So I was on the notorious Lagos-Ibadan express-way some years ago trying to make it to my cousin’s wedding in time. Alas, the road had another plan in mind. The traffic was mind-numbing. All the while, Olamide’s “Yemi my lover” kept playing in my head. I don’t mean, earbuds-music-playing. I mean the voice-in-my-head-singing-kind.
Just when I thought my head wont stop singing, after about 3hrs in traffic already, someone decided to start sharing traffic tales – of how one time, they were stuck in traffic at Ikorodu heading to one of the Ijebu towns when they saw a bride being whisked away on a bike so she wouldn’t miss her own wedding.
Another talked of how one mother of the bride had to serve the wedding meal to people in traffic when she realized she might not be going anywhere that day.
While this was going on, one woman began coughing excessively so much that the person beside her started adjusting on the seat to give her enough space. This was at the time when Ebola was said to be in Lagos. Everyone on the bus began eyeing the woman like “e fit be ebola” even when we knew coughing was not one of the symptoms of the virus. The space ehn, it would conveniently take two people. The fear of Ebola sha.Who wan die?
Oh and there was the tale of a man who shared with us how he met his wife on a bus trip to Benin. With nothing else to talk about, we decided it was time to talk about how a lot of travellers miss their buses on that particular road because they got tired of sitting in traffic and decided to take a walk. By the time the traffic starts moving again, they can’t identify which bus is theirs.
First things first, Lagos apartments are OVERPRICED. If you think you will get value for your money, please get ready to be shocked out of your wits. What you will find is that rent property quality is not even at par with the cost placed on it. I’ll get back to this in a bit.
So January 1st this year I had a list of what I want in 2017 and top of that list was paying my own rent. Rationale: My dad retires this year and it was past time papa mia stopped footing the rest of my responsibilities. Then I thought again, Olodi-Apapa (where I currently stay) is too far. I’ll search for a place in a central location in Lagos and pay.
Thus the search began. First I learnt that what I have known as a self-contained apartment all my life is called the Mini-flat in Lagos. So by Lagos definition, a self-contained apartment is just one-room with bathroom and toilet carved into a corner of it and a Mini-flat is usually a room, sitting-room, kitchen and toilet facilities in it. For me and everywhere I have lived (Ogun and Ondo) except Lagos, what I described as a self-contained apartment will be regarded as just what it is – a room.
That understood, I limited my search to “Mini flat” in Ilupeju, Airport Road area of Oshodi, Gbagada, Yaba, Onipanu and Maryland. Budget: 250,000 Naira per year. Can I hear some short snorts, somebody? Google became my friend, that’s aside the BBM announcement I made about searching. The first few responses I got to this “advert” was “250k? For Miniflat in this Lagos? Make it 300 or worse 350 na”. At this, I get my small Nokia and put the calculator to good use. Let somebody not come and be counting bridges in Lagos abeg. After the calculation, I realised going up on my initial will put plenty pressure on my pocket. After rent, I will sha still pay bills and feed and look good; all of which also cost money. So 250k or nothing.
Between Jiji.com and Nigeriapropertycentre.com, I managed to find some agents. The first I met in Yaba, very customer-centric, was the one who taught me the difference between self-con and Miniflat according to Lagos. Then we (My twin and I) decided to go see the apartment and then he says we’ll be paying 3000naira for inspection fee. The Ijebu in me kicked in. I need to pay to check? What if I don’t like the place? Will I get refund? Answer: No. I calculated; if I saw five different agents to check different places, 15000 is gone? LOL! So I quickly told him I’ll call him later about it as we’re undecided as to whether we want Yaba.
My next stop was Oshodi. I saw two places there. The first place, if you have a car, you will be parking on the street. That told me one thing. The man who owns the house is not progressive. Is he praying his tenants never own cars? Did I mention the almost non-existent ventilation? Lagos is hot enough for one to add cramped apartment to the wahala. My answer, Mbanu! The second place had a very poor road network, and the apartment, two stories up, had not been connected to water. Again, no thank you. For both I paid 1,500naira inspection fee.
Please note that at this time, I hadn’t thought to ask my dad how much my current two-bedroom apartment costs. Next stop was Ogudu, this one was found by a friend. The sad part about that area was that both ways, I will always be in traffic: whether to work or from work. That’s like adding ten years to my twenty-something already. Still, let’s see the apartment. It was nice. The builder or landlord however made a mistake: the window of the sitting room and the stair outside the house are on the same level; which meant if it rained and water flows down the stairs, it will flood the room. Did I go in rainy season? No. How did I know? Chuck that to the few times my twin and I have gone to Popsi’s house while it was being constructed. The detailed eye helped where nice would have just been enough for some people.
Long story short, I found another apartment at Onipanu. 270,000 yearly as rent and 120,000 for “agency and commission”, the agent said. Total: 390,000 Naira in the first year. Note again, this is rent only. Then I called papa and he said “120k commission and agency? Isn’t it supposed to be 10percent of rent again? That’s what the law says. That’s too much to pay”. That’s when I decided to ask, “Daddy, how much do you pay for this our place?” Let’s just say the answer got me realising I can pay 1 and three-quarter year’s rent at my current place. Did I mention that my current house can comfortably park 10 cars, has steady water supply and is only “far” when you’re coming from after Oshodi (Ikeja, Ojota, Ketu, Ikorodu)? Also to and from work or anywhere, I’m always against traffic unless the Apapa traffic demons (oil tankers and freight vehicles) are out to play.
Final decision: Rent paid and I will not be moving.
Lagos apartments are priced based on Location. Please note, location doesn’t necessarily mean quality apartment. It only means you’ll be paying almost double the price of a Mile 2 apartment in Yaba
Only you know your pocket. Don’t let your big girl/boy status be determined by those who think living in one area isn’t good for your status when they are not supporting you with a dime.
That thing they say about Lagos and packaging, it’s true. Don’t let your need for a fine house take your eyes off the really important details. Go with a detailed eye.
If you have a low budget like the one I had, look beyond the really catchy areas of Lagos. It doesn’t make sense to drive a Murano while living in one-room in Magodo when you can get a mini-flat or standard flat at the same rate in Okota, Mile 2, Palmgrove or Egbeda and still drive that Murano.
Only you know what you want. Don’t let Lagos’ idea of what is good make you lower your standard.
Most importantly, life is too short to be living to pay rent alone.
It’s Friday and there’s a party about to start. Drinks are showing up. Small chops are making mouths do the Skelewu. soon, feet will join the movement. You see It’s TGIF somewhere in the city of Lagos. but before i go join the party…
The gods of writing must be having the time of their life right now as they imagine the many stories that could win literary prizes if only someone will write about current happenings in Nigeria. In the same vein, these gods must be having a good laugh at the situation called Nigeria. Allow me to explain.
Until some days ago, I’ve been away from here. It’s hard putting aside the worrying state of things to put thoughts to text. In my defense, i want to say that the Muses deserted me but that is not what happened. “What happened?” You ask. The only answer: Nigeria. Well to be fair, Nigeria has always happened but recently, more often than not. Nigeria is renowned for its corrupt abilities and fraudulent nature. Cameron gave it a fancy name: fantastic corruption.
However lately, Nigeria has found more ways than one to remain the topic of the day internationally: the conspiracy called Chibok girls, the desperation called Niger Delta Avengers, the disaster called Nomadic farmers, the rising despair called saving the economy, The southward turn of the naira, the growing fear called depleting oil and the sad situation called job cuts and rising unemployment.
When you grow up in a country like Nigeria you come to expect anything.No matter how depressing the news, life goes on. You thrive on the belief that where life exists, hope abounds. You expect nothing from the government but understand that when your tide turns, the government expects everything from you. So you get used to the negativity and make jokes about it until then. So like most Nigerians out there, i take bad news like one would buy roasted corn at a street corner- in stride after only a slight pause or shake of the head. But in all the years of my existence, all twenty-five of them precisely, nothing came close to breaking me than accumulated events of the past few weeks. There was the fuel price hike, thousands of job cuts across the country, the back and forth in government (too many propagandas and too many of those who take a knife to Nigeria like it’s their family inheritance.)
There was a time when it-is-well was the statement that marked the end of every complaint but these days even that is no longer enough. To agree with Igoni Barrett, each of us has become Ministers in our own right- Ministers of power, works and housing, defence, youth development, education and so on. we provide these things ourselves.
Lately, many of my friends are leaving the country. Some for study, some for work but in retrospect, for many of them it looks like a permanent move. Of course, I’m happy they can leave this despair called Nigeria behind but I’m sad at the avoidable circumstances that prompted their decisions. Nigeria is a country that beats hope out of you no matter how much you try not to let it. Weeks ago, I found myself looking out too. I find I want to take a break from all the depressing news surrounding Nigeria especially as the Naira keeps doing a Hopfrog against other currencies. And when I think “Oh, that’s typical Nigeria”, this time it lacks the conviction with which I used to voice those words.
Therefore I came back here to the one place where I can write out my thoughts without losing them. When I first started this blog, the idea was to give relevance and meanings to the regular, the everyday. Now as much as I cannot term every post on here an everyday kind of story, I find that you relate to some of the stories and give feedback albeit privately. Perhaps this is not your typical everyday situation, it is slowly becoming mine.
Right now, I write not as one hiding behind the fictive creation of a story nor behind the condensed words of poetry. Here I write as one who needs to be reminded, why I should continue to love Nigeria despite all its madness.
One day, you enter your house and drop your bag on the kitchen counter as your hands find the light switch on the wall. As the light comes on, you notice your things are everywhere. Slowly, you walk towards the sitting room. There are things on the floor, the chairs, ironing table. Piles and piles of them. “Who did this?”, you ask yourself as you trip over something. It’s a book. Then you walk into your room. Everything’s just as you left it. Except…Where’s the earring you wore at Seun’s birthday? You opened your wardrobe to find your blue sequinned dress has had a quick dialogue with invisible legs. Its empty spot on the wardrobe hanger tells you. You know it’s not among the pile you found outside your bedroom; you would have noticed. TheJero Plays. You had it by the bed. Now that spot is empty too.
You should call your siblings perhaps they came home in your absence. Your phone. Oh no! That too? Arghh!!! Now you’re angry. You go back to the front door and begin sorting everything. The clothes on the floor go in the laundry basket. The ones on the chairs go into the wardrobe. You pick up the shoes; one foot here, another there, you arrange them on the rack. The books are finally back on the shelf, now you can stop tripping over them. Then it came. BAM!!! You know who Ojuju Calabar is.
You remember when you came home yesterday and dashed into the visitor’s room because you were really pressed, you took off the sequinned dress and left it there. Then you entered your room and sat staring out the window at the moon? You left the earrings there too. And after your evening shower, you were reading a book at the ironing table? The Jero Plays. And the phone? If only you hadn’t dropped your bag on the kitchen counter when you came in moments ago.
“I should have eaten”, Gbenle thought as he manoeuvred passers-by at Oyingbo market trying to get the heavy weight of foodstuff on his shoulders to a car parked somewhere on Apapa road. Behind him, an elderly woman walked briskly; tailing him to make sure he doesn’t run away with her purchase.
Gbenle is one of tens of young boys that live at Oyingbo market and who did anything and everything to make food money on the daily. Today he had decided he would be an *Alabaru. His friend, Wande, with whom he had arrived Lagos from their little town in one of the South western states had told him market sellers and their customers pay much to boys who helped them carry goods to and from the market. What Gbenle hadn’t envisaged though was the weight of goods he had to carry to earn it.
Gbenle had never been one to burden himself in any way, not with thoughts, girls, or heavy things. That was why he had chosen to be a bus boy in the first place. As a bus boy, he simply alerts passengers going the route of his bus by intermittently shouting “Yaba, wo le, Yaba” and gets paid a little sum for his efforts once the bus is filled. This helped him meet his daily needs with some extra on good days. But the last few days hadn’t been good as the bus he calls passengers for had developed faults.
So that morning when Gbenle had woken up to a monstrous hunger, he knew it was time to find an alternative. Even the worms in his belly seemed to have had enough as they bit unapologetically into his stomach walls. The hilarious comebacks he usually had for the other boys’ jokes didn’t come through either when the boys mocked every person who passed. “See her leg”, one boy said. “See that one, bringing children to market. Psheeaw”, another said. “Wicked woman, giving a pregnant Alabaru such load. Can’t she carry them herself?” went a third. “These ones are playing love in the market” yet another boy pointed out as they hurled at passers-by in raucous manner. Gbenle who was usually the gang leader had more pressing matters on his mind; food.
Gbenle had looked around to find Wande at an extreme corner of the group clutching nylon of Garri and another of Groundnuts. The look on Wande’s face indicated he wasn’t open to sharing but even if he was, Garri and Groundnuts didn’t count as Gbenle’s choice of recovery after days of feeding on water. His stomach growled as if in agreement. Wande had simply looked up as Gbenle’s shadow rested on him and said in unblemished Yoruba, “Alabaru is the job that pays now. Being a bus boy at this time of the day will only earn you promises of Lunch which may not happen especially if your chosen bus driver is the type that likes to collect his own money.”
Needing no further encouragement, Gbenle had made his way into the market, keeping an eye out for anyone who remotely looked like they needed a porter. Until he found the woman. She had helped him put the load on his shoulders, walked behind him at a steady pace as they made their way out of the market and towards Apapa road. Soon the sound of a car being unlocked remotely and an accompanying flashing set of taillights told Gbenle they are at the car. The woman promptly opened the car boot so he can deposit his burden into it, then followed through by digging out a dirty One Hundred Naira note from her purse which she handed to him.
“No more. No more load-carrying”, Gbenle decided as he headed back to Oyingbo to join the other boys.
*Alabaru- a market porter who carries commodities from or to the market at a pre-agreed price.
“I wish I was 16 so I can know what it feels like to fall under anointing too” I hear Biola say in that childish grating voice of hers. Gradually, I stir from my fall, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the sunlit room. Biola is my 14year old younger sister. I hold my head gently as a wave of headache slammed me. Slowly I shake my head trying to recollect what happened and how I came to be on the bare cold cement floor of our new church.
“You were in a trance,” Biola says as she looks down at me from her upright position in front of me. “What does it feel like?” “Did you see Jesus?” “What about those Ogbanje spirits? Mummy said maybe they are the reason you talk in your sleep on those days we played much.” “Does this mean you’re no longer one of them?” On and on came the battering questions as I try to shake off the ache pounding the back of my head.
But what I really am is hungry. I hear my tummy sigh in agreement as Biola runs towards the back of the church building to get my parents. You see it has been days I had any real food as the last 6 days has been about our yearly Family Restoration Week. Usually during this week, the entire family engaged in series of prayers to ward off evil, pray for blessings and do things together to strengthen the family bond. I particularly like the Restoration week because it is that one time when we children get to eat anything we like.
But this year was different. Mummy said it will be an entire week of Fasting; the first three days without food and water. Fourth and fifth day, we will have water alone. By Day Six, we’ll have fruits and on the seventh day, we’ll have family prayers in church which will mark the end of the Week after which we can go back to our normal diet.
Usually we children were not involved in Fasting. However when I went to the kitchen the morning the Fast began, I couldn’t find my food. Mummy said I’m a big girl and only Biola and Segun would not be allowed to Fast. Biola said she didn’t believe I’ll see the Fast through as I love food too much and she dared me to prove her wrong.
So here I am, six days later with only two days of water and one day of fruits in me, ready to let my parents believe I fell under the intensity of prayers rather than tell them I fell because I hadn’t had food in six days. I look up to see my parents approaching, Biola is right behind them. I hear Pastor Sola shout Hallelujah in that frenzied way of his, praising God that the demon has left me. I close my eyes in exasperation as I hear mummy say; “Oh! God you are great. Thank you for saving my baby”. At that, I slowly let myself fall back to the ground.
This is for every man out there who is in constant psychological battle for his masculinity
Gentlemen, shall we?
For once let’s talk about what it means to be a man. Let’s leave society’s drama of man versus woman and social media standards of men and women. Let’s look beyond the Yoruba demon hash tags and the men-are-insensitive speeches and take a look at what it really means to be a man.
Admittedly the Nigerian society is unfair on women. It’s very demanding on us, tasking us to have woven ourselves many yards thick into the fabric of wifely actions and/or inactions from our teenage years. Judging us to be good wives and great mothers, expecting us to birth and raise children who will be model citizens from the moment we become women and making sure anything short gets us the “you’re not a good woman” tag. But this is not about women.
Carried away by the noise constantly raging between the sexes, we forget that this part of the world is equally unfair on men. It’s more subtle but it’s there. It’s there every time you approach a girl for a relationship and in the first few sentences, she’s gauging how much you’re worth, if you can cater for her needs and if you can really match up with the image of the man she has in her head. So first you have to be better than the man in her head or some prior man in her life.
Society’s unfairness is there in the subtle way it expects you to cater to your family and woman’s needs not minding whether you even have enough for yourself. It’s also there in other men’s expectations of you. So from go, you’re made aware of the many people you have to convincingly provide for to be called a man. There’s you, family (nuclear and extended), woman (or women) and of course social responsibility. It’s brutal if you’re unable to. Society will not hold back.
So you get a job to keep up with those expectations. You’re happy with the job but soon, the little you make is no longer enough because the bills at home keep going up or “your mates are driving good cars and you’re still on leggedez benz” or “Temi’s boyfriend took her to Dubai for Christmas but where did you take me?” So you buckle up and start one or two side-businesses in order to meet up responsibilities and keep up with the social scene. Did I forget to mention that the kind of career you find yourself increases your reputation? Oil sector is equal mega hit. Business and ICT equals he-get-prospects. Banking is big-boy. Medicine/Law/Engineering gets you a he’s-a-professional. Every other, you’re on your own. Try explaining to a Nigerian what it is you do as a copywriter (hopefully they don’t get it confused with copyright).
The unfairness is there in the expectations from family in taking care of your younger ones or in even supporting the home front especially if you’re the first born son. And just when you’re getting the hang of it, just when you’re beginning to understand what it means to be a man, then you’re subtly urged to begin to include iyawo rere in prayers because you need a woman who will hold home down so you can focus on the hustle. So like the woman who doesn’t want to be tagged for Shiloh 2030, as a man too, you don’t want the tag of someone who can’t keep a woman. So you try to be a man and man your way through heartbreaks and sadness and deaths and depression and manipulation and family. So you learn to be bigger than you really are, even if it means faking it and dressing it up. You have to be a man. Remember?
What about sex? Every day you go online, somebody is talking about 6 inches and 9 inches and without even realizing it, you’re measuring yourself against someone’s preconceived idea of how many inches you need to be a conqueror in bed. You begin to wonder if that hot new girl you are about to conquer has been with someone bigger or smaller and if you’ll somehow do better or less than her last man. You begin to ask yourself if the you’re-the-man which Precious was chanting the last time you both rolled in the hay was her being good at faking orgasm or her being the real deal.
In the end, the struggle to be a man is no small feat. Men may break your heart, take advantage of your love, choose the hustle over you; in the end those things are things society conditioned them to be in order to be called a man.
So for once, guys tell us, what does it mean to be a man?