As I embarked on the rickety vehicle (a coalescence of technology and wittiness tempered beyond recognition by the passionate passing of time), I breathed a deep sigh of relief. A relief that was as ephemeral as a simmering tide. My journey through the Lagos metropolis was comparable only to the peregrination of the Israelites through the wilderness: an enervating voyage of nature through nature. As the car moved briskly on the road, I noticed a recurrence of a cosmic ambivalence: a struggle between men and metals, between bodies and cars; a continuous yellow mangle of automobiles and men. The discomfort I experienced greeted me with rancour as if forcing me to be sedated. I decided to abruptly terminate my basking in the holiday euphoria to commune with my external environment.
I watched the disarray: the perpetual struggle for right of way. I watched as bodies struggled with cars, as bodies struggled with bodies, as cars struggled with cars. Not even houses were left out in this struggle. I saw as persons argued with persons on inconsequential issues, like 5 Naira. Or how consequential is an altercation with a potential aftermath of bruises and hungry stomachs?! I saw the depressions and suppressions on their faces. Their attitude, from what i saw from other drivers, showed that the word empathy had lost its place in their hearts. Lest you wonder how I was able to observe all these while on the highway, I was in a traffic jam.
The city of Lagos, by population statistics, is one of Africa’s most populous cities. When all men are out on their daily activities, at the same time, shadows cast by their bodies could prevent the rays of the sun from reaching the ground. That is how populated the city of Lagos is. If you doubt me ask google.com.
My thoughts resumed as I went through a mental trance, an intelligible one. I began to deduce psychological patterns particular to Lagosians. I discovered that all Lagosians have the ‘individualism-collectivism attitude’: a coalescence of competition and cooperation. A Lagosian can rush to enter an empty bus even if he is the only person at the bus-stop. You might not be surprised to know that a Lagos combi commuter driver ‘aka danfo driver’ is an environment trained strategist. His brain cells have been modelled to strategically manoeuvre hazy traffic situations and apply the game theory without pulverizing his relationship with his customers. It shouldn’t surprise you then when I say that every Lagosian is a walking ‘economist’ and this intrinsic economic acuity comes alive in the face of a bargain. You are well informed not to try to cheat a Lagosian, you might end up being the victim!
A Lagosian is one person I am always fascinated to study about. The average Lagosian is not moved by the day to day interaction of the forces of nature. To him these things are normal; at least life must continue. This psychological trait presets the setting in most parts of Lagos as communalistic in form but individualistic in actuality. It is an everyman for himself (on your own, OYO) philosophy that subsists. There is no free lunch in Lagos, and indeed in life. You shouldn’t also hope to get free breakfast or dinner: you pay for everything you get. Why?! Lagos is not Freetown; if you forget to be accompanied by your wallet you shall bear your misadventure.
I awoke from my rumination on the basal issues of the Lagos community on discovering that I had arrived at the airport. An overcrowding of bodies is an inevitable feature of any busy Nigerian Airport. The number of people travelling is only a small fraction of those not travelling. Family, friends, well wishers, vendors, wanderers, the list just began. I once heard someone say that when you get into the airport you become a fifty percent owner of your luggage. The slightest loss of concentration is a transfer of ownership to an unknown!
I went on to the counter to complete the travel requirements. I was disappointed with the service delivery. It was pathetic that a customer service personnel could not spell out the ethics and ethos of customer service. What I experienced was void of service, it was customer dis-service. As I waited, I began to lament. I started to write to reduce the burden on my mind. I fermented words from the chamber of my mind based on my experience in Lagos. What you just read is a part of what I wrote.
As I sat down to meditate, I focused my mental sieve on the Lagos community. I was surprised about how profound environmental factors are in moulding a personality. I discovered that the environment could give birth to geniuses and anarchists, at the same time. The influence of our society on us is thus colossal and vast, and that is why you easily know a Lagosian when you see one. The tremendous influence of the Lagos society on Lagosians cannot be overemphasized. A psychologist might call this trend behavioural disposition but I call it the Lagos-syndrome.