“ago! “ago” or something like that. The shout rent the air as people scampered out of the way for safety. It was the shout of one of the many “burden-bearers” pushing a cart that was filled to overflowing with goods and wares from only-he-knows-where. He pushed past with his burden and the sea of humanity closed again.
People, people and more people. Coming and going in every direction; shouting, whispering, cackling and quarrelling until the only discernible sound was the constant hum of homo-sapiens. That indistinguishable cacophony that typifies the African marketplace.
This is the heart of the Lagos Island; centre of commerce, where millions, possibly billions of naira is exchanged every day in goods and services.
The Igbo man pulls you aside and tries to convince you to get into his shop;
“Aunty come and see, I have original jeans from Hong Kong. Come inside I have your size! Or is it T-shirt you want? I have it”
You shrug him off and try to be good-natured as another grabs you with assurances that he has your size in “quality shoes from Italy!”
It never stops. You escape the clutches of one and another is right there in front of you; grabbing, pushing, shoving, scheming for a piece of you, and of whatever money you brought to the market.
“Mummy come here, I will give you good price!”
Finally you walk into one of the hundreds of little shops, shops so small two people form a crowd in its dark interiors. Immediately he thrusts a stool at you and orders you to sit down. If you are smart-like me- you will continue standing, otherwise you could be in the tiny shop for ages haggling over the price of an item! Then you settle on a fair price but then you realize you do not have enough cash and you need to use the ATM to get some cash. Then he says,
“Madam, I will follow you to the ATM.”
He knows you may decide to buy from someone else closer to the bank and not bother to come to his shop. You set out with the trader one step behind dodging and weaving through the endless sea of humanity. You narrowly miss being pushed into the fire. Yes, the fire by the roadside where two young men are frying bean cakes, locally known as ‘akara’ and sweet potato strips. You try not to get distracted by the tantalizing aroma of yams frying and succulent turkey pieces that seem to call out your name. You look around very quickly but no one seems to be looking; no one cares really; this is Lagos Island and everyone is in a rush to get to somewhere important. You stop by the roadside snack stand and buy yourself a hot meal wrapped in newspaper and can hardly wait to dig into the hot deliciousness. A nagging thought at the back of your mind reminds you about the possible dangers of eating fried food cooked by a busy roadside, but of course you don’t listen! On the Island anything goes and if the only danger is the possibility of a little stomach upset then so be it!
This is Lagos Island.