The warm air fills the plane as we enter ‘our’ motherland, ‘my’ homeland. I can feel it. I can smell it, Naija air, Lagos air to be precise! The obligatory clap ensues as we touchdown.
Dear Nigerians, why must you clap when ‘we’ land? I think the fellow that answers this question can answer a lot of the country’s issues. Okay, I might be overstretching here. Before the engine can turn off, there’s a burst of chatter by passengers letting their loved ones, or familiar enemies, know that they have arrived safely.
I don’t have a local sim, so can only turn to borrow a passenger’s phone. Goody for you, aren’t you the lucky one that would lend me your phone! As I’m speaking to my sister Ngozi, Mr. ‘Phone Guy’ is breathing down my neck as if I’ve been on the damn thing for a whole day. Geez mister, next time don’t let young women use your phone, because they like to talk!
I had to make sure Ngozi would be at the airport. I know she thinks I’ll be caught up in another airport shenanigans, seeing as the last time I visited Lagos I had an airport run that turned into airport wahala.
Of course the security men will not recognise us, and even if they do, I did in fact just travel in. And I’m not trying to ‘sneak’ into the airport when I am not travelling. But I’ll save that story for another day.
As soon as you exit the plane, you can really feel the heat. What you experienced inside the plane was only the prelude. Now you are really being welcomed to Lagos.
The first step is to make your way down to immigration. On arrival at their desks, you need to join one of two lines: one for the Nigerian passport holders, the other for everybody else. Make sure you’ve filled out your immigration form that would have been handed to you in the plane just before touch-down commences.
Depending on how the immigration staff are feeling, they can keep you at their desks for about, oh let’s say – between three minutes to three hours. They’d happily invent an anomaly in your passport. But on the good day when you’re allowed to enter ‘actual’ Nigeria swiftly, thank the heavens.
You must then queue up to get a ticket stub in order to get your luggage trolley. A stub costs 100 naira, 1 pound or 1 dollar. I’m not entirely sure which exchange rate is used here, but clearly not the Bank of England’s. But it’s handy to have a 100 naira to be on the safe side. Immediately you begin to push your trolley, a seemingly kind man will offer to push your trolley for you. If you cannot ‘do something’ for him, then better push your own trolley.’
‘Do something’ is a phrase where someone is asking you for money but it’s obviously too harsh a thing to ask outright. Instead Lagosians use ‘do something’ or ‘do well’ as another variation.
As you ponder on, on whether to let the ‘seemingly’ nice young man push your trolley, more ‘seemingly’ nice young men join ‘the trolley pulling’ saga. How many Nigerian men does it take to push a trolley? Seven or eight, of course.
You decide to let them push your trolley…
If, heavens forbid, you did not ‘do something’ for them, this is as good as giving them an invitation to follow you to your exit car. They’ll hang on to the vehicle as it’s moving, you obviously do not want them to be harmed so you finally figure then you might as well ‘do them well’.
If you’re visiting Lagos for the first time, get a local contact to book you an airport taxi, or use an online taxi service. These work pretty well. As soon as you enter the car, the price will hike up because you are not a local passenger. If it pleases you, pay up, else get in touch with the person or service that booked your cab. Once they hear another local, they’d get their senses back. On your journey to your destination, if you happen to pass toll-gates, the cabbies will try and get you to pay for this. Again, pay if it pleases you, else ignore! Ignore!! Ignore!!! This is how to ‘get you’ if you don’t know what’s up.
You will face traffic from the airport…
There are two routes out of the airport, they can either go through Maryland or go away from Maryland. You do not want your cabbie to take Maryland, this is the traffic zone of all traffic zones. It’ll take you an hour plus to get out of this area before leaving the airport zone. But your ITK [Mr. Know it all] cabbie probably took this detour route when you refused to pay him the additional toll-gate fees. Had he taken normal route, you would have passed through the ‘airport zone’ in under 10 minutes. Scream all you like, but once he has entered into this area, ain’t no turning back. So you might as well sit back and enjoy the traffic. And it may come in handy to do a bout of shopping.
But when you want to shop while stuck in traffic, there are some basic rules to be followed.
Rules for buying items in traffic:
- Rule 1: Be sure to only wind your window down a notch, enough for your hand to slip the seller money and for you to collect your booty.
- Rule 2: Remember, goods before cash.
- Rule 3: And change before cash. So if you buy something for
N400, and you want to give the seller N1,000; make sure he gives you the N600 change before you hand over your cash.
- Rule 4: Never buy pure water. Pure water is… God knows where the water is from and it’s bagged in small plastic bags, you pierce with your teeth and suck and drink. Also never buy bottled water from traffic vendors. Watched ‘Slumdog Millionaire?’. Then you know how easy it is to re-seal bottle caps.
Oh! But don’t let these rules put a kink in your shopaholic dreams. Not to worry, you can still shop as you like. In fact furnish your entire house if it pleases you. Just remember to follow the basic shopping in traffic rules.
Items you can buy in traffic:
- Item 1: Local SIM card, phone vouchers, CDs, books
- Item 2: Fruits, nuts, crisp, plantain, yam, potatoes, veggies, plantain chips [yummy of life], drinks – stick to cans if you can 🙂
- Item 3: Charger, flash lights, kettles, pretty much any appliances
- Item 4: Slippers, vests, knickers, nightwear, and a whole lot more clothing items
And finally, you reach your destination, your cabbie will give it one last try for you to do something.
If you feel like the car ride was peaceful and if he did not take the longer route, then you have my permission to ‘do something’ for him. Between
N500 to N1,000 extra is very reasonable.
Wishing you ‘Ijeoma’
xoxo Ije Bima