RULES FOR STREET ENGAGEMENTS IN LAGOS A.K.A HOW NOT TO GET ROBBED IN LAGOS
I was born and brought up in Lagos, most of my life has been spent in the city. Lagos is a tale of beauty and nasty, pleasure and pain, guts and glory and whatever else comes in the mix of living in a mega city. Lagos is located south-west of Nigeria and it is in the region of the Yoruba tribe. So a more ideal name for the city should be its Yoruba name Eko, in fact the name Lagos is Portuguese. Lagos is a coastal city, with the smallest land mass compared to the other Nigerian states, with twenty local government areas. It was formally Nigeria’s capital and remains the commercial nerve center of the nation. Lagos is the most populous city, in the most populous black nation, so I guess you get the point, Lagos is teeming with people. In fact if you Google ‘fastest growing cities in the world’, Lagos is sure to come up in your search options. The National Population Commission of Nigeria, put the population of Lagos at about 21 million and this estimate was made in the year 2016. Lagos like other progressive cities, has a fair share of fun places and sights that have made the city attractive to people from all parts of the nation and tourists from all over the globe. Lagos hosts some of the largest musical concerts, art exhibitions and symposiums on the African continent. Names like The Experience Lagos, Felaberation, Lagos Poetry Fest, Social Media Week, Art X readily come to mind, among a list of other key events hosted in the city. But famous Lagos also has its prevailing issues, for example traffic jams have been a part of the city for decades. The prevalence of these annoying traffic jams I believe is owed to the bad roads in some areas and poorly planned road networks, plus a staggering population, compared to available land mass. Another problem that is sure to rare its head when there is large population with limited opportunities, is crime. In Lagos the slang is ‘shine your eye’, otherwise you might get robbed or swindled. Well for someone who has lived in Lagos for more than two decades, I have my own tales, which I intend to benevolently share with you, so that you can be guided accordingly. So with much I do, here are some tips laced with real life events.
1. Never, Ever let your Guard down, I mean Never
I had spent one year out of Lagos during my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) and when I was done I was so eager to come back to good ole Lagos. I had missed the stress, the noise, my family, my Lagos church…..So one of those beautiful Sunday’s after I got back to Lagos and I decided to join the saints for worship at my family church. I had missed services there so badly, that I was so full of joy to be seating in the very large auditorium again. The auditorium had many wings, with galleries on every wing. I decided to seat at one of the galleries, because I felt I got a better view of the pulpit from there. After vigorous dancing during the ‘Praise and Worship’ session and actively participating in other aspects of the service, it was time for the sermon. I brought out my tablet, which served as my bible and I was ready to learn the word of God. A little back story on this tablet, I used virtually all my NYSC savings to purchase it, end of story. I followed through with the word, tablet and note on my laps. But at some point and for some reason, I began to feel very sleepy. I fought back sleep, because I didn’t want to be sleeping under such an inspirational sermon. But humanity is weak, so I lost the battle without even realizing it. When I arose from my brief slumber, I wanted to get back to the part of the sermon that was left. Then I noticed that my tablet was gone, I felt my mind was playing tricks on me. How can I get robbed in the midst of God’s holy saints? So I ignored the urge to give a public outcry, but rather checked under my seat, to see if it had fallen, but there was nothing there. Then I asked the people seating around me if they had seen anything and they acted very confused. At this point I was frantic, I ran out and got to a member of the church’s security unit, to lay my complaints. But it was too late, the thief had long escaped, efforts to call the phone proved abortive. I was left to swallow my bitter mix of sadness and confusion. How did I get robbed in church? The simple and the only probable answer was that I had let my guard down. I learnt a bitter lesson that day, bad people find their way to good places, so be at alert regardless of where you are. So basically that is the first tip on how not to get robbed in Lagos.
2. These Guys are not your Guys
On a certain day, few months after my phone was stolen in church, I was sent on an errand by my Father, to pay some utility bills. I had not been there before, so he left me the address to the place and stated that I ask for directions if I got lost or confused. I was quite uncertain about the location, but I stood confident in my inability to get lost in Lagos. So I made a trip to the place, then I started to ask for directions to the exact location. That day I learnt how bad people in these parts were at given directions. I had asked three different people for directions and all three led me in different directions. I continued walking and searching, until I stumbled on some guys on the street. My initial instinct was not to ask these guys, because they looked like trouble. But one of them shook me and tried to speak some Yoruba to me, I responded that I didn’t understand what he was saying. I was both scared and confused, then one of them was like ‘guy no dey fear na’. Wow, so reassuring, so I shouldn’t be scared of all your thug-like faces, okay I won’t. Well I kept trying to get the first one that approached me to let go of my hand, for what seemed like the longest, forced handshake ever. Then they asked what I wanted, I stated that I was just looking for the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) office. I then got what seemed like the direction to Hell Fire from one of them, the direction sounded so incoherent and spurious. After the directions were given, the leader shook me again and left off on the bike. While he sped off on the bike, he waved at me, as I stood confused and transfixed. When I finally came to myself, I tried to figure out what had just happened, then it occurred to me to check my phone for something. Ouch, I felt my pocket were I had put it and it was gone. Then and only then the handshakes and awkward familiarity with menacing strangers made sense. The whole show had been put together, just to rob me and I fell for it. I didn’t know what to do at that point, I was tired, hungry, the sun’s heat was at on all time high and to cap it all up I had been robbed. You will believe that nothing worse than this would have happened, but I then resolved to find the place and pay the bills, because the day would have been a distasteful waste if I didn’t. After some more confusing descriptions, I finally located the place, to my greatest shock, the office had moved from there, some months before that day. I felt like sitting on the floor and crying my heart out. But that day vital lessons were learnt, it is safer to ask ‘Okada’ (bike) men for directions when you don’t know where you are going, because of what they do, they always seem to have a firm grasp of the locations of the streets and corners. Asking just anybody for directions is actually not the way to go, you might be more confused in the end. The streets of Lagos are not the best place to make friends, mind you I am not writing off the possibility of making a good friend on the streets, but I feel it is obvious when someone means more harm than good. Finally try not to put your phone in your pocket, on the streets of Lagos, it is safer to carry it in your hand. When all fails, Google Maps should actually be a more trusted buddy than random strangers.
3. That Struggle is not Your Struggle.
It was the 1st day in the year 2017, my younger sister and I were on our way back from a cross over service. I had changed church and now attended a church that at the time, met at the Ikeja City Mall (ICM), in one of the cinema halls. The service was awesome, I had just gotten a bank job the previous month and generally things were building up to a wonderful year ahead. After the service, very early that cold New Year’s morning, my sister, I and some other friends from church decided to take the trip home together, since we lived in the same area. We started the journey by taking tricycles to the Ikeja along bus stop, which is the bus stop at the other side of the train track leading into the famous Computer Village at city’s capital. The Ikeja along bus stop is usually very busy and bustling with life, but that morning it was very quiet. There were not so many people waiting for buses, as is usually the case and there were not so many buses too. We all stood there for hours waiting for a bus that was taking our route. It seemed like the bus drivers had also decided to enjoy the public holiday. We were all tired and desperate to get on a bus. The previous night was long and we had all not gotten enough sleep. I was quite concerned about my younger sister, because since I decided to carry her along with me, she was my responsibility, so even in my state of fatigue, I had to look out for her, talk about ‘big brother problems’. Finally a bus stopped slowly and the conductor yelled our bus stops and with a latent burst of energy we raced towards it. The struggle was real, as people pushed and shoved to make sure they didn’t miss the bus that had been long in coming. Throughout the struggle I did my best to ensure that my sister was with me and finally we were victorious. Both my sister and I, with our friends from church made it into the bus. We were so excited, because we had waited for so long. Just as the bus moved a bit, I thought to check my phone and begin to send the New Year wishes to friends and family. As I reached out to my pocket, the phone was gone, my pocket had been picked in the midst of the struggle. I kept feeling the area around my pockets, my sister noticed and asked what the problem was. It was sad trying to explain that my phone had been stolen on the first day of the year, but I guess it was the city’s way of wishing me a Happy New Year. But that day I learnt more lessons on street smartness. As I have stated earlier, your pocket is not really a safe place to keep your phone when on the streets of Lagos. If you ever have to struggle to enter a commercial vehicle (which I don’t advice you do), you must stay conscious of your belongings and not divert your entire attention into getting a bus seat.
4. Never, Ever Walk Alone in the Dark, I mean Never
It was a windy Saturday morning in the month of May, 2017, by this time I had held my bank job for about five months, going into the sixth. The headquarters of the bank was a gigantic sky scraper along the Marina road, located at the Lagos Island area. I was in the customer service department and it had to function 24/7, so we worked shifts, to ensure we worked round the clock. We usually worked from an office at Victoria Island, but when for any reason we were unable to make use of our office space, we worked from the headquarters at Marina. During my three week banking school, my mother will tell me tales of her colleagues who had been robbed at Marina. In fact on many occasions she would drop me off in front of the head office and watch me walk in. I always felt that it was weird that she did this, since I was an adult, but after what happened that Saturday, it became obvious that it was an act of love. Marina was notorious for robberies, especially when it was dark, the many stalls of the Balogun Market of the Lagos Island, made perfect hide outs for thieves. Another thing I feel is a major attraction for the thieves is the bank headquarters situated along the road and the other large business offices. Well, once you identify as a banker, the assumption is that you make astronomical sums of money and that makes you a worthy target for robbers. So this Saturday was one of those Saturday’s were we had to work from Marina and I was to work the morning shift. The morning shift typically starts at 7 am, so it was only ideal that I came to work before then, to get prepared for work. I had made it to C.M.S before 6 am and as expected the road was dark and lonely, this was not unusual, because it was a Saturday and there was very little activity at that time of the day. For some weird reason I decided to throw all motherly advice and good reasoning to the wind. I decided to take a walk on the lonely, dark road, to the building that stood at the far end of the road. Something within me told me that this was a foolish thing to do, but I drowned the voice out with some loud music. Looking back at that day, I wonder where the boldness came from, as I strutted down the road, for there was almost no living thing in sight. After walking for about five minutes, out of a dark alley proceeded the beginning of a night mare. It all happened so quickly, as a man charged at me, struck by intense fear I tried to make a move, but I was brought to the ground by two other men. What made it scarier was, one of them held a knife to my face that looked very sharp, so it had become an issue of my life. I was so frightened that I screamed loudly for help, but nobody was around to come to my rescue. I was slapped, insulted and had my pockets ransacked, my phone was taken and it was barely two weeks old. While the thieves searched me, my I. D card fell from my pocket and it showed that I worked with a bank. With that realisation one of them slapped me to bring out the money, because for some reason everyone expects you to walk around with tonnes of cash as a banker. I begged and told them that the little cash and my phone were all I had on me. I was lucky that I left my ATM card back at home, so when it was obvious that there was nothing left on me, they ran off into the darkness, leaving me to sadly count my loses. I got to work, narrated the story and got a lot of ‘Eyas’ and ‘sorry’ that didn’t really help my condition. That experience remains one of the most traumatizing one I have ever faced. I still don’t know how I was able to do my shift, but I did and with some financial assistance I was able to get back home after work. That day I learnt never to walk alone in the dark or if possible avoid walking in the dark all together.
The purpose of this article is not to portray Lagos as an undesirable place to live, I love the city so much and this is regardless of all my gory experiences with theft. Where ever I go on planet earth I would always identify as a proud ‘Lagosian’. The purpose of the article is for you to stay safe while you enjoy beautiful ‘Lasgidi’. Thank you for reading and I would like to know your thoughts in the comments section.
Image Source: https://travelmassive.com/chapters/lagos
Facts Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagos_State