This had to be posted a bit later – not to give a reason for our families to worry at home. Lagos was one crazy place. We got an attempted robbery, toured the seediest clubs, the jolliest church and perhaps one of the dirtiest beaches.
Parts of old Lagos are serviced by keke napapas – tricycles, but they’re not allowed to highways nor the richer parts of the town. When coming back from the bike shop, we decided to do part of the jouney on a keke.
As soon as we got across the Carter bridge to Lagos Island, we got blocked in heavy traffic. In Lagos it takes easily 3 hours to get from one part of town to the other and locals see it as a normal commute. Once stuck, suddenly two guys in their early twenties appeared on either side of the rickshaw, blocking us from getting out and demanded: “Gimme the money!“. I knew this thing happens in Lagos, usually involving guns and breaking car windows, but didn’t expect this to happen to us today.
We had some pretty good cameras in the bag and €150 worth of cash in the pockets, so really didn’t want to give it up. Started wrestling my way out in the rickshaw and the guy meant to be holding me was much softer than I expected. In the heat of the excitement I managed to twist his arm so bad tha he started sobbing and I got out of the rickshaw. Now it was much harder for the other guy holding my brother, because suddenly he was attacked from both sides. So after a little scuffle and receiving a fistblow to the top of my head we walked away. One of the robbers have a sprained finger and the other will have sore knuckles, hope they won’t be stupid enough to attempt robbing Eastern Europeans again.
Our security guard got a €30 loan from his boss and managed to register for his exams. Good man this boss. The guard talks a lot. He believes that by the time of his exams next year, his home region Biafra would already receive independence from Nigeria. Biafra is the region of Niger delta, Calabar and Enugbo – the home of the Igbu people. As the colonies were formed into countries these hardly ever followed ethnic borders. It lead to coups and a civil war in Biafra ’67-’70. There are legends about the sexual and domestic prowess of Calabar women. Apparently the women look after their men so well there, that the men are lazier than house cats.
Biafra is where Nigeria’s wealth – the black gold is buried. I tried to manage his expectation that it is very unlikely that Nigeria would give independence to their state, given all the oil they’d have to give up. Curiously he is convinced that it is not the Nigerian government, but the British, who have caused all the harm to his tribes and now don’t let them have independence. I try to argue that Brits have long left the country, and it is now up to Nigeria itself to decide how to structure itself – but he wants to hear none of it. On one hand he says that Nigeria should be built on education and technology, on the other hand he feels that war and violence is the only way to get the independence for Biafra. Apparently the Yoruba people of the east are “cowards” and the northern muslims are “animals” because they brest feed their babies with goat milk. His great grandfather was a war lord for Britan against Japanese, his grandfather fought in the Biafra civil war.
He goes as far as suggesting that Brits are supporting the radical islamists in the north. He says that Brits need the Nigerian money, because they themselves are poor. About 20 times we hear him say that one day the Brits will have to pay for the misery of his people. It is just fascinating how the power of propaganda and just folk tales just amplify in the vacuum. The same guy who suggested that Stalin was a great man with good intent. You would think that given free access to internet, it would sort itself out – but no way.
Our Very-VIP tickets took us to the Lagos highlight of the year – the Pepsi Rhythm festival. The first suspicious thing was that the words convention centre figured in the address on the invite. We rocked up at the Eko hotel and found a queue of Hummers and other shiny oversized 4x4s queuing up for parking. The make up had been applied, suits cleaned and pointy shoes waxed. The “party” itself was indeed in the convention centre, where about 200 tables had been layed for the VVIP guests, then some chairs for VIPs in the back and finally some normies standing on the balconies. The atmosphere was a mix between an accounting conference, a president’s independence day reception and a pop TV show. Unfortunately I couldn’t get half the pidgin of the standup, but everyone was squeling and screaming with laughter.
It was fascinating to watch the catering done in the truly african way. The chefs were guarding the food they had cooked and waiters had collected orders and money from people. But the focal failure was a single cashier-lady in the middle, who had to convert the orders and cash into a fully written out receipt, which the waiter could then exchange for the food and drink. Imagine a wrestling match between 10+ waiters to get the attention of the cashier to get their receipt written before the food runs out.
There was no live music on Saturday and we got check out the darker corners of Lagos nightlife. We arrived at a club called Caliente way too early, it was just half an hour past midnight. There were a couple of white guys at the bar and less than 10 local girls sitting bored and waiting for the prey to walk in. They didn’t have long to wait. The white dudes came in groups of 3, bringing more girls with them. They ordered a bottle of whisky and sat down, while the girls turned the place into a hot african dancefloor. They certainly knew their moves. Fortunately we got out just before the white guys started dancing – that was going to look embarrassing. One incredible thing with the bars and clubs here is how loud the music is. It is painful.
A couple of useful phrases we learned today in Yoruba language: ki lon sele. meaning what’s happening and wafa ku laleyi from a famous rap song, which means you want to die tonight? I think we’ll find the last one most useful, as it would be fun to use as the opening phrase with the police when they stop us on the road. The true meaning in the lyrics is apparently about the rapper exciting his female partner with intercourse so rough that might end her life.
Reminisce – Tesojue [Explicit Video]
We set the alarm at 0900 on Sunday, not to miss the mass. In fact the first mass is already 6:15am, useful for them who come straight from the club to wash their sins right away.
The first part of the ceremony wasn’t too different from the traditional catholic mass, just a bit more singing of the hymns. The theme today was that we have to get ready for what we’re praying for. The reverend went on to tell a story of a boy from a rich family, who badly wanted a car. His parents got him one for his 18th birthday. The boy and his friends then went to organise a street race on the Lagos Expressway and he died in an accident. The story was about being ready for what you ask for. The boy wasn’t ready for his car and his parents gave him the gift of death, as he proclaimed. Dark shit is said in this Nigerian mass. There was also a political section, where prayers were said for the Nigerian country, its economy and its government.
The second half of the mass got more relaxed, they had two wedding celebrations and a sister Anne’s 80th birthday. For each celebration, everyone danced through the central aisle kneeled in the front to get holy water thrown at them and then danced back to their seat. I hadn’t yet been to a church where the drum set is put to good use during mass.
We bought Sunday papers to get into the rhythm of the local life. Unlike what you expect in China, there seems to be freedom of speech here. Opinions are published both pro- and against the government, although the latter in moderation. Couple of themes from the paper:
- Oil price is dropping and economy is f*cked. Barrel below $40 and many of the states already bankrupt, the government is realising that they’re gonna be hitting the wall. You would think that 95% of the 180m people are already so poor that whatevs if the big men don’t have their oil revenue. As public sector pay goes down further the corruption will get even worse, infrastructure will get even worse, school fees even higher, etc. The opinion page gives 15 ultimatums to the government on taxation, benefits and public sector restructuring.
- Homosexuality: two men were caught in a gay act by their neighbours and are now hiding from the police and avoiding 14yr jailtime. Back at home BBC hasn’t released a single new TV series in the last year that didn’t have some LBGT narrative going on. Worlds apart this world.
- Boko Haram: the president set an “ultimatum” to the army to win the war in December, but now says it actually wasn’t an ultimatum. The morale with solders is waning, because they don’t have enough arms and progress isn’t great. The baddies are hiding in the north in the Sambisa forest – ca 1600km from Lagos.
- It is common to have articles, which are personal complaints against officials or companies. One article was about the journalist buying a phone form Jumia (local Amazon) and them failing to deliver. This was fun to read, because my friend runs the company which does logistics and delivery for Jumia.
- The chairman of the local tax authority died at the age of 92. In addition to a small note, there was two sheets of pictures of important people, who attended the funeral. No pictures of the chairman himself.
There were 16 full page adverts – 14 for local banks, 1 happy birthday advert and 1 church ad. Banking must be a really good business here, I wonder how they make their money. There are probably thousands of ATMs around town for the 23 banks and their buildings seem to be the only clean looking ones.
Otherwise the paper was pretty good – text heavy and opinionated like I remember papers from the nineties.
Elegushi beach is the local hotspot just in the outskirts of Lagos. It is a private beach and €3 entry fee is collected at the gate. As you’d expect, not a single person came here to sunbathe. The reason you come is to drink and party, not too different from Brighton or the homely Pärnu beach in that sense.
The smell of marijuana defies even the cool seabreeze, vodka is sold in the bars by bottle and never by shots. Every little hut is a “club”, which means that it has their own thrashed speakers turned to volume 11 and full of people shaking and breaking. As the night falls then groups of people start grooving on the beach next to the louder clubs.
Mixed with families and youngsters enjoying their Sunday and taking selfies, the beach is teeming with hawkers, hookers and petty hustlers.