Here’s Big City Living, a ten-part series where people who lived their childhood in small rustic towns share their experience of moving to big cities in adulthood. It’s something a lot of our parents did, something a lot of us are now doing.
Samsudeen, a 29 year old lawyer who moved from Offa in Kwara State to Lagos, shares his story so far.
I grew up in Offa and it was exciting but quiet. Everybody knew everybody, sort of a communal-type of living. I could not do anything good, bad, great or wild without bumping into someone who knew my people. It was fun. It was small.
Around my 10th birthday, I think, I visited Ibadan. I was shocked. The number of vehicles and people on the streets, they were so many. It was frightening. The city was not particularly tidy, at least the part I visited. But we visited exciting places. And we went to see a movie at the Cultural Center: Alekuwodo by Kunle Afod. I remember this day very well. We went to the local council too. But the buildings were too big; the people too brash and the life too fast. I got homesick soon enough.
Adulting and moving to Lagos
After law school in Kano and then NYSC, I decided to move to Lagos. It was just the right career move; everyone knows Lagos is the number one place for lawyers in Nigeria.
When I got here I was very shocked to find so many people cramped into little spaces. And the fact that you have to be in a perpetual state of alternating between anger and calm was very distressing to say the least.
Anyway, I had planned and saved during my youth service so I could afford to rent a flat with two other friends. So I had my own space, so to speak. It was okay, actually.
Job hunting, though, that was a different ball game. It was herculean. I took a part time gig pending when I could find something permanent. And then a cousin spoke to a friend of his and that helped to get a job. Like I said earlier, I had saved reasonably well during service, so I could afford to pay rent and live for about three months or so without hassles even though I hadn’t secured a job. Now I practice law and also moderate art events for an education-based foundation.
Okay, after all these, how has Lagos been?
Coming from a quiet sleepy town to the mad rush of daily life in Lagos, it was quite challenging. For one, more people were competing for the little space available in Lagos as against Offa. People are not as nice in Lagos. Lagos is also very stressful and moving around is a great challenge. I used to wake up 5:30 AM in the morning so I could get to work by 8 AM, and many times I still ran late. Whereas I could leave my house 7:30 AM in Offa and still arrive 10 minutes early for my resumption or appointment.
There was this day I had just moved to Lagos Island, at the expense of my employers, from my own place on the edges of Lagos and Ogun. So one evening, I was working late and I closed around 11:30 PM. I decided to go for a drink at Obalende. It was a sight. The road from the mouth of the street that stretches from Dodan Barracks to Obalende Underbridge had transformed totally to a “ho-stroll” with girls from as young as 14, 15 to as old as you can think of walking, flashing and selling.
There were police patrol vehicles parked around, much older men and women, all enabling the flesh trade in an atmosphere of drugs, smoke and alcohol. I did not see this from the ethical perspective but sociologically. I was so fascinated with this place. And after I had a talk with one of the girls, I realized there are many more streets like this one. The following morning when I passed the same route on my way to the Industrial Court in Ikoyi, the light seemed to have swallowed it all. After that experience, I felt as if I had been let in on an age-long, open secret. I felt as if I now knew Lagos more. Since then, I have been on the lookout for more of those “oddities” or differences, so to speak, that are there, but people pretend not to see or which people do not see at all.
Compare Offa to Lagos, what’s the difference?
The people in Lagos are less friendly and less kind; the pace, very fast; the housing, less value for so much money; transportation, not enough; healthcare, less value for so much money.
But there is life to chop in Lagos, if you know what I mean. But then, sometimes, the body, mind and soul needs a rustic base to rejig itself and relaunch. So I am not able to say that I prefer one to the other. I have come to think of both places as mine for different and equally compelling reasons. It is like having two children to love.
So, Lagos. Has it been worth it?
Yes it has. it has been an enriching experience living in Lagos. Enriching financially, culturally and socially. I’d rather live here than live anywhere else in Nigeria. This is where it is happening, at least as far as I can see, for now.
But I still have plans to move back because I am very invested in Offa. And I have an emotional, maybe sentimental attachment to the town. I also want to give back and there is a way I’d like to do that but I currently believe that no other town would allow me do so in the manner I want to. I also have one or two commitments by way of political participation, youth groups and such, which now almost define how I see myself. But my move back won’t be permanent. I guess I will be oscillating between here and there and elsewhere in between.
Quick one: Craziest Experience You’ve Had in Lagos
Thousand and thousands of people singing the same songs at the same time inside TBS. That is something.