My first time in Nigeria is worse than terrible! It’s such an anticlimax because this is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I had been beating myself for years for missing to visit my aunt when she used to live in Nigeria. That, and Nigerian cuisine laced with very hot chilli peppers of international repute, are just some of the reasons why Nigeria and India have always been in my Dream Destinations.
I find myself headed to Nigeria about two weeks prior to my first planned two-week trip/work exchange program to Lagos. I am accompanying Sauti Sol (Winners Best African Group & Producer of the Year at AFRIMA) at the award ceremony as the group’s Publicist and Tour Manager.
Just the idea of being in Nigeria excites and thrills me so much that I hardly read my book in the flight. The four hours + flight time seems like forever. On arrival at Murtala Muhammed Airport, we realize that two of the Sauti Sol members’ visas aren’t valid even though they just came from Nigeria about a week ago. Turns out all foreigners have to get an Entry Visa at every new entry, even if it’s just a day after your last visit. At a special office, we are asked to pay 50 USD in cash for each. It’s surprising that the system at this office is down yet they won’t allow us to pay in Nairas or using a Visa Card. Across the jam-packed airport, we have to find an ATM and a bureau to exchange Nairas into USD – like why can’t your systems just be functional?
Just as we are about to finish the process, a policeman walks into the room holding a pen and paper. He calls out Chimano’s name, insisting: “Passengers who came in from Nairobi!?” His bag was left in Nairobi as flight was “over weight”. I start to laugh out loud thinking to myself – he is so fucked right now! The policeman calls my name next. That’s when I quickly stop laughing – everything starts to sink in. Out of all five of us, only one person receives their bags. The KQ official asks us to head over to their Ticketing Office for further explanation. We are furious because we are only in Lagos for two nights and to attend two events on each night. To tell us that our bags will only arrive 24 hours later is basically telling us that we came to a foreign country without half of what we needed for the full stay – senseless!
We’ve spent an hour getting the visas. It takes us another hour to get through to someone at the Ticketing Office. When they show up, their only explanation is that they received an email from Nairobi indicating that the flight was overweight so our bags had to stay behind. The officer suggests that we should call Nairobi. On calling Nairobi, the team says that we should get answers in Nigeria. Eventually Nairobi office assures us that we will receive our luggage tomorrow. It’s so disappointing to be in a new place, all sweaty and tired and with no single change of outfit. I quickly call our Nigerian Rep IBB on arrival at hotel. He hooks us up with a couple of designers and stylists to salvage the situation. My girlfriend Abi brings me an outfit and shoes that fit, saying, “Keep this dress – I know you will love it and it will fit perfectly.” It actually does 🙂 Together with my girls, I am off to DJ Spinall’s album house party at Oniru Estate. The rest of Sauti Sol decide to pass.
My first look at Lagos on our way to the hotel is like a film. We spot a woman walking on the road slapping a man on an Okada (motorbike) – just like in the Nigerian movies. I really wonder what he did. He must have grabbed her ass or something. We are staying in Victoria Island and so we pass through The Third Mainland Bridge – the longest of three connecting Lagos island to the mainland. At one point this was the longest bridge in Africa until the 6th October Bridge was erected in Cairo.
I am extremely happy to see Jua Cali and Yemi Alade mash-up on the third season of Coke Studio Africa as the only billboard along The Third Mainland Bridge. Looking at the bridge and its surrounding, I am intrigued by the paradox that haunts most African countries. Here, on this road leading to some of the wealthiest hotels and estates in Nigeria, you can see first-hand disparity between the rich and poor. On two sides of the grandiose well-built bridge is the Makoko slum area with shanties elevated atop the Lagos Lagoon.
I am fascinated by the old public transport vehicles (most of which are VWs)—these are the Danfo, known for notorious drivers and conductors, just like Kenyan matatus. In some Danfos, the conductors and passengers are literally hanging outside – just like in some Nairobi and Dar mats. It’s such a homely welcome when I visit an African country and notice something that totally reminds me of Kenya – my own country. This is Africa – a continent rich in diversity just as much as in similarity.
Fore more juice on my Nigerian trip full of Wahala read: