- 1. People. Lots of people everywhere
- 2. Everything is a short drive away (as long as there is no traffic)
- 3. No townies in sight!
- 4. There is like, actual nightlife. Not just life at night
- 5. Jobs, Glorious Jobs
- 6. Life moves fast
- 7. The stimulation is off the hook!
- 8. The gateway to the world outside
- 9. Shopper’s Mecca
- 10. Everybody wants more
- 11. There’s probably a cinema nearby
- 12. Anything and Everything is possible
- 13. You can live the Knightsbridge lifestyle…
- 14. …Or you can squat with friends and eat instant noodles
- 15. You can observe the Human Condition
- 16. 3rd Mainland Bridge!
- 17. Jogging on Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge
- 18. The University of Life
- 19. We all eventually turn into Dominic Toretto
- 20. You can take a break from it all and still remain in Lagos
- 21. It’s becoming the Capital of Africa
- 22. Flood time is Happy time
- 23. Constant and irrepressible optimism
- 24. There’s always a party on Saturday!
- 25. You never need an alarm clock…
- 26. You always get to meet ‘someone’
- 27. Never mind the news, all you need is public transport!
- 28. Everyone is a comedian
- 29. The curses are delicious!
- 30. There’s always a new pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
- 31. You always know who the local and international JJCs are…
- 32. Nigeria’s best-developed stretch of Atlantic coastline is here
- 33. Everyone minds their own business
- 34. The city is now recognized as a legit global voice in Arts & IT
- 35. West Africa’s fastest Internet speeds
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 unrivaled 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.
9. 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 guitars.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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 possible.
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 eyelid.
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 observation and 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 seat…
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!
17. 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
When 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!
23. 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’.
24. 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.
28. 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!
30. 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…
Whether 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.
32. 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 behold.
33. 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 judgement 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 recognized 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.