6 November 2010
Traffic sucks in Lagos, but besides that it is an interesting city where super yachts costing millions share the muddy waters with the leaky pirogues. Oil is king in Nigeria and contributes more than $7 billion every year to the government of Nigeria but it's hard to see where it benefits the regular Nigerians on the street. Nobody is sure of the exact population of Lagos or Nigeria, but there are around 20 million in Lagos and over 110 million in Nigeria. Now about 1 of every 5 Africans is Nigerian and in twenty years or so 1 out of 3 Africans will be Nigerian.
There are a lot of nice places in Lagos- yesterday i ate lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken and it was pretty good. I found a couple good book stores and bought "Allah is not Obliged" and "Half of a Yellow Sun," both by Nigerian authors and highly recommended.
I also visited the Lekki Market and bought two impressionistic paintings depicting buses stuck in traffic- a typical scene in Lagos. The market was like any other artisan market targeting tourists that i have seen in Africa. Some kids helped us find a parking spot, then tried to push us into their favorite shops, all carrying the same stuff. Popular items wee the wooden monkeys (hear, speak, see no evil with a 4th pregnant monkey), ivory tusks, cheetah and leopard skins, and paintings. As soon as I bought my paintings another kid showed up and grabbed my stuff to serve as my porter and followed me around the market. I ended up buying the kid a fortified milk drink when i stopped to buy a bottle of water. His handler was upset when he saw my porter with his drink because he thought the porter was drinking his profits. A pickpocket tried to lift my colleagues wallet but was blocked by my colleague putting his hands into his pockets. Someone else walked by and bumped my rear pockets to see if i had anything back there while i had my hands in my front pockets. My porter snickered but denied any knowledge of the pickpocket when we asked him about it.
As we returned to the vehicle to drive back to the hotel we were swarmed by kids again asking for several thousand Naira for school supplies and the crippled kids asking for handouts. Then the parking attendant kid had his handout again even though he was already paid. When the older kids saw us paying the porters they came over to make sure they got their cut too and the porters had to give up their money. Overall, the beggars and hawkers are on par with Senegal. Since we are staying in a nice neighborhood here that population is limited as well.
Vehicles bristling with police machine guns pass on the streets all the time and security guards armed with Kalashnikovs are positioned on the perimeter of hotels and buildings. The walls seem to be at least three feet higher here and frequently topped with concertina wire and sharpened spikes. There is also usually some kind of armored or SWAT vehicle at the major intersections and cameras are everywhere important.