Living in Lagos is like engaging in extreme sports. What else would you anticipate from a metropolis with a population of around twenty-five million and a density of about 7,000 inhabitants per square kilometer? Both the good and the evil, the typical and the aberrant, are present. In Lagos, everything and everyone moves at an incredible pace, making it simple to spot a newcomer. You simply can not afford to be slow.
Lagos is distinguished by several factors. The diversity of cultures, the lingo, the unique bus parks, the bus drivers, and of course the comparatively high cost of living. Regardless of your socioeconomic status, you just need a certain level of street smarts to live in Lagos. Otherwise, before you blink, you would be back in your village. Insofar as all of these are true, traffic congestion best typifies life in Lagos. Ask every tourist to Lagos what they find most irritating, and they will almost certainly all say traffic congestion. They enquire as to our methods. They look at us with pity, sometimes veiled derision as though Lagosians enjoy the hardship.
However, there are situations when they have a point. Even though we are supposed to have learned to deal with Lagos’ traffic, it may still be annoying at times. When it rains, for example, you can be certain that there will be traffic congestion. However, most of the time, there is no other explanation save the simple truth that there are too many of us for the current transportation infrastructure. Avoid the rush hour, pick your route carefully, in fact, decide to go out at midnight; there is no guarantee that you would be back within a reasonable timeframe. Add to the melee, our impatience makes things worse- cars hit each other and their proud owners quickly come down to ask each other if they know who they are in the society. The situation gets worse quickly. Most Lagosians spend more time in traffic than they spend resting or sleeping. It is tragic.
I have decided not to waste my life away in traffic. I plan some productive activities for the hours I know I would spend in traffic. On my way to work, I think about my day and make some early morning phone calls that are essential to my work. I join my church’s early morning prayer meeting whilst in traffic. On my way back in the evening, I catch up with the day’s news. By the time I’m back home, I would have known what was going on in Ukraine, Mozambique, and Thailand. This is the time I also spend on the University of Bristol grammar exercises to sharpen my speaking and writing skills. I take some time to catch up with family and friends also, whenever I can.
It is amazing how much I achieve during these otherwise ‘wasted’ hours of the day. With planning and by being deliberate, one can be productive whilst in traffic. Maybe that is why the visitors pity us; we always find a way to live in Lagos. I certainly must, because I am not ready to go back to my village. Not yet.