The Pestilence of Lagos

Ms Omoh Giwa

Ms Omoh Giwa


By Omoh Giwa

Your Excellency, Chief Lateef Jakande,I am too incensed to bother with social etiquette and other niceties so pardon me. Quick one sir, I am curious about the corporeal form the resurrected take in the Afterlife. Do you get to choose youthful looks or dignified older looks? Or is it left to chance? I ask because my agitation needs someone strong enough to bear this blast(Wouldn’t it be weird if everyone had that youthful energetic look?).

Something happened to me recently that shook my core. This event left me bawling and wailing like a baby suffering from colic. I had the misfortune of falling prey to the gentlemen of the road. For non-initiates, this is not a reference to suit-and-tie Lagos but the scarred, scary rogues that assault and ravage unsuspecting Lagosians (a whole feminist like me was left bumbling, nauseous and trembling).

Alhaji Lateef Jakande

Tangentially, my mom eulogised you recently and would not stop lauding your accomplishments. Your policies that particularly considered the poor in Lagos State; better living conditions and free education at the primary and secondary levels, low-cost housing, the only university-owned by the state, General-hospitals and health centres spread all over the slums of Lagos. Like the fictional Robin Hood, you took from the rich to finance these projects but for a certain usurper in 1983, you would have provided the first metro-line rail project in Nigeria (imagine Lagos without its signature hellish traffic)I have been accused of compartmentalising my thoughts hence the frequency in which I derail from my fortnightly colloquy with the departed.

Baba Kekere, there is a saying common amongst the Igbos: A boy sent by his father to steal does not go stealthily but breaks the door with his feet. I’m sure you’re wondering where I am headed with this but just hear me out. Have you seen any documentary on Nat Geo Wild where Hyenas surround a weakened Lion and keep biting and taunting the King of the Jungle? That exact look of helplessness and confusion is what pervades Lagos residents with incessant attacks on our major roads. Most baffling for me is not the frequency or ferocity of the attacks but the confidence exhibited by the criminals (imagine exuding confidence like an unidentified pharaoh who told the United Nations General Assembly that he built several hospitals to combat Covid-19). They’d bang on your windows (you’d think their forefathers contributed their pensions for you to purchase the car) and scream their demands (God bless you if they can smell the fear rolling off you) but if you waste their time, they would smash your windows and collect your valuables (please pray they are happy and don’t hurt you with their crude weapons). Imagine the guts it takes to mug someone in broad daylight?

Traffic robbers. Credit: NaijaBlog

Why do we fear these delinquents when they are often without a gun or machete? Why is the NPF doing nothing about it (even before they begun to abandon their duties after the EndSARS campaign, their efforts were minimal and non-existent). Kii se eni to nbe ninu eegun la nberu, bi kose ago ti’nbe lo rie (we do not fear the person in the masquerade but the cloth which it has worn). We are incapacitated because we know who they work for, the influence and protection they have in their Baba Isale (political godfather). We fear the politicians and community leaders who use them for election racketeering to intimidate voters, snatch ballot boxes, cause chaos and assassinate the opposition but promptly discards them until their next assignment. These scoundrels are weaponised to terrorise the populace into submission like a sheepdog rounding up errant sheep. But the addictive nature of power (this is the main reason these politicians would do anything) and hard substances pushes them to remain active even during times of ‘peace’. Who would be at the receiving end of their assault? The ruling bourgeoisie protected behind their high, electric fences, Mopol secured homes, bulletproof cars or the struggling working class? Take a random guess Sir.

Baba Kekere, please do not be perplexed that I am reporting to you (as you might be wondering why this is any of your business) but when people kept calling the attention of the Police and were getting no response, tagged the Chief Pawn of Lagos. Do you know what his response was? He told us to stop pressing our phones and roll up our windows to avoid getting robbed. Or you’re thinking why not call on the self-acclaimed Messiah on the Rock for help? Baba, he is more interested in the exploration of oil in Katsina, naval base in Kano (navy in the desert? Interesting) and open grazing. Do you know the NYSC recently published a security handbook that advises Corp members to have someone ready to pay ransom in the eventuality of being kidnapped? The Scheme recognises that there is an increase in crime and insecurity, yet posts graduates to those high-risk areas without making provisions to ensure their safety. If they could kidnap military personnel from the NDA what are ordinary corp members?

Do not get me started on the harassment intending homeowners face at the beginning of a building project in Lagos. If your lucky stars align under Venus, then you might not purchase an already contested piece of land (but do not believe you would not pay at least twice as youths and elders would at different times request for funds). I do not care how lucky your zodiac is, you can never escape the sinkholes called “Omoonile” because like bottomless pits, they never get satisfied and different groups will come to extort you. They will demand money for clearing the land, foundation, decking, fencing and roofing. If God wants to punish you, please refuse to pay them, you’d have the corpse of one of your labourers to explain. After scaling through hurdle after hurdle, do not even consider a housewarming party because like sugar ants, they’ll crawl all over, harass and intimidate your guests into paying for parking. Forget about moving in during the day because your moving trucks will be heavily levied by several hungry leeches.

The sons of the soil that have refused to work or learn a trade have been sent by their fathers and with that assurance, they are breaking doors and windows. I fear for our future Baba.

O d’ igba o!

*Giwa is of the Department of English, University of Lagos.