Smart, street savvy, boisterous and impatient are all adjectives that come to mind when describing the Lagosian. That special breed of people who define the pace and set the trend for other Nigerians to follow. The good, the bad, and the “extra”- Lagos boasts of them all without trying too hard. The DNA of the Lagosian seems to be hardwired from the point of conception. One look, and you can tell that if a person is cut from the Lagos fabric or not. You can’t fake it, it’s either inborn or not.
Other Nigerians, (particularly those who have never been to Lagos, or have only paid one or two cursory visits to the center of excellence) tend to be of the notion that Lagosians are at best strange, and at worst plain crazy. I won’t say I blame them much. If I wasn’t born and bred in the intriguing city, I would probably think the same way (not that I don’t think that way sometimes). But that’s the purpose of this piece – to make non-Lagosians understand the inhabitants of the most populous city in Nigeria.
And so, here’s my attempt at helping you to not just identify, but also understand the typical Lagosian. Let’s do this, shall we? The most things you must know about Lagos is;
Everybody is somebody: There are no minnows in Lagos. Forget that you would find a category of people sleeping under bridges, bursting their behinds doing menial jobs, running after cars on the highway to make a N50 sale or even begging for money. Yes, there are people who are poor and are regarded as the dregs of the society. But do not be mistaken, everybody is somebody. Everybody is important. The gala hawker by the road side may be the decider of how long you’ll survive a 2-hour traffic grid lock. A security man can decide if you ever step foot into that company you so desire to do business with, let alone see the boss. The rascally looking omo onile can frustrate you to the point of abandoning that choice piece of land you went broke to acquire, and the perpetually despised area boys may turn out to be your saviour one when your car plunges into a man hole on a rainy night. There’s no point trying to make sense of these contradictions. Remember that everybody in Lagos is important and you are one step closer to understanding the city and its people.
There are no gentlemen/ladies: The Lagosian looks the part when he is going to work or attending an event. When it comes to fashion, no other city comes close. We set the pace and hold all the aces. But don’t get it twisted – That “gentleman” who’s dressed like he just stepped out of a GQ magazine cover can lose their home training faster than you can say “Muhammadu Buhari.” Anything can trigger the Lagosians short fuse, anything can rob him off the wrong way. A man in his well-tailored three-piece suit can divest himself of those items of clothing in a flash, ready to engage in a brawl because somebody said made an unsavoury remark. Two beautiful girls can decide to strip each other naked in broad daylight because of another woman’s husband. Never let looks fool you, in Lagos there are really no quiet people. The next quarrel or fight is always simmering beneath the surface of an apparent calm.
A pervading sense of superiority: No matter the level of development or reawakening some other cities of this country experience, the Lagosian believes they still come second behind him. Lagos remains the hub of Africa, and an awareness of this fact gives residents the impetus to see themselves as alpha humans. And while that may smack of arrogance, it is somewhat excusable that the Lagosian sees himself as superior. The city is where everything happens. The beaches are here, the ports are here, the nightlife is vibrant, the complexities and cosmopolitanism that define a contemporary urban city are expressed to the fullest here. It’s in the way we talk, the way we walk, our carriage and belief that we are more exposed than any other set of people in the country. The Lagosian views others the same way an aristocrat would look upon plebeians.
There are no normal drivers: This is perhaps the easiest way to identify a Lagos resident. Go to Niger, Uzbekistan, Taiwan or Timbuktu and you can pick out a Lagosian by the way he drives. In Lagos, driving is not an activity that involves steering the wheels of a vehicle to a destination; it is a battle for supremacy on the roads. It’s a full blown war that one strives to win by outwitting other motorists. The vehicle beside, behind, and ahead are all competition. They are adversaries who are bent on delaying one’s journey, and so, it’s important to fight tooth and nail to ensure that doesn’t happen. And in the event that an unfortunate being scratches a Lagosian’s car, either one of them must ask the staple question, “Do you who I am?” Don’t try to understand this phenomenon, just accept it for what it is.
Rest is a myth: Night and day are one and the same in Lagos. There’s no time when it’s too late to move around or get things done. With a large working class population that wake up as early as 4 am to commute to work, and return home as late as 11 pm, it effectively means that the city and its inhabitants are active all day long. Even weekends and public holidays are no exceptions. The Lagosian is naturally restless, he must be doing something at every point in time, he must constantly expend the abundance of energy he possesses. Lagosians don’t sleep, therefore, the city doesn’t sleep.
Do you live in Lagos, or have you had any encounter with a Lagosian? Feel free to share your thoughts on what you have observed about them.