In Nigeria, an accent is a catalyst for love

yaba

I have been debating whether I should write this for days but a conversation with a friend just convinced me to do it. Please hold up on the hunt for me till you’re done reading.

When I decided to spend 30 days in Lagos, I intended to just work and go back home but many people told me that would be a loss. Lagos is one of Africa’s most vibrant cities with something exciting each week. Its people are dynamic and energetic. I am yet to be in an African city that makes being African so cool and sexy and just darn fun. Yes, there are some challenges here, most of them deal-breakers but that is a different conversation.

As I come to the end of my trip, many people have asked me if I met any nice guys here (I hope my father doesn’t read this). I didn’t go looking for guys, and to be honest I had no interest but I did meet a lot of people and a number of them were guys. The dating scene in Lagos has mixed reviews from residents, some who love it and others who despise it. For most women, that I spoke to, it seems that Nigerian men are not much loved, some of them. “Nigerian men deceive with intent, it’s almost as though they set out to be evil and hurt you,” someone recounts to me. The creepy thing is this perspective is held by both men and women. My male friends warned me to not be alone with guys I just met or have only known a few days, and to watch everything I drink while out. It paints a rather terrifying picture of men in Las Gidi.

While men are deceiving with intent they also seem to be existing in a faux conservative world. More than one 20-something confessed their undying love to me after only an interaction of less than 15min, maybe I got mad game maybe not. When I relayed this to a friend he responded “it’s that tinge of British in your accent”. Nigerian men and women seem to fall for people by their accent, at least that is what I understood from his response. Here an accent is a catalyst for love, marriage and the world because Nollywood. The movies say when you fall you should fall hard and it should be a forever kind of thing – real or not. I would be flattered if I didn’t feel quite ridiculous every time it happened.

No one here ever tells you they just want to have sex, the conservative nature of the country makes that a fake taboo. It’s not like people aren’t doing it they just rather pretend. Goodness me, Nigerians can lie. Men lie about their physical desires and what they want from women, women do it too it would appear. Is there a law that says you must lie for survival? Nigerians believe in love at first sight, or at least they think they do. The way it plays out it seems Nigerians need to grab love by the collar and make it theirs immediately. They see a girl and they fall hard within 10mins. They will pledge their lives to these women, send flowers and even offer to buy lingerie. Nigerian girls must know the rules and signs of this game by now, so why are people still playing it?

No one asks you for a date, they ask you for a lifetime as though those are easy to give away. People throw the L word around like its going out of fashion, it’s rather perplexing. Why? It’s been an interesting 30 days learning and watching. The politics of love, dating and sex is weaved into the fabric of this city. Here it seems people are paying for sex one way or another, with the promise of love, marriage or money (security). In some cases all three. Quite the costly exchange for the promised.

Dancing with strangers and meeting Princes in Lagos

Lagos Mainland

I would be doing Lagos a great disservice if all I talked about were its humidity, the impossible traffic and the hints of sexism that befell me on my last trip (more on this in another piece). I think if I were to truly explore what the delectable city had to offer and laid it bare Florence and the Machine would come to mind: “sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell”. This is a sentiment encapsulates an unforgettable experience.

I have been here often enough but I don’t really know the city, when you think about it really can you truly know a city? The city I currently live in still harbours great mysteries for me, the city I grew up seems to be so far away that its stories don’t belong in my head anymore. But I digress.

Like an inescapable dream Lagos comes to life in audacious yet subtle ways. One of the pleasures of this trip was a restaurant called Terra Kulture, nothing special by most counts but I find that I couldn’t stay away (there was free wifi). Tucked just a few ways away from the famous Bar Beach, the African themed restaurant is a fusion of art, entertainment and food. The premise for it seems is to provide top notch Nigerian cuisine while serving its customers need for culture, with the occasional plays as well as housing a gallery with exhibits from some top photographers. The whole place comes together quite nicely, like a perfectly executed dish of intellect, perfect mixology and soul food. Here the ladies meet for their weekly book club, whether books are read or it’s an excuse for a gander at the bar is anyone’s guess. I have a favourite dish here, and ate it every day I was there: Ofada rice (a sort of locally grown rice served with a spicy sauce) accompanied by fried plantain (yum yum) – it is a taste duet that sends your taste buds into an orgasmic adventure.

Ofada rice

One night after losing my resolve, I relented to go party. I danced with strangers and was proposed to by a supposed Prince. In the same breath a man claiming to be an oil tycoon promised me the world if I would only permit him a dance. It’s a strange thing venturing in the night in Lagos. I mean who could resist a Prince and an oil tycoon, me apparently. But you get the gist, the drinks will follow and the rich will play.

Unlike my last trip I decided to forgo my preconceptions and make my way to the Mainland, a place my father would rather I did not go. Lagos is vast populace and like most urban areas it has its problems, unfortunately those problems are laid quite bare for the world to view. The city dwellers don’t seem too perturbed by this; their city is still the greatest in the world and there is no telling them any different. As I made way through into the jungle of broken concrete it plays out like an unfinished dream or one deferred. The dreamers are still dreaming but its workings are incomplete, they have made their peace with what will come but I don’t they know what that is. Some believe it will never be complete and that too is okay. For the few in the know, the overpopulation and traffic is just a small price to pay in a bigger dream that they can taste on the precipice — and so they solider on.

I feel that too. I dared a trip to the beach on one the days with a friend, as we surveyed the surrounds she said to me “you feel that?”

“What?” I ask in confusion.
“The city.” She replied simply.

The ocean was waging a war against the shore, its waves crashing fiercely and the city behind us hummed in choreographed aggression. It took a moment but soon it was clear, the city is more than the pretty views, yes there pretty views here, the food (which is to die for) or cheap liquor. The city is a beast. While most tourists would go to many big cities for the sights and landmarks, this is not that city. There are sights here; I am told I am yet to actually go to one. What this city has is culture, an experience and gravitas.

Lagos, pack your malaria meds and get ready for ride of a lifetime.

Lagos, the city that surprises no matter what you think

2013-07-12 11.22.43-1

This year I have visited Nigeria more times than I thought I would. Lagos and I have had a courtship that I never thought possible, trust me if you have seen photographs of Lagos in the news you’ll understand. However I have come to love this city and I am itching for my next trip.

When you arrive at Lagos airport it’s quite the adventure, busy and unorganised but make it through immigration and get out and you are almost home free.

First the heat and humidity will hit you into a fog of confusion, if you have ever visited Dubai you will understand what I mean. Then there is navigating the almost never moving traffic to get out of the mainland and hit the Islands. Once you achieve this then it’s a whole new world and experience. Welcome to a world of opulent wealth, a lifestyle so full of luxury and scenes so beautiful who want to be there forever.

2013-07-11 20.56.19

Traffic is a bitch. That’s the truth, if you think your city has a traffic problem that’s child’s play compared to what you will experience here. You can wait somewhere between five to six hours to advance five kilometers in the worst of it or the best of it somedays in some locations. The residents of Lagos are used to this, it’s just another price they are willing to pay to live in a city they consider to be the greatest in the world.

The people are insanely kind. Seriously! Everyone wants to help. Airport security called my ride for me because they were late and waited with me till they arrived. The lady even bought me a cold drink because it was hot and I hadn’t had time to change my money yet. The people make this city.

Nigerian cuisine overlooking the bay

2013-07-12 12.17.38

I got to enjoy delicious Nigerian cuisine overlooking the beautiful bay of Lekki. It’s like something out of an exotic travel magazine when you look at it from the Island angle. The world is so different, expats running around trying to navigate the complex yet simple terrain of the Nigerian market. Tech is big here and so is everything else. A country full of promise and a city where everyone wants a bit of that promise — things can get interesting.

2013-07-12 11.52.40-1

I asked the waiter that served me what his favourite thing about this city was: “that’s easy,” he says with a lazy smile. “When the sunsets and Lagosians come out to play,” his tone knowing. He is right of course as I discovered, no one parties like the people of Lagos and for them as long the drinks keep flowing and the dance floor is available it’s all good.

Take it from me, if you end of in Lagos, ignore the superficial veneer and take a trip into one of the Islands and enjoy a fish barbecue, some fried plantain, a bit of pepper soup and some much indeed carousing at Club 10 in Victoria Island.