Whenever I tell Lagosians that I was born in Benin-City and lived there for 10 years after that, they always give me that “what the hell were you doing there” look. I used to find it quite offensive especially because I couldn’t understand why they would just sit and judge me without even knowing anything about my birthplace. But these days, I just laugh it off, mostly because the ignorance of the average person born and bred in Lagos is no longer alien to me. TRUTH IS they are the ones losing OUT.
Lagosians are like the South Africans of Africa; the USA of the world; and I do not necessarily mean that in a good way. South Africans are some of the most ignorant about their continent. Granted, they went through many years in isolation away from the rest of us. But 2 decades since the collapse of apartheid, there’s still a huge disconnect between Africa’s biggest economy and the rest of the continent. Most would rather travel to Europe than visit other African countries, drawing conclusions from what they hear and see on TV. Many even believe they don’t belong on the continent and so, see no need to try to be a part of it.
Americans are worse. The average American, basks in ignorance. World War 3 could start today in Canada and some American living right next door in Illinois would not have a clue simply because he’s just okay living in the bubble that is his small town. If it doesn’t happen in their city or directly affects them, they couldn’t care less. That is the same attitude people in Lagos have towards the rest of Nigeria.
Boko Haram blows up everywhere else and we shake our heads and move on to go see a movie. There are kidnappings by the hour in parts of the country, but we buy the papers, read them, then attend the next red carpet event. Flooding leaves millions of Nigerians homeless but we are more concerned in Lagos about the fact that we now have to trek because okadas have been banned. There is no doubt that it isn’t always easy to be passionate about something you haven’t experienced. But sometimes, paying attention in the first place is all it takes.
I was lucky to have grown up in a family that lived virtually everywhere in Nigeria. My father got transferred a lot and as a result, I got to experience life in every single one of Nigeria’s present 6 geo political zones before I became an adult. It definitely opened up my eyes to what Nigeria really is, much more than any NYSC could have. As a result I like to put Lagosians on the spot whenever I meet them, most times, without them knowing. I’d say stuff like; “On our way to Yola back then, we used to stop at Katsina-Ala to buy yams and Mubi for sugar canes.” Most usually ask; “Where are those places?” with the same kind of disgust on their faces as when they hear my place of birth. Many get shocked to find out that an Igbo man ever lived in the north. Some others go as far as swearing that nothing would ever make them live there.
Then there are those who are completely clueless. I met someone who had heard of Jigawa State for the first time last year. She’s almost 30 and has lived in Nigeria (read as Lagos) all her life. Some years ago, I had also told a friend that I was going to Jalingo in Taraba State on an official trip. He looked confused. He hadn’t heard of Jalingo before. Then he also wondered if human beings lived there (same way Americans think only animals live in Africa). Funny thing is, one of the most successful young men I have met in Nigeria, lives in Jalingo working and doing his business away from all the extra noise and drama in almighty Lagos. He swore never to move to Lagos because Jalingo not only gave him financial joy but also plenty time to rest and think about his future.
I was in Umuahia 2 weekends ago. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid so I wasn’t sure what to expect. A young man my age, hosted me at his place and I kept thinking to myself throughout that trip, how many Lagosians would agree to move here just to live like this? He stays in his house while currently constructing a shopping complex and events center. I teased him all through about wasting his time in Umuahia and he kept laughing at me; and how Lagosians are always arrogant about their city. He was happy that everyone was running to Lagos since it freed up the smaller cities for people like him to take over.
He has more than a point. What even really happens in this Lagos that makes us feel like anyone outside of it is losing out on something? What?