lagos mainland

1. People.
Lots of people everywhere.

Unlike most Nigeria and the entire African
continent, Lagos is a place that is densely populated with an astonishing
variety of people. Every Nigerian ethnic group (and there are more than 300 of
them) is represented visibly in the 21 million-strong population of Lagos, and
the city also has an increasingly important and visible population of people
from other parts of the world – Indians, Germans, Brazilians, Chinese, Kenyans,
South Africans, Egyptians, you name it. If you travel around the city regularly
for a year, chances are you will meet someone from just about everywhere in the
world, not to mention from all 993,000 sq km of Nigeria.

2. Everything
is a short drive away (as long as there is no traffic).

Lagos is
the only place in Nigeria that doubles as both a city and a state. There is
virtually no distinction nowadays between Lagos State and Lagos City, because
of the city’s phenomenal physical growth, and what this means is that there is
an urban road network that is unrivalled in Nigeria – yes Abuja that includes
you! As long as you manage to escape the infamous traffic jams, you’ll find
that whether you drive or you take Ubers or use public transport, nowhere is
really more than an hour away from where you are. Except you’re going to
Badagry or something.

3. No
townies in sight!

The follow-on from being such a melting pot
of people and cultures is that Lagos has its own unique urban vibe and street
identity. The stereotypical Nigerian ‘Townie’ from Ogbomosho or Mbaise very
quickly (and sometimes painfully) learns that Lagos has no time or patience for
the habits, sensibilities and manners of a Townie. Nobody dey look face.The result of this is that Lagos is one of the
few places in Nigeria that is genuinely cosmopolitan and open-minded to the
existence and possibilities of the outside world. This reflects very clearly in
the economic and social indices of Lagos, compared to the rest of Nigeria.

4. There
is like, actual nightlife. Not just life at night.

One of
the things foreign visitors to Nigeria often complain about is boredom. Outside
of having fun with nature, observing native culture and copious doses of
alcohol, there generally isn’t very much to do
in most of Nigeria. Lagos however, is one blessed exception. It’s not for
nothing that it’s been called ‘the party capital of West Africa’. There’s
always a gig, a bar, a nightclub, a restaurant, a casino, a resort, a gym, a
spa, a sports centre or a boat scene to keep you busy. The challenge in Lagos
is having enough time and money to go around all its many attractions.

5. Jobs,
Glorious Jobs.

This is the reason after all, that Lagos is home to 21 million
human beings. Its location at the historically busiest port in West Africa and
its original status as the capital city have given Lagos a supreme head-start
on anywhere else in the country. Its superheated economy would be the third
largest in Africa if Lagos was a country, and its large market is more than
double the 10 million of Cairo, its nearest African challenger. If you’re
looking for a job, or finance for your startup, or a market for your offering,
Lagos is THE place to be in Nigeria.

6. Life
moves fast.

You can be a secretary today and the founder of an expanding startup
3 months from now. You could be driving a bus today and meet someone who can
give you a life-changing opportunity. You could sing a cover and post it on
Instagram, and sign a record deal with Olamide’s YBNL Records a month later, as
was the case with Adekunle Gold. Life is like that in Lagos. Being a city that
is simply too big to effectively discriminate against anyone, Lagos is the
closest thing Nigeria has to an actual meritocracy. This also makes it the
runaway leader in terms of social mobility across the country. If you want
something to happen in your life, you want to be here in this city.

7. The
stimulation is off the hook!

From the moment you step out of the door
every morning, there is a chorus of lights, bright colours, sounds, people and
irrepressible life that just infects
you and keeps you going all day. For people who work in the Creative industry,
this is especially important because the biggest part of creating art is
receiving inspiration. No accident then that practically the entire Integrated
Marketing Communications industry and the music industry are based in Lagos.
Even Nollywood, which remains a stubborn regional holdout has its commercial
headquarters at the famous Edidi Lane, Idumota.

8. The
gateway to the world outside.

Lagos has a local and international airport,
as well as another under construction. It also has Nigeria’s busiest seaport
and two bigger ones under construction in Lekki and Badagry. The Seme border
with Benin Republic is the physical gateway of Lagos to West Africa via the
international highway originating from Abidjan passing through Ghana, Togo and
Benin. But it’s not just a literal gateway city. It’s also the cultural entry
point for most visitors to Nigeria, and the intellectual and artistic work that
originates from Lagos such as Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat has gone around the world
several times, introducing complete strangers to the cultural richness of
Africa. It unsurprisingly is usually the first city in Nigeria to adopt new
technology and globally relevant ideas, leaving most of Nigeria far in its
wake. Indeed many people often comment that ‘Lagos is not Nigeria’ because of
the marked and obvious technological and ideological gap between the two.

Shopper’s Mecca.

If you’re the type who loves to window shop,
or perhaps you love to blow a little cash on some guilty retail therapy, Lagos
offers a lot more than just the standard mall experience that any big city in
the world can give you. It also has West Africa’s largest street market close
to the Marina district on Lagos Island, and it has the Trade Fair complex at
Satellite Town, which is the largest wholesale and retail trading area in West
Africa. There is literally nothing you cannot buy in Lagos, whether it is a
Porsche Carrera, or a pair of actual cow horns, or one of King Sunny Ade’s used

Everybody wants more.

If you are lazy or easily satisfied, Lagos
certainly is not the place for you because this is the city that does not
sleep. Nobody in Lagos has just one job, or one dream. Your typical
co-passenger on the danfo bus is an
office assistant by day, a security guard by night, an upcoming musician, a
graphic artist, and an aspiring footballer all rolled into one package of
breathless 24/7 hustle. You will either be inspired to do more with yourself
than you currently manage, or get completely burned out.

There’s probably a cinema nearby.

This is a personal favourite of mine
because I really love my weekly cinema ritual. A habit I picked up outside of
Nigeria was going to the cinema every Friday evening, and these days there is a
cinema at my convenience, practically everywhere in the city. On the Island,
there are nothing less than five cienema locations (Novare Mall, Palms Shooping
Complex, Silverbird Galleria, Filmhouse IMAX and City Mall Onikan) with more
under construction. On the mainland there are cinemas at E-centre, Yaba, Ikeja
City Mall, Alausa and Maryland Mall, amongst others, all showing the latest
releases. It’s really great.

Anything and Everything is possible.

A struggling bus conductor who was
also a church keyboardist and drummer in his spare time, morphs into an
award-winning international music producer with a string of hits to his name
and a swanky bachelor pad in Lekki in just 3 years. The story would be rejected
by a movie studio for being unbelievable, but that is the story of Masterkraft,
who has production credits for artists like Banky W, Olamide, Wizkid and CDQ
amongst others. Lagos sets no limits on what is possible, from the fantastic to
the farcical. And there is a whole lot of farcical, trust me. You could also be
stopped while driving and arrested under suspicion of being an internet
fraudster, because all young men who can afford to own a car and look
well-presented are obviously advance fee criminals. Yes, anything at all is

13. You
can live the Knightsbridge lifestyle…

If you’re the pretentious type, it is
possible for you to live from dawn to dusk in a manner that belies the
developing status of Nigeria. You can shop at a Lacoste store and buy a single
t-shirt for N75,000 before retiring home to your 2-bedroom townhouse at 1004
estate in your matt-black Mercedes Benz GL-450, no problem. No one will bat an

14. …Or
you can squat with friends and eat instant noodles.

Again, no
one will bat an eyelid. The two economic halves of Lagos live in complete
passive-aggressiveness with each other, alternating between not acknowledging
each other’s existence and occasionally trading a few road-rage fuelled
insults. There is a space for everyone in Lagos, from the ultra-rich to the
stilt fishermen under 3rd Mainland Bridge.

15. You
can observe the Human Condition.

As a logical effect of there being so
much variety of human experiences co-existing in Nigeria’s smallest state, an
anthropologist or a philosopher would have a field day carrying out human
observationand studying the nature of man. The social hierarchy of man is in
full evidence here, from the sticky-fingered government official in his
bulletproof Lexus SUV to the angry policeman outside slapping a bus conductor
out of frustration caused by being owed his salary by the official, to the Yahoo Boy driving past in his Toyota
Camry on his way to the cinema with the official’s daughter in the passenger

16. 3rd
Mainland Bridge! 

The place where you can indulge your need for
speed and show off your car’s full horsepower range…if there’s no traffic that
is. This iconic link between Mainland and Island has been rated as Nigeria’s
most economically important road, and it is also the only road in Lagos that
offers 11km of relatively straight, smooth tarmac, making it a favourite of
regular speed demons and boy racers. We all love a good nighttime throttle
blast down 3MB!

Jogging on Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge.

Once the preserve of the
noveau-bourgeoisie of Lekki Phase 1, this activity is now a bona-fide
Lagos-wide obsession. People now come from as far as the Mainland in their
tracksuit bottoms and sneakers to enjoy a nice early morning saunter across
this visually stunning piece of architecture, with their phone cameras and
Instagram accounts in full flow. Haters will say that 1.5km hardly counts as a
sizeable distance, but here in Lagos, we have no time for the haters.

18. The
University of Life.

They say if you can make it in Lagos, you can
make it anywhere. And if you can’t make it in Lagos, chances are you can still
make it anywhere. When you live in this city, you go’n learn. 2 years of intense life experience in Lagos is
equivalent to any MBA or business degree you can get from Harvard. You learn to
be extremely responsive and to anticipate things before they happen. You learn
that everyone in the world of business is trying to (hopefully figuratively)
pull down your trousers, and you need to be prepared. You especially come to
understand that nobody owes you
anything, and you have to take responsibility for every aspect of your life.
This place teaches you like no school or teacher could ever.

19. We all
eventually turn into Dominic Toretto.

And not just in terms of the driving
either, though there is definitely that too. I never thought I would become a
stereotypical Lagos driver until the day I found myself drag race-duelling with
a Toyota Camry trying to cut me off from the wrong lane and with no turn
signal. I won the duel, just so you know. The other part of Dom that you imbibe
is his propensity to “Live life a quarter mile at a time.” You won’t realise it
when you start compartmentalizing your life into daily and weekly segments
because trying to think of it in decades or years is just…impossible. The chaos
makes you live in the moment more.

20. You
can take a break from it all and still remain in Lagos.

you’re tired of dueling with Toyota Camry drivers in dark shades who clearly
never attended a day of driving school, you can take a relatively short drive
to one of several nature resorts in Lekki and Badagry. Whispering Palms in
Badagry is a favourite of mine, and I have heard good things about Omu Resort
too. Then when you’re done soaking in the breeze, your quarter-mile-at-a-time
life is still there waiting for you.

21. It’s
becoming the Capital of Africa.

In economic terms, every continent
has an undisputed hegemon city. In Europe it’s London (until Brexit anyway). In
South America it’s Sao Paulo. In North America it is New York. In Asia, it’s a
toss-up between Tokyo and Beijing. In Africa, it used to be a three-way tussle
between Cairo, Johannesburg and Lagos but recently, Lagos has emerged on its
own as the largest city economy in Africa. Aside from this economic status, it
is also becoming Africa’s busiest cultural centre, with a huge percentage of
Africa’s art, entertainment and hospitality exports originating from here. Once
Eko Atlantic is completed, the hegemon status of Lagos on the African continent
is set to be secured for at least another century. This is THE place to be.

22. Flood
time is Happy time.

Who says the annual rains and the floods that
tend to accompany them have to be a time of sadness and loss? Be like
this guy who saw
life’s lemons and made the most delicious glass of sweetened natural lemonade I
have ever seen. Happiness is a state of mind!

Constant and irrepressible optimism.

Despite all the obvious and
undeniable issues there are with life in the megacity, something still keeps
all of its 21 million inhabitants eager to wake up and attack every day with a
palpable zeal and vigour. In Lagos, the knowledge on the street is that it’s
never over until it’s over. As long as there is life, those of us who live here
continue pushing limits and working hard everyday. After all, one day is all it
takes for someone to ‘blow’.

There’s always a party on Saturday!

No matter what time of the year it
is, no matter whether there’s a recession going on, no matter whether the
lights have been off for a week, or there’s a fuel scarcity – Lagosians must
always throw a party at the weekend. What exactly is being celebrated – whether
a wedding or a birthday or a child naming ceremony is almost secondary to the
fact that a party must be had. Colourful Aso-Ebi,
rental tents and furniture, DJs with human-size speakers and lots of freely
flowing booze are all we need over here and it’s on!

25. You
never need an alarm clock…

Once it’s time to wake up, Lagos will wake you up. If you live in one of
those ajebutter neighbourhoods on the
Island, I’m not referring to you. You better set your alarm before you
oversleep and come in late to work after spilling your Caramel Macchiato over
yourself during your 15-minute air-conditioned commute. For the rest of u who really live in Lagos, what I am saying
needs no explanation. Depending on who is in a good mood, the local Imam at a
nearby mosque or the Chosen Charismatic bloke walking about with a handheld
loudspeaker may decide to do the honours. It may be the vehicle horns outside
your window as people start their daily commute as early as 4AM. Either way,
you won’t need anyone to tell you that it’s time to get up!

26. You
always get to meet ‘someone’.

What happens when you put 21 million people
together in a tiny geographical space, and the gender split is roughly even?
Babies, that’s what! And you get loads of opportunities to make babies or just
practice when you live in this city. Over here when you are ready to move on
from your ex, you don’t need to go on a vacation or visit a bar or take up a
new hobby – all you need to do is walk 300 metres down the road and chances are
you’ve already met someone!

27. Never
mind the news, all you need is public transport!

If you
are unaware about what is happening in Nigeria and the world in general, don’t
bother putting on the news or buying a newspaper. Just board a public bus and
wait for 10 minutes, and then remark loudly but rhetorically, “Wetin this government dey do sef?” The
lively discussion that will ensue for the next 45 minutes as you crawl through
traffic should provide you with all the news, opinion, analysis and even satire
that you could want.

Everyone is a comedian.

“Oga no
park there o!” “So where should I park?” “Oya park on my head.”
So goes a
typical everyday exchange in the city of untapped comedic talent. Ask what is
determined to be a “JAMB question” and you will likely get a hilarious,
sarcastic, off-the-cuff reply as a matter of routine.

29. The curses
are delicious!

“Ko ni da
fun iyalaya yin!” [Your grandma will never see better days!] “Ori iya e ma
jona!” [Your mother’s hair will catch fire!] “Aja a je epon re!” [A dog will
eat your testicles!]
It’s not the frequency or the fierceness of
the curses that does it for me – it’s the sheer creativity and gallows humour
behind them. In a dispute over change between a trader and a customer, what
brings either of the parties’ mother’s hair into it? Nothing at all, but that
is Lagos for you! The curses might not be genuinely intended, and they may not
even always make sense, but they definitely are funny though!

There’s always a new pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Once it
was GNLD. Then it was MMM. Nowadays it’s Bitcoin. There is always a new scheme
or scam running the street, and while I would certainly not advise you to put
your money into any such schemes, I t can be interesting for the purpose of
investigation to observe the constant cycle of early adoption, profit, mass
adoption, greed and subsequent crash, followed by hundreds of thousands of long
faces. Very fascinating to watch!

31. You
always know who the local and international JJCs are…

it’s the foreign accent, or the Townie mannerisms or the dress sense, you can
always tell who is in Lagos on a weekend trip from Ikole-Ekiti, and who is here
to conduct business after landing yesterday morning. They stick out like a pair of pointy red shoes made in Ariaria
international market, Aba.

Nigeria’s best developed stretch of Atlantic coastline is here.

Being a
country that routinely and criminally neglects its vast tourism potential,
Nigeria does not really have much of a useable coastline to boast of, with most
of its Southern coastline inaccessible or polluted by the activities of oil
companies. Lagos offer refreshing change from this norm, with a number of
well-maintained private beaches and a relatively unspoiled coastal range
stretching from Lekki to Badagry. Badagry in particular is quite something to

Everyone minds their own business. 

Mostly. Unlike much of Nigeria, Lagos
likes to think of itself as somewhere that exists in the 21st
century, which means a lot of its population understands the power of
possibility and has at least a rudimentary sense of the world’s vastness.  This is not the place where people walk up to
you to ask questions about your life, or voice judgements about your decisions.
Everyone is too busy staying in their own lane to even notice you. This does
come with a caveat though, and that caveat is Townies. I have been stopped by a
Townie in Ajah who requested that I stop wearing an earring. I politely
demurred and continued on my way.

34. The
city is now recognised as a legit global voice in Arts & IT.

Just a
few years ago, the perception of Nigeria was that of a place nothing useful
except crude oil and educated immigrants came out of. Nowadays, Lagos has gone
some way to changing that narrative by leading the charge of Nigeria’s
multibillion dollar arts and culture industry, and by fostering the rise of the
local tech scene. Lagos now hosts Africa’s hottest tech startup market,
attracting millions of dollars in foreign VC funding alongside global media
attention. Being a service provider or a Creative based in Lagos is no longer a
slur. It’s now a bona-fide ‘thing’.

35. West
Africa’s fastest Internet speeds.

With the largest concentration of
mobile phone towers and the most comprehensive fibre-optic network in the
ECOWAS region, Lagos enjoys Internet speeds of up to 21mbps – positively
galactic by African standards – and crucially the prices are generally quite
affordable. For my monthly Spectranet subscription which gives me 80GB (40GB +
renewal bonus), I pay about N12,000, which works out to less than N500 a day,
with a speed that never falls below 2.1mbps. By African internet standards,
this is utopia.

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