So here's the thing; Lagos is not an easy place to live in. Anyone who tells you otherwise either lives and works on the Island, or was probably born here and lived here all their lives. And even at that once they live in other places they're forced to admit just how much of a hassle this city serves up on a daily basis. In spite of all these, there is something about this city that attracts. It pulls you in despite your best efforts, like something really strange that attracts and repulses you at the same time. It turns you into the man at the middle of the danfo bus having a yelling conversation on your phone, or the jaded woman who is no longer impressed, shocked or dismayed by displays of extreme aggression, annoyance or stupidity. Or it turns you into the young person whose bag of rice bursts on the expressway and turns to a traffic conductor just so no one drives over the rice, okay maybe that last one is a symptom of recession not Lagosians, I don't know but I've only seen it happen in Lagos and the recession is country wide. Now if you're still redeemable, you're asking “how do I know if I've crossed the point of no return”, or to put in easier to identify language, “when do I become a Lagosian?”
The jury is still out on that one, our panel of experts have been unable to agree on a particular point (although one should have figured that a bunch on Nigerians would find it near impossible to agree on anything). However, before you lose all hope, after collecting several rather hefty 'sitting allowance' payments, our panel of experts came up with some points you should watch for if you want to gauge your Lagosian quotient.
How's your Yoruba? Unless you're ethnically Yoruba (in which case this doesn't apply to you), or you already spoke Yoruba before moving to Lagos, checking how advanced your command of the language has gone is one sure fire way to determine just how much of a Lagosian you are. So before you moved, the only words you knew were 'ejo', 'shebi' and 'pele' but in your first month you quickly learnt how to demand your change from bus conductors and assorted merchants (change mi da?), that's the first level. The next level is learning how to identify insults; from the basic ori e to the more complicated but very much popular oloriburuku. There are more complex ones, feel free to list them in the comments section. Fun fact, I'm still at this level. The next level is figuring out how to respond in kind and let me tell you I'm really looking forward to this level. The only level after this is speaking the language, maybe without the fluidity of native speakers but given time you'll develop that fluidity and be indistinguishable from the native Lagosian.
Your ear has developed finely honed skills of distinguishing between regular conversations and cases of alarm. My first month in Lagos, I would wake up at every loud voice. Man, I wasn't getting a lot of sleep in those days. Why? Because my neighbours, being good Lagosians have conversations at the very top of their voice. One time I actually went to help put out a fire and it turned out one neighbour was congratulating the other. Oh and speaking of fire, your ear has also learnt to differentiate alarm sounds from other sounds. For instance, your neighbours having a conversation about who in the neighbourhood has been spending money recently and from where she's been getting the money and your neighbours raising alarm about a fire is a very similar sound as I found out recently. When you can differentiate between alarm, conversation and friendly fight (do not ask what that is, ejo!), you're well on your way to becoming a Lagosian.
Security everywhere in Nigeria is an issue. Urban areas with larger populations take an extant problem to new heights, so you might imagine that coming from an urban, somewhat cosmopolitan area like Abuja I was prepared for Lagos. Ha! I wish. Abuja is not Lagos, let me repeat that, ABUJA. IS. NOT. LAGOS. See ehn, in this Lagos, lock your door if you're just crossing the road. If you live in an open compound style building, lock your door if you're just going to the backyard. If there is an emergency and everyone is running helter skelter, don't get carried away. Ogbeni lock up, lock your door, lock your burglar proof, lock your mini-gate, lock everything and put the key in your inner pocket. There was a fire at my place a couple of months ago, everyone ran out and was trying to put the fire out or at least slow it down before fire service got there. I locked my door and I was doing my bit by standing in one corner on the phone with Fire Service and every friend I knew who could get the word out. Now there's a water tap just outside my apartment on the ground floor so while I locked my door, I left the mini-gate open so people would have access to that tap. Long story short, fire service came and put the fire out so only three apartments on the second floor were affected. I went back in very grateful, my gratitude disappeared when I realized my generator was missing. Yes people! Some people were helping us fight the fire, others were helping themselves. The generator and even the connecting wire were stolen. And apparently, I got off lucky, some of my neighbours had nearly all their properties taken. I've learnt well. Mostly because the real Lagosians around had such a time laughing at the rest of us, wondering where these JJCs came from.
You've heard a lot about Lagos traffic, wherever you are in Nigeria, and maybe even in Africa. It's something no one can get around. Everyone knows that driving in Lagos is something that cannot be learnt anywhere else in the world and even after figuring out how for the first two months, you'll still carry your heart in your hand every time you get on the road. Lagos drivers have a patented brand of road rage that must make the Devil very proud of himself. So if you notice that you're no longer surprised by road rage, you might have been in Lagos too long. You're in traffic in a spot where there shouldn't be traffic at this time of the day and some two hours later, you get to the source of the traffic and discover two guys who bashed each other's car some two hours ago fighting and you're not surprised, congratulations your Lagosian quotient is high. Don't get me wrong, you're still pissed off like get-a-gun-and-shoot-them-if-carrying-guns-were-legal-in-Nigeria level pissed, but you're not surprised. This is Lagos after all.
Lagos public transportation, surprisingly, makes more sense that what is obtainable in most parts of Nigeria. Surprising, because public transportation in Lagos is a joke of Homer's epic proportions. So the first time you came to Lagos as a would be undergraduate in some University, the inter-state bus dropped you off at Berger or Ojota, you can't really remember and your father made you get in a bus to go to your Uncle's house. And you got to the bus-stop and the bus slowed but didn't stop and your father threw your bag out and jumped off, jogged alongside the bus encouraging you to jump off a moving bus while you stared at him petrified and betrayed. Several meters later, you finally jumped off, injured your knees and were traumatized for days. Oh those were the days. These days, you jump on or off the bus like a pro, even showing newbies just how to bend their knees when dismounting. Congratulations, you're a Lagosian.
And now I'm realizing that I may be past the point of no return. If you're congratulating yourself, I have some bad news for you. Unless someone finally changes the laws of Nigeria, not to mention the attitude of our people, you can live in Lagos all your life and acclimatize all you want, if your surname is Nnadinma, Bello or Oghenekewe, you'll never be considered a Lagosian. Maybe your children will though *crossedfingers*.
So what's your Lagosian quotient? Did the panel miss something? Drop a comment, let's talk about it.