Big City Life: Lagos, Nigeria

It doesn’t get much bigger than Lagos, the largest city in Africa’s most populous country. We take you on a 24-hour tour (through the eyes of a local) of the former capital that is now the business hub of Nigeria, and home to a vibrant array of entertainment and shopping offerings.

We start off the day in Ikeja, with a tour of Alausa, where the state secretariat and Governor’s offices are located. This area is well maintained and boasts several tree-lined streets. It is also the location of the Ikeja City Mall, which is as much of a hang-out location as it is a shopping destination.

Hail a keke napep – a motorized rickshaw – to take you a short distance away to Allen avenue, arguably the Oxford street of the city. Brisk business happens here throughout the day, with boutiques, fast food joints, bridal shops, and banks populating the area.

Next stop is Awolowo road, home of the famous computer village. Here you can find all makes and models of telecommunication equipment, from the now extinct Nokia 3310, to the latest iPhone 6. A careful search could possibly even produce the yet-to-be manufactured iPhone 7, along with the Nigerian-made version of each.

New purchases in hand, we suggest taking a taxi to Ikeja GRA, home of the old money on the mainland. Pass through Isaac John street, and perhaps grab a bite here before moving on. Several restaurants boasting tasty local dishes, a number of outlets for continental dishes, and the always present Chinese restaurants.

From here, jump on a yellow bus, popularly called danfo, which will take you across the lengthy third mainland bridge into Lagos Island. Given that the boot of the bus has been converted in order to accommodate more seats, it’s likely to be a tight squeeze.

About a quarter of the way into the journey, expect a preacher to stand up and lead passengers in prayer and burst into song, often joined by the rest of the passengers. You’ll often find a self-proclaimed alternative medicine pusher onboard too, offering herbal concoctions or imported medication, purported to cure several ailments, ranging from minor headache, to diabetes, impotence, and high blood pressure. While you are sitting there wondering if this could possibly be true, about a quarter of the bus would have purchased the healing remedies, leaving you to question if you’re missing out by not doing the same.

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When you disembark on Lagos Island, head to the famous Balogun market, one of the largest in the country, where you can find anything from gold to goat meat. Be wary of the man asking your help to decide what colour bag to buy for his wife, as you may end up buying the two bags while the man buys none. It is a well-known Lagos trick.

Leave the market and move on to Victoria Island, passing through Obalende, the semi-slum that borders Ikoyi, home of the fabulously rich.

Once totally residential, the area is increasingly being occupied by office blocks. Similarly with Victoria Island, home to head offices of all Nigerian major banks, world-class hotels, telecommunications companies and the who’s-who in town.

Take a stroll down Awolowo road, another Oxford street in the making, for some window shopping unless you’re looking to part with some serious naira.

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If you wish to linger around on the island you’ll witness the rapid buildup of traffic from 5pm. Streets quickly become choked up with bumper-to-bumper traffic and hawkers selling everything from the ingredients for dinner, to car spare parts, and even furniture.  If you’re feeling peckish, try a packet of plantain chips – peppered , green, sweet, even honeyed flavoured.

There’s a lot more to be explored after dark to end off your day in the big city. Lagos nightlife rates as one of the best on the continent, with a range of choices from the lounge-style cocktail bars to karaoke clubs, and of course nightclubs blasting popular local Nigerian tunes that will keep you dancing on your feet till the next morning.

 

Temi Bamgbose
Temi Bamgbose lives in Lagos, Nigeria where he has a special interest in telling stories about Africa's rich culture. While he holds a degree in Agricultural Extension and Rural Sociology and a national diploma in electrical electronics engineering, it is his journalism diploma from the London School of Journalism that fuels his passion for writing.