Iniobong Umoh: Eko For Show! Is Lagos Really the Promise Land for Nigerians?

LagosYoutubeMy friend lives and works in a blue chip firm in Victoria Island, Lagos. His office is on the fifth floor of the skyscraper corporate headquarters of the firm. The office is beautifully decorated and my friend regularly snaps and uploads pictures of him working at his desk to his Facebook page. He lives in a nice house and drives a nice car. His monthly salary is in six digits and there are other perks and allowances. I can say that my friend is balling. He is on a search for a wife and will settle down before this year is over.

Four years ago, my friend was a broke and jobless graduate walking aimlessly on the streets of the capital city of a south-south state searching for a non-existent job. Tired of the fruitless search, he decided to pool his little savings together and relocate to Lagos in search of greener pastures. Four years after, he is living the good life.
My friend is just one amongst the millions of people whose decision to relocate to Lagos has paid off.
Lagos is the former capital city of Nigeria. It is the business hub and commercial nerve center of the country. It is the entertainment capital of West Africa. There is a general perception in Nigeria that Lagos is the ideal place for one to “hammer”, “blow”, succeed, make it etc.

Every day, hundreds of buses filled with economic migrants from South eastern and south southern parts of Nigeria pull up at motor parks in Lagos, emptying out the hopefuls who are all eager to make it in the land of opportunities.

Despite the many success stories, there are thousands of woeful tales of people who have failed to succeed in Lagos despite all the efforts they have put into hustling, both legitimate and illegal hustling. A visit to the slumy and run down areas of the city will show you that, ‘Eko for show’ is really that… a mirage!
The question arises; must one be in Lagos before one can make it in Nigeria?

I have been asked countless times to relocate to Lagos. Many online friends of mine assume that I live in Lagos. They are often taken aback when I tell them that I don’t live in Lagos. I always get invitations to attend important seminars, meetings, conferences, events etc at short notice and when i decline with the excuse of location that they realize that I am not staying in the same city with them.

Theoretically, one does not need to live in Lagos before one can make it in Nigeria. However, it seems to be cut in stone that one cannot succeed in certain sectors of our national life without living in or operating from Lagos.
Take a look at the entertainment and showbiz sector for example. No Nigerian musician is taken seriously if he/she isn’t in Lagos. Same thing goes for actors and actresses.

All the mainstream musicians from other parts of the country had to set up base in Lagos before they got to national prominence. The Timayas, the Flavours, the Tuface Idibias, the Psquares, the Inyanyas, the Burna boys, the Kcees etc of this world had to journey to Lagos to succeed.

You have to be in Lagos to meet the music producers, fellow music artistes, the “Alaba boys” marketers, the show promoters etc because Lagos is the music capital of Nigeria. If you chose to refrain from relocating to Lagos, you would remain at best a local champion. There are thousands of broke but talented upcoming music artists in different parts of Nigeria looking for money to relocate to Eldoradoesque Lagos.

Lagos is the hub of the creative arts. Writers flourish in Lagos.
It is also the hub of trade and commerce, importation, manufacturing, religion, sports etc.
I believe one can succeed in any part of the country one lives in as long as what you are engaged in is profitable and you put in hard work and also not forgetting the God factor.
There are thousands of success stories of people who made it in Nigeria without living in Lagos. However, one cannot dispute the beneficial aspects of living in Lagos, most especially the networking and social circles that can ultimately result in you “blowing” and “hammering.”

There is a certain appeal and allure about Lagos that makes the city irresistible to non-residents. “Why is it that all the good things seem to be happening in Lagos?”, one of my friends had questioned on Facebook as he watched the Experience gospel music concert live from Tafewa Balewa square, Onikan, Lagos on his cable tv last December.
It is said that Lagos is the only pan-Nigerian city with people from all parts of the country as residents. Lagos is the land of promise with opportunities littered everywhere.

This is why everyday people find their way to the “no man’s land” – to live in the state with a land mass that is roughly half of Bayelsa State in size and with a population of 20 million residents – adding to the chaotic traffic situation and piling pressure on the existing social infrastructure in the city state.

Apart from the chokehold traffic and noise pollution levels, what puts off some people from Lagos is the “hurry hurry-Rush rush” frenzied lifestyle of the residents; the “Shine your eyes’ attitude where you have to be constantly on alert and can’t trust the next person beside you, the ‘one chance’ 419 taxis/buses, the touts/agberos and the more than half a dozen uniformed law enforcement organizations whose sole purpose seem to be that of making life unbearable for citizens.

Taking these social ills away, Lagos is a nice place to live in both the mainland and the Island.
I admire the ‘can do spirit’, ‘creative instinct’ and ‘never say die attitude’ of Lagosians. I have had opportunities to work with and execute some “out of the box thinking” projects with some Lagos friends of mine. These same projects wouldn’t have seen the light of day if I had decided to work with some people living in the same city with me.

Would I relocate to Lagos sometime in the future?
Yes, but when I do so, I will be relocating as a Made man with a national identity and brand, and not as a hustler searching for the golden fleece in the land of promise.

Do you live in Lagos? Do you live in the mainland or island? What do you like most about the city?

Photo Credit: Foto.com.ng |Nsoedo Frank

35 Comments on Iniobong Umoh: Eko For Show! Is Lagos Really the Promise Land for Nigerians?
  • Nancy March 22, 2016 at 10:18 am

    This is my 6th year in Lagos. Haven’t gotten to where I dream of but certainly past where I would have been if I had stayed back in Calabar. Mentality, orientation and experience matters alot

    • Iniobong March 22, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      Exactly Nancy! Mentality and orientation matters a lot. The prevailing mentality of the inhabitants of a city/town can either propel one to success or failure.

  • udo uzoma anyanwu March 22, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Awesome article. Yes, you expressed Lagos in such vivid language and colour. Lagos is indeed a melting pot of our nations ingenuity, creativity and resilience. I have been resident in Lagos for about 6 months and it has not taken me long to realize that this is the “big stage” as far as naija is concerned. It all happens here. This is it. The opportunity, the fame, the passion, success and failure. Everything. But the story will depends on each individual so no guarantees. I think that other cities can build their own identities but their leaders are more interested in stealing money than creating legacy which will post their cities on the map. Lagos is lucky because of it geopolitical significance. What is so scary is that it has not yet fulfilled its true potential. Hope our leaders will allow that to happen.

  • Mr. Egghead March 22, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Good article.
    Everything that makes Lagos tick now will eventually make this city go bust. Everything that is wrong with a mega-city is really wrong with Lagos. At current rates, Lagos is unsustainable, both economically and ecologically. London is like Lagos in expensive rents but it is less populated and better reticulated for cheap transport .
    We desperately need more hubs for development. As an artist, you shouldn’t have to come to Lagos to “hammer.” Yes there will always be epicentres for certain industries, but I picture a future where Davido will perform to packed audiences in Aba, Port-Harcourt, Kaduna and Ibadan yet he will live in Abuja. What about film? Asaba can be made into a world-class set and a hub for film in the manner of Hollywood. If you want to buy equipment and film stuff, go there.
    As a last point, I read that the only reason the South-south received a spectre of development from oil companies was when the FG forced some of them to relocate their HQs to their source of operations. Otherwise, MOBIL and co were willing to live and die in Lagos while pillaging and polluting a land far away.

    Take home point: Lagos is unsustainable

    • Na wa March 22, 2016 at 11:55 am

      London and cheap transport should not be used in the same sentence abeg.

      • Mr. Egghead March 22, 2016 at 12:33 pm

        Maybe you go around by black cab.

    • Drew March 22, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Cheap transport? London? You mean the capital of England? How??

    • Na wa March 22, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Maybe you only visit London…. those who LIVE here acknowledge transport is expensive. It’s not even a debate.

    • Iniobong March 22, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      I agree with your points. Being the first capital city of Nigeria, Lagos had a very big head-start over other towns and cities. But development needs to be spread around the country. Like you rightly mentioned, all major oil companies are headquartered in Lagos. Exxon mobil for instance, despite persistent calls has refused to relocate to Akwa Ibom where it sources all its revenues from.

    • *curious* March 22, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      I agree with you Na wa. Mr. Egghead, have you ever tried buying a monthly Oyster card that will allow you travel between zone 2 and zone 6? I wouldn’t call it cheap. A more appropriate example might have been New York City’s public transportation system; now that is the “definition” of cheap.

  • prince March 22, 2016 at 11:01 am

    I’m a Lagosian from Oniru but believe me, those rush rush thing turns me on. I live and work in Abuja and I’ve been here for 9years now, I came here (Abuja) from port Harcourt after graduation and I don’t think I would want to leave Abuja for Lagos.
    Abuja is the right place to raise a family (my opinion) I’m not into that rushing and traffic thing at all.

    • prince March 22, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      the rush rush thing turns me off…

  • DatEnuguChic March 22, 2016 at 11:37 am

    My ultimate dream is to relocate to lagos. i have had that dream for some time now and i will achieve it. I am a HR professional and i know that my practice is better in Lagos. It is so heartbreaking when you apply for jobs and they say your location is a problem, even when you say you are open to relocation, they still turn you down. I will not give up on it at all. Will keep improving myself and pushing until it works.
    So if you have openings in HR just holla. Lol

  • Na wa March 22, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Nice article.
    I grew up in Lagos, and can’t think of living anywhere else to be honest if I move back to Nigeria. I love the buzz in Lagos. Did my NYSC in Ogun state and it was like time stood still, everything was just soooo slow. Been to Abuja but it just doesn’t do it for me.

    • Well March 22, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Lol.. I did nysc in the east and I loved it there. No traffic and hurry hurry. I started telling myself I will move to ogun state. I still have my eyes open for Ogun state. Lagos too stressful for my skinny self mbok.

  • Vann March 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    We are hip, we are fun and all the agberos/419ners/traffic/the every every, add to the adventure/experience of living in Lagos. It’s also part of why we love it. We no dey carry last. Eko oni gbaje o!

  • Nakoms March 22, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    If you intend to have a healthy old age and not spend all the money you may have acquired in solving health issues during your old age, my advice to you is HAVE A CHECK OUT PLAN

    Leave the nice apartment and fancy car part, they are not effective indicators of a good standard of living; however fancy your car is you will be stuck in traffic 3 to 4 hours every day and living in a high brow apartment is only good for your ego as it may not be sustainable as you grow older and family responsibilities take center stage.

    Lagos is full of opportunities and is there are more chances of making it but this is true majorly for corporate type jobs and possibly the entertainment and a few other businesses, but the advent of technology has made it easier to live outside Lagos and run your businesses which are in Lagos. I have three businesses in Lagos but live in a remote town (with good internet connection) just outside Ibadan (which is fast becoming like Lagos). I have set up control and monitoring measures in place where I monitor the progress of my businesses. I come to Lagos twice a month and stay a cumulative of a week meeting my key clients and executing strategies I may have thought out while I was out of town. My model is such that my staff cannot easily resign and to be the competition because of the business is highly capital intensive. Mind you capital I acquired while working as a young man

    But it’s not been all roses as I have lost some accounts because I was out of town at critical moments but majorly when I send mails and stuff people think am in my Lagos office. Technology has helped me escape that hectic lifestyle and now I enjoy clean air and my vegetables (ugu, tomatoes, peppers, onions, you name it) are self-grown free of pesticides in my backyard.

    I also think as power generation and transmission gets better the pull of Lagos will become less. Because seriously Lagos traffic and hectic lifestyle will drain you.

    • Iseeubaby March 22, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Nakoms, Please I would like to converse with you for mentoring and inspiration as a budding entrepreneur. Any chance of getting your email or any social media handle? I understand if you don’t want it made public, but I could drop mine. Let me know your thoughts

    • Iniobong March 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Great advice!

  • Amaka d igbo chic March 22, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Lagos! Lagos! Lagos! the writer have said it all….lagos is a land of great opportunity, i mean the sky is wide enough for all d birds to fly. if you know your onion, hustle hard and stay focus it will pay off at the end. i grew up in lagos, lived all my life in lagos, had my primary, secondary, uni and served in lagos, currently working in lagos,i stay on d Island but my problem with d city is d traffic jam we experience year in year out, i get sick at times cos it increases d stress one has already gone through at work, as if that’s not enough, paying toll gate to use d major road, enough problem to make me run away but i have decided to remain here and chase my dream to the later becos i believe the opportunity i seek is here in Lagos.

  • beauty March 22, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I love Lagos and its fast-paced environment. True, one can succeed anywhere, however Lagos has a conglomerate of tight networking that can be door openers for anybody. I stay at a central location on the Mainland that allows me to link up with the Island. Life in Lagos is lit!

  • Luckiest Lagosian March 22, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    I moved to Lagos in 2012 to take up a job in Ikoyi. For the first year and a half i lived in Ojota, then i moved to Alpha beach, Lekki-Ajah axis in my second year. In June last year i moved to Ikoyi, and now live only 3 minutes walk from the office and i cannot be happier! I didn’t know how much stress the everyday traffic, noise and other forms of pollution that comes with commuting in this city was impacting my system until i didn’t have to do it anymore. People who knew me less than six months ago now tell me i look different – happier and fresher, and no i have not added any weight and i do not have a new ‘lofer,’ lol.
    Bottom line is Lagos is stressful! But if you remove traffic and its attendant hassles, it is certainly a good place to be – as the writer said, land of opportunities 🙂

  • Lyrics March 22, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Please can I have your friend’s contact? Thanks for obliging;)

  • Oj March 22, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    I agree with Prince on this. I moved to Lagos in 2008 and I hate the unnecessary stress here. I looked forward to when i relocate to a more quiet town which i am seriously hoping will be this year.

  • Ini March 22, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Great post, Leroi. Indeed, Lagos is a land brimming with opportunities but not everyone will capture them.

    The sweet thing about Lagos, in my opinion, is the opportunity to network with like minds. The traffic and large population are slow killers but if you work from home or live close to your office, you’re in luck d

  • Manny March 22, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    I love Lagos and I hate Lagos. 50/50

  • Jay March 23, 2016 at 1:28 am

    Listen to Brymo ‘s Dear Titilope and Eko respectively. You can thank me later

  • Niso Oton March 23, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Lagos!!! I frankly do not know if i have any kind of love for that city and if I do can that love even make the 50% mark. The exhaust fumes from hell, the crowd, the perpetual march towards something that always seems a step ahead, the lying, the cheating and everything in between that makes me start sweating just thinking about. Of course Lagos is where everything happens but I’d rather just visit or move there after I have “hammered”. Great article Leroi.

  • Memsy March 23, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Lagos na wa!!! About the ‘rush rush’ thing, lol…I tend to adapt the second I get in there. I’m always in a hurry and I do it unconsciously. Nice write-up…couldn’t have described it any better.

  • Corah Jackson March 23, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Indeed GIDI Is a land of opportunity and adventure. Yu need to hav a certain boldness and confidence to survive and make it there. For me, the stress and fast life of Lagos is part of its uniqueness. .wudnt change my 2year xperience there for anything… GREAT PIECE.

  • salo March 23, 2016 at 11:58 am

    I love the hustling and bustling of lagos, i just gave up when marriage took me to Ibadan jor, praying for hubby transfer to lagos………I love luv lagos…Eko onibaje ooooooooooooooo

    • Iniobong Umoh March 25, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Would you love to raise your kids in Lagos?

  • Endee March 25, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    … Lagos is great as much as it is a pain. I would not personally want to live in Lagos or dare to raise my kids there. I guess I would rather just do my bit to create another Lagos from nothing (maybe somewhere south), and use the experiences from “eko” to keep away the negatives as much as possible.

    Well done Leroi. You literally brought me to Bellanaija

    • Iniobong Umoh March 25, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Endee it is good to see you here 🙂

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