggars on the street of Lagos
Many beggars on Lagos streets feign illness to deceive innocent persons and get alms from them, pretending and deceiving innocent members of the public with different illnesses and diseases. -Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce SP Olayinka Egbeyem

Again, some of these beggars are not normal. Obviously, they are not. They are aware that everyone in the city races with time. In a bid for you to slow down a little so that their adept accomplice, a pickpocket, will take your properties from you. Then, they will engage you in meaningless dialogue. In that process, your valuables are gone but you won’t even notice.

“I can use my head to remove anything from your body. I will just pretend as if I know you somewhere and in the process of giving you salutations, your item is gone.” — Dayo, pickpocket kingpin.

Again, another set of people you should be worried about in Lagos are the bus conductors. There is no age limit to this job and it is not sex biased. I’ve seen male and female bus conductors before. But I must warn you, this job is not for the weak or feeble minded. You must be ready to fight dirty. Show me a neat conductor and I’ll show you a virgin with nine children.

The bus conductors, or “Agbero” are sectioned into two: private and public. The private agberos belong to the individuals while the public, belong to the government. The public agberos are responsible for price regulation and tax collection from the yellow buses commonly referred to as Danfo.

Sadly, they never regulate the prices of the yellow buses but selfishly pursue their greed. The surprising thing about these government agberos is that they are illegally equipped with different sophisticated firearms. That is why whenever there is a heated argument between the agberos, it is advisable for the commuters to leave the scene in order to avoid “stray bullets”.

small business selling fruit in lagos
Photo by Mary / Unsplash

The private agberos are not left out. They cajole you to enter their buses and suddenly become vituperative and arrogant. They are very quick to collect your transport fare and never willing to give you your change. Particularly, when disturbed too much, they ask you for a certain amount and burden you with the responsibility of giving them change. Some commuters forget to collect their change from these Agberos before cursorily getting off the bus. Also, these private agberos are always in a hurry especially when calling various destinations so you need to be careful in order not to be on edge.

When the Agbero promises to deal with you, you may confuse that for threat of an attack on your mother. “Maa fo iya l’enu” (I will deal with your ‘mother’) is a regular refrain amongst them. Do not mistake the statement for an assault on your mother because, here, in the linguistic parlance of transport workers, you are your mother. And if in the heat of an argument with an Agbero in Oshodi, you mistakenly drop the gauntlet thinking your mother in faraway Ilara-mokin, you have your mouth broken already, literally. And so whether there is kerfuffle or there’s none, the golden rule remains same: ‘always guiding’. -Oladehinde Olawoyin
There should be a course in the university teaching people survival skills in Lagos, every human being roaming these Lagos streets need mental evaluation and counselling at least once a day. Till then, let me tell you something. You see these Lagos conductors don’t fear you, be big, be fat, have muscle, FAM they are ready to fight. Lagos is not like Ibadan where they see chest and just mellow. Lagos conductors would want to fight you and still want you to help push their buses. — Pascal Okafor.

You are greatly illusioned to think you can enter a yellow bus in Lagos without any feeling of resentment or disgust. Again, I entered a yellow bus few years ago and to my greatest surprise, I felt something inside my trousers crawling towards my knee. There was no proper way I could have killed it than to press my trousers against my skin and let it excrete. I let a cockroach excrete on my skin.

Apart from the presence of insects and all other deadly beasts you might be exposed to, the yellow buses are particularly known to be very faulty. This is because the drivers of these buses are nonchalant and do not own the buses they drive. The buses are rented and there is a stipulated amount that must be delivered daily. Because of this, they hardly concern themselves with repairing or maintenance of such buses. Most of the drivers do not even bother fueling the yellow buses until the tank is completely barren. When this happens, they send their conductors on a wild goose chase to a filling station with a “2 litre keg” leaving the commuters waiting, yelling and clamoring for a refund. Mind you, these transport workers never give you a refund. Whenever their buses break down, they either put you in another bus and “settle” the conductor or they flee with your money with the guise of them returning when they find a mechanic. Those that wait for them to return are neophytes and particularly not yet used to the system of wheelings and dealings that operate in the hearts of these nefarious transport workers.

It is quite obvious that Lagos is blessed with bad roads. You might be thinking I’m a mythomaniac, but you’re wrong. I’m telling you from real life experiences. Presently, almost all major roads are been overhauled concurrently which is not meant to be so. I spend eight hours daily in Lagos traffic;eight hours, out of twenty-four! Maybe you can now realise why I earlier said, “Lagos is very stressful and upsetting”

A good thing about Lagos is that there are people who refuse to beg to make ends meet. Rather, they prefer to create their own source of employment. Although, most of them pose as nuisance on the road but we should respect them.

  • In places like Oshodi whenever there is a torrential downpour of rain, there are people with really big umbrellas. If you choose to take shelter under their umbrella, you have a pay a certain amount of money.
  • Whenever the road is flooded with water and obviously the groggy yellow buses disappoints as usual, the commuters are stuck in the bus. If you choose to get off the bus without getting dirty or macerated, you can employ the service of a wheelbarrow pusher. You sit in the wheelbarrow and the pusher plunges you forward until you get to a dry ground.This favours people with copacetic body weights and to the larger weights, the pushers resolve to putting them on their backs like babies.
  • There are places in Lagos that you don’t just sit down. They won’t tell you not to, but when you sit and you’re about leaving, they’ll ask you for money. Remember: Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.
  • How can I forget the graduates that help clean the windscreen of automobiles in traffic? They can be easily recognized with the “liquid soap, water and brush” package. I call them graduates because that is invariably what they say whenever they are performing their “altruistic act”. Funny thing is that some private car owners give them little change for their selfless service but never have I seen owners or drivers of those terrible yellow buses yield.

The centre of excellence once known has become a place of moral decadence, social degradation and mutiny. Need I say more?

🌐 Life

Tobiloba Adejumo

Doctoral Student, Research Assistant at The University of Illinois Chicago | Biomedical Optics and Functional Imaging Lab