Lagos is swarming with vibrant people that contribute to the buzz and excitement that characterizes weekend life in Nigeria’s most populous city.
It’s been just over a year since I packed up my life in South Africa to return to the country of my birth. As the plane hit the tarmac at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, I knew I was back. The humid heat of the city welcomed me home with a slap, as did my struggle through immigration and my search for a cell phone signal so I could find my driver amid the multitude.
In the two hours home on the gridlocked highway, where I luckily managed to grab my dinner from the hawkers, a mild trepidation slowly sank in. This was it; I was home and needed some sort of returnee boot camp.
If you think this is one of those pieces where a Nigerian returnee whines about the ills of the country, think again. Yes, Lagos is traffic-plagued, crowded, highly polluted and will probably have even the bald and patient pulling their hair out as they wait for business meetings, but I love this city. Lagos is a place with rare energy, where each day injects a fierce lucidity that recharges the soul. In this column I want to give you a feel of this buzz, this electricity; a tapestry of arts and soul. I want to lead you through the best nightspots in Africa. From the sweet sounds of highlife music, jazz saxophones and art galleries that tell a tale like no other; to beer parlours with the best pepper soup in the world. From the lavish lives of the high and mighty to the infectious drive of the street vendor.
On Monday morning in Lagos, the streets swarm with white-collared young, energetic executives, suited up in the heat, tablet in hand, rushing from meeting to meeting. Boardrooms brim with the pulse of change in this land of opportunities.
Patches of mustard-yellow are spattered across the city centre as commercial buses and taxis honk fiercely at each other, competing for a place on the road with the ‘tut-tut’ BRT buses and private cars, while the market slowly comes to life with stores laying their wares out for a beehive of new customers on the roadside. This day, is not any less important and eventful than the next few.
On Friday evening, men in tailored traditional outfits hunch over bars at the best spots around the city, while half empty bottles of cognac and champagne loll on the table amid boisterous baritone cheers and pulsing Nigerian tunes. This is where the real business deals begin.
Across the road at a posh lounge, ladies with their fancy hairstyles, all with Ankara skirts and designer handbags, cocktail in the right hand, blackberry in the other, plot their next move. The night is still young and promising–for both for the ladies and the bartenders.
A few hours later, as the rich and famous crawl out of the busiest night clubs into the hazy light where their newest Range Rovers sit, there are chewing gum hawkers and parking attendants asking, with their best smiles beaming, “Oga/madame, anything for us?” Have I mentioned opportunities enough in this piece?
Wedding convoys trail across the city incessantly on a Saturday morning. Lagos is a wedding planner’s Utopia as no weekend goes by in this city without a few nuptials, each one grander than the other. Women are geared up in their towering headties, men in their best kaftans, agbadas and caps, while live bands perform as celebrants and friends are sprayed with cold-hard cash on the dancefloor. From morning till dusk, it is nothing but a fancy affair. Multimillion-dollar yachts and motorboats tear up and down the creek between the main Lagos islands as the quieter gentlemen come out to play with their toys. They are on their way to private beach-houses on a Sunday afternoon, because they can. Tomorrow is Monday and we have to play before then.
Whichever way you look at it, Lagos is a layered, bitter-sweet dish of rich culture, tastefully infused with a hint of class and laced with plenty of grit for texture.
This is Lagos, my Lagos.