The traffic seems to hit before the city does. They’ve passed a few satellite towns and the houses are beginning to grow more densely packed. But city or not, the traffic is already terrible.
Abejide is ready for that. People around here call it a ‘hold up.’
Abejide is one of eight people on the bright yellow minibus. 6 are going home. One is driving. Abejide is a ‘new immigrant.’ He knows there are thousands just like him on other minibuses. Thousands of people each day moving to the city.
The driver cranks up the radio. A beat pumps through the van – just as it seems to in every other car on the road.
People are waiting, but they’re also dancing in their seats.
Abejide imagines what the city itself is like. The closely packed buildings – people living on top of each other. The smell. And the excitement in the air. He’s already feeling some of that. There are so many possibilities.
He looks out the window as the yellow minibus gradually slows and then stops. From here on, it will be slow going.
Street vendors come out of nowhere – selling pretty much anything to those who are waiting. Abejide laughs to himself. A friend told him about the vendors. He said you never go hungry when you’re in a ‘hold up.’ You can buy everything you need for a meal. Cooking stove, gas, yams, pots, cutlery, plates. The whole package. And then you can cook it up before you get moving again.
Abejide isn’t buying though. His money is very tight. Most importantly, he’s new here and he doesn’t know that he’d be getting a good deal. The city is full of hustlers and snakes and criminals and he doesn’t want to start off a victim. It is probably inevitable though.
Bit by bit, the yellow minibus creeps further towards the city. Abejida had gotten up at 3am. The bus driver, who lives in his native province of Kwara, doesn’t like to drive in the city at night. They left plenty of time for the trip. Okada – motorbike taxis – weave between the cars, dangerously pushing themselves forward. They are deadly, Abejide knows that – but he could still imagine using them. The traffic is terrible.
Abejide is headed to his aunt’s place. She has a tiny apartment in some rundown section of the city. He would stay there for a few days while he got his feet set. It would be the perfect place for him. Some food, some sleep and then, in the morning, he’d head out looking for work.
15 million people live here. He can’t hardly imagine it.
The buildings are growing thicker now, and there are more and more people on the streets. There is so much activity, so many things to see. Abejide closes his eyes and just lets the excitement seep into him.
You have to be careful in a city like this. But there is opportunity here. Abejide is tired of the long, lazy, and hungry days of his past.
Here, if you are willing to work hard, and if you are smart, you don’t need to go hungry. You might even be a success.
There is opportunity here.
As the music continues to pump through the van, Abejide closes his eyes again.
There is opportunity here.
‘Welcome to Lagos.’