I remember a Lagos of long ago.
The streets were not so crowded and people frowned less.
The adults talked more because they knew almost everyone on their street and it was okay to smile at strangers.
I remember my street, and the open doors. Then, the word ”family friend” meant much more than it does today. Children of different household played together on the streets without suspicions.
There was never a lack of games to play but of time and strength. We raced with tires through the streets; we played mummy and daddy, tinko-tinko, Boju-boju, Police and thief, the kanta game, the rubber games and a thousand others. Many times than not, a child would go home crying. These days, there are more television and video games to reduce the noise of the streets.
I remember the songs, some for praising, some just for fun and others to taunt another. Chants like, aeroplane odabo rhymes, the leke-leke give me white finger, the wee-wee wee-wee for body song and the olodo rabata were regulars.
I remember jumping gutters for the fun of it, friends’ injuries not deterring me at all until mummy told me the story of the girl that could no longer wee-wee because of an accident while playing our gutter game.
I remember families working during sanitations together, clearing gutters, sweeping compounds, weeding grasses and mending fences.
Everyone did not have generators, only the rich did and I remember the day we joined this elite. Even then, we could not measure up to the ones that left theirs on almost all through the day and night too. They were not humans but gods.
Then, it was trendy to put your speaker close to the door, and let the songs blast through the streets so others could “enjoy” your benefit. These days they’re called noise pollution.
Song lyrics were understandable and we could sing along to everyone while doing our makosa and suwe dances. Dance steps then, were not complex to learn. African China and Westlife was people’s muse.
Television then could not hold your attention all day. What could OGTV, AIT, LTV or Galaxy offer us to keep us captivated for long? Super Screen and Silverbird came in later to save the day but even they were not superpowers. I remember my first encounter with Cartoon Network. Cartoons all day? Suddenly, the idea of a heaven was believable.
Oh, the holdup, it did not use to be this horrible. It was there but nothing too noticeable. The economy forced people into my land to find green pastures, the mainland got crowded, Prices increased and people moved further out until the boundary of Ogun state was left to discussion.
I know Ifako-Ijaiye that has always been my side of Lagos. It housed my perfect triangle for more than 17years; home, church and school. I can find anything through it blindfolded.
I remember trekking to school, hands in my father’s hand and bouncy almost-empty school bag. I’d argue with my brothers on the way and daddy would have to settle quarrels on the streets. Then big brother got promoted and started taking us to school. One day, I got promoted too but I remember my first bus journey alone more. I felt smart that day and I got continuous special treatments from other passengers because I was omo school.
I did not have lots of fun places but my daddy’s shop made up for it all. It was my personal Disneyland.
”Daddy it’s my turn to follow you to shop today” I’d jump around and he’d give me the strange look.
My job was to play outside or sit and stay away from the customer’s way. I’d feel proud whenever daddy gave me a product to give a customer right in front of him or when a customer called me omo daddy and supplemented it with a 20 naira or 10 naira note.
I remember sporting the same afarido as my brothers unashamedly and playing street ball with them. But because I could not score a single goal, I’d pick the ball with my hands and throw it into the goalpost. I got banned from the field and had to sit at the sidelines watching them play.
I remember the rains. Oh, how I loved and hated it at the same time. Hate because NEPA would surely take their light; love because I could use the excuse of fetching the rain water to get some real soaks too.
I remember my first independent road crossing. Mummy had warned me not to dare it but I was annoyed that day, “I am in Primary 6 so why not?” I looked to the left and right, then left and right again, then, I ran with my heart beating like drums to the other side. I was successful and proud of myself, mummy was not.
I remember my first Okada ride, Mummy had warned me not to go near the “death machine” but “I am so late and the holdup…oh Gosh!” So I pulled my 2 days feeding allowance and jumped in but another guy joined behind. I had not seen that coming so I prayed with my life…too bad Mummy still saw me.
I remember the trains; we lived so close to the station. Mummy said never to go near the tracks and to listen for a really loud sound that would be my cue to run as far as possible from them. This sound was scary enough to enforce obedience, thank God.
I remember the first money I replaced. The 500 naira given to me for garri, mummy had warned me to put it in my bag and but I had held it in my hands on the way to the regular before-resumption deliverance program at our church. Even to this day, I never do same.
Evening times? They were not welcome. Locked away in the fortress we called home, every mummy oyoyo, a signal of one more parent home and the need to hurry in making repairs to the house we had bulldozed.
I remember secondary school years with unforgettable friends. When the holdup was too much, we’d trek it out. They were always around to make the road trip in our Leggedez Benz enjoyable. You could only catch us laughing, gossiping with topics from local to international.
I remember my first trip out of Lagos alone, I felt like a queen in Enugu State. This was not like the excursions because this time I would not be returning home soon.
Its 11:15pm, I’m staring out my window. There’s this breeze that blows and a smile creeps up my face; a needle pierces my heart as I remember a time not so long ago.
Its year 2020 and the Lagos of the early 2000s is no more.
My Lagos is not as cozy, the troubles have increased, and it’s too noisy.
This land that holds my earliest and fondest memories, has evolved and not too well.
Maybe those days were not as perfect as I thought. Maybe that’s the problem
Maybe it’s me that has changed.
Maybe it’s because I’m grown now and adults are too critical. I’m not sure all I know is that I ‘m being pulled off this land and I feel it, the hums in my blood, the hunger to leave. It seems home can change after all.
Today, I’ll mourn for the Lagos that raised me.