Today, I listened to an Asa song I had never heard before, “Ba Mi Dele“. I did not understand a lot of it because I am Igbo and the song was in Yoruba but that Yoruba part of me that says “Shebi” and eats pepper like it is life knew. It just knew. This is not about the song, it is about what i felt while listening to it. It made me miss Nigeria. It made me miss Lagos, the pulse…the ragged beauty, my birth place and home.
Now little things are what mean the world to me. Little things like smells, which i never forget, however rancid. Things like sensations, new feelings, movements. Crumbs. A different life.
Lagos is all those things. It is dirty and clean and a pearl. It is the smell of Akara when i wake up. It is the hawkers selling Agege bread early in the morning. It is the green gutters overflowing with Spirogyra.
It is prayers on the assembly ground in primary one. The Okrika market at Ikotun. Baba dudu and Agbalumo chewing gum. Eyo masquerades. The seven days rain. Tales of Shigidi.
It is the wooden haunted-looking sculptures which made me wonder if they were possessed. The grey salty beach water which dragged me back as I ran. Smiles from my boyfriend when he opened the door. Gbomo Gbomo. Screaming “UP NEPA” when light came on. Rolling my eyes as the town vibrated every time Nigeria scored.
No-man’s land where new comers think gold grows off the street. You taught me to be ruthless and cultured and shy and crazy at the same time. A puppet-master. You are the Eiffel tower. Without the lights and the pomp and the Eiffel.
For every time I ran under the rain on my way back from work at 1am, I am grateful. For the smell of weed and Agbo and hot pepper soup and Nkwobi which made me wonder if I should go into a bar but was scared of being called irresponsible. Struggling with thirty people for the only bus to Obalende. For quarrels with prying neighbors. For the Aso-ebi which young girls hustled to buy so they could crash weddings every Saturday. For Lagbaja, “The Shrine”, Funke Akindele and Togo Beans.
That’s what life is. What life was.
There is a little thing we Lagosians say, “Anyone who makes it in Lagos can make it anywhere”. And that’s because you are the maker and the destroyer. You teach, you mould, you haunt, you perfect.
You are life. You are hope.
You owe no one. Everyone owes you.
You are Lagos.
The city that never sleeps.