“If you want to visit other parts of Nigeria, do not go to the province of Daura, Rano, Cano, Sokoto – there Boko Haram will cut your head. Avoid the Poartsourth, Delta, Binin – there you might be kidnaped.” Such advises gave me Bayo – my guide, while dropping me to the hotel after the completion of exploring Lagos.
Lagos – the largest city in Africa’s most populous country – Nigeria. Flight, as opposed to what I hear from other colleagues (cabin crew has a tendency to complain), wasn’t difficult at all, nor particularly heavy, or unpleasant. The passengers, mostly Nigerians turned out to be positive people with a distinctive baritone voice.
We landed around noon. Airport, to put it mildly, was quite fusty. Its interior certainly remember the 70. From airports, I have visited so far, the Lagos was the first without air conditioning. Given the fact that the outside temperature was 33 Celsius degrees, the airport welcomed us with specific scent…
After a careful verification by the air staff, if by chance we are not carriers of Ebola, as usual we went to the bus, which was about to take us to the hotel. However, this part of the journey was as well different from other countries. We were escorted by a police car with two officers armed with machine guns.
Already in the bus I began efforts to gather the team to explore the city. For my question, if someone is willing to explore Lagos, crew responded good-natured laughter, questioning looks, and a hint of pity in their voice. So I was considered as a positive freak.
Before the flight I already heard a bit that Lagos isn’t the one of the safest cities in the world. In addition, the day before departure in the northern part of the country was another terrorist attack carried out by Islamic savages from Boko Haram. To two 10-year-old girls were attached explosives, which resulted that day in death of more than 2000 people.
Yet, as I was in the south, where terrorist attacks have no place and what’s more in my life I have more or less traveled, I thought that I’m relatively aware person and will not be as bad as people say. After making sure at the hotel reception that I should not be robbed, kidnapped and killed the driver was arranged – Bayo, who took me to a few places in the city.
After leaving the wire entanglement that surrounded the hotel where we were staying, we went to the nearby market – Onigbugbu Market. You could buy there basic food products, some electronics from China and that would be all. I wanted to see how people live.
Then we went to Tefawa Belawa Square. Object resembling a stadium is a place where are held parades, rallies and huge masses.
On the way to the last point of our trip we passed “downtown”. I asked Bayo to open a window so I could take a picture. Bayo was kind enough to even stop. Once I was preparing to capture downtown of Lagos, in that very moment spotted me street vendor, who saw in me the opportunity to sell his goods and thus he entered into the frame:
The last, and at the same time and the longest stop was Balugum / Balogun Market. Huge market, thousands of locals and I, the only white of which presence attracted considerable sensation. My guide seemed to be more scared than me. To be able to take a picture of the street, Bayo had to ask for permission of owner of some store to take the picture from his place. At some point, Bayo even took from me the camera and he began to wear it around his neck, so would not attract so much attention that I am not from here. But nothing passed his efforts. The color of my skin effectively denounced me.
Every minute I heard shouts in my direction “ee white, what are you doing here?” or requests for money – literally “give me some money.” As my companion said, the locals see in white mone. White = prosperity. So I felt insecure as well. Most of the time I held hands in pockets to protect my wallet and phone. Despite this, I tried not to lose a good mood and requests for money I replied faceotusly that yes, I’m white, but from Poland, so I don’t have money. In addition, there was a fire somewhere nearby. As it turned out the next day in the newspaper (on the cover photo of firefighters trying to extinguish a raging fire), fire destroyed a large part of the market place.
From the market we managed to get out unscathed. Before going to the car, Bayo met at a stall with dried fish, an old friend. Men rushed into each other’s arms and began joking and talking in pidgin – english-nigerian mix. I didn’t understand much, but it was fun to see how Muslim and Christian celebrate with each other without any prejudices, which in a country where in the northern part of it is Shariah law (Islamic Law), is not so obvious. For more than 10 years to the population in north part of Nigeria is terrorized by Boko Haram, where in most states Nigerian government forces no longer have control. According to experts, it’s only a matter of time before the creation of the new ISIS, based in this part of Africa on the same “values” as this one in Iraq and Syria.
The country is almost evenly divided between the two religions: Christianity and Islam. Most Muslims live in the north, and the majority of Christians in the south. So it seemed to me that terrorists mainly persecute Christians, but my guide summed up Boko Haram as follows: “some Nigerians are killed because they are a different religion, while the rest, i.e. their <brothers Muslims> are getting killed because they are not religious enough.” And indeed, in most part, the victims of the abovementioned attack preceding my arrival, were Muslims.
We returned to the hotel, and I anxiously waited for the price to shout by my guide. I thought to myself that he likes me, that there formed a bond between us and maybe for me, there will be some discount. None of that. Business is business. $ 50 Bayo said. And just at that moment came the lovely Stella (born in Nigeria, but spent most of her life in New York), a colleague from the aircraft, which pulled me out of trouble, by joining the negotiations and saying that it was far too much. After brief negotiations, the price stood at $ 35. So I even still could afford on the breakfast they after:
Overall, what I saw was a picture of misery and despair. On the road hole on the hole, everywhere smog, exhaust fumes, dirt, neglected buildings, crumbling fence. A third world country, or more politically correctly speaking, a developing country. However, it is my opinion. The city is huge, so inevitably I have not been everywhere. On the other hand, as I read here are some of the highest standards of living in West and Central Africa. So either I really didn’t see a better face of Lagos, or I’m dread to think how the other cities of this part of the continent looks like.