“Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts”- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
I have a love-hate relationship with Lagos.
Growing up, my relationship with Lagos wasn’t as polar as it now. I don’t know that I had any feelings towards the city at all; I tolerated in the way one tolerates that annoying never-married aunt that seems to have an endless supply of relationship advice. I had a healthy apathy towards Lagos- the power outages, the endless traffic, the pollution, and the default state of chaos all melded into a mass of indifference in my mind. It was my city, and I was stuck with it.
2009 was the first time that I left Lagos for an extended period of time. Upon my next return, my routinely practiced and mastered apathy was replaced by a temperamental impatience, followed by a burning intolerance that then flamed its way into a full-blown hatred for Lagos, for home. Everything was wrong with this place. The power went out for too long, and the resulting the power generators bellowed with a determined clamor that was almost too surreal to be real. The traffic raged on for hours, lulling to sleep whatever plans you had for the day. To make matters worse, everyone around me had changed. New traditions had been formed and new alliances had been made, none of which included me. If “home”, by definition, is meant to elicit a sense of place and a feeling of communion with people around you, then I definitely wasn’t home. I was surrounded by all these people that I could recognize but didn’t really know. I felt like a stranger in this new home, and that feeling was, at best, unsettling and, at worst, slightly depressing. It then seemed easier to channel my being lost into an exaggerated hatred. If I hated and denounced this city, it wouldn’t matter that I felt lost and that, secretly, I felt like Lagos itself had disowned me.
Given my official hatred for home, I avoided going to Lagos. I almost had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, the next time I was forced to go to Lagos. Who can forget the “hearty” welcome I received right from Murtala Muhammed Airport- the almost palpable humidity that hits you the second you step off the plane, encircles you and threatens to cut off your oxygen supply; the sole croaky fan by the corner, which is squarely positioned on the immigration officer who asks you ridiculous questions while you melt from the heat; and the carousel that doesn’t work so you literally have to fight, push and shove to get your luggage. It was like a holy triumvirate of fuckery saying “Welcome home!”
What’s worse? This time, I was stuck in this deplorable city for 3 months. THREE.