Saturday, 16 August 2014

Exerpt from my Lagos post

I regretted right at the moment as I got the visa after a gasping interrogation at the embassy. Pole-apart from what I had expected, that embassy visits were nothing more than form-filling and queues, this time to the Nigerian one ironically offered more. I got stone-cold questions, hostile attitudes, though I had every (bizarre) required documents stated on the embassy website, including an “invitation letter” signed by my Nigerian contact.

The tiny glass at the counter divided me and the well- attired gentleman with the resemblance of Nelson Mandela, who threw to me what an FBI officer would smear over a drug dealer’s face. From my actual identity to my purpose of visit to my ‘potential conspiracy’… every razor sharp question cracked from his black lips made me feel like a prisoner without cuffs, or a smuggler who tried to get into the American border. “Good People. Great Country” This tagline on a poster at the door came into my sight as a wry joke.

Global city in a great country?

Autumn heat was still steaming the city airport. Black gentlemen, looking spick and span in his suits, effortlessly made his way through the crowd of puzzled foreign visitors into a rusty yellow cab and disappeared into the vast megacity. Welcome to Lagos, the Centre of Excellence – the stately neon light box was losing its glow to the everyday blackouts. Nothing but the word ‘chaos’ was valid.

Those close to the authority fashioned diplomatic affability to just-landed Chinese investors, humbled themselves to push their guests’ luggage through the Customs counters, and happily received monetary rewards from the yellow hands. By exchanging merely basic hellos and all that jazz, policemen outside the airport helped your vehicle stop for a few bucks in return.“This is the way how things work here,” William Lui, a food factory owner from Hong Kong, whom I luckily ran into at the airport, said as he settled me in his car. Lui after that offered me his transportation throughout my stay, because cab drivers might take ‘white people’ – it was a black or white world, no yellow – to shaded alleys and rob them. Not only ‘white people’, my local photographer assured me. He wouldn’t ask for directions at night as well. Besides the local market cramped with cars and pedestrians, shops and restaurants had armed guards stationed at the gate. There was no such thing as ‘window shopping’ and ‘menu checking’. Furious traffic jam happened every morning and evening and it is almost a daily routine to be stuck in the middle of the chaos of roads and have your itinerary naturally cancelled. One night I was forced to cancel my dinner appointment because I stayed on the roads for four hours. What Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s national pride and music mogul from Lagos, once sang in ‘Go Slow’ in 1972 – Lorry dey for your front // Tipa dey for your back // Motorcycle dey for your left o // Taxi-moto dey for your right // Helicopter dey fly fly for your top o – is still the best depiction of its everyday cityscape.

 

Your thoughts?

 

No comments:

Post a Comment