My elder brother was travelling to Saudi Arabia and I would be accompanying him, along with one of his students, to the airport in Lagos. I had only been informed three nights before the trip that I would be joining them. I was going to Lagos for the first time as an adult; and I had to decide what clothes I should wear. I picked my three best outfits and took them to one of our neighbours to help me choose the best. She picked my white jalabia that I had abandoned inside the wardrobe because it was over-sized when it was bought for me. But I didn’t like her choice. It was not as if I really went to her to choose, I went to her to choose the one I already intended to wear. As she was persuading me to wear the jalabia, I kept saying, ‘why not this shirt and trousers? It is Lagos for God’s sake’. She insisted but I had already made up my mind. I wore my blue shirt and black trousers.
In my southwestern part of Nigeria, Lagos to us is ‘abroad’. A small London. If not for everyone, for me, it was my dream to visit the city because talking about Lagos is basically describing Nigeria. Lagos: the most populous city in Africa. Lagos: the commercial state of Nigeria. Lagos: the city you sneak into at night as a dreamless person but would wake up in the morning with a heavy bag of dreams. If Lagos is Nigeria then Nigeria is an analogy. Coined by the British journalist, Flora Shaw, wife of Lord Fredrick Luggard, the last governor-general of Nigeria under colonialism, it was named on 8 January 1897 after the River Niger that runs the length and breadth of the country. It would take over sixty more years before, Nigeria would pronounce itself an independent country on 1 October 1960. But from 1914, when Lord Luggard amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates, then created the Lagos colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, Lagos was at the heart, and became the capital until 1991 when it was replaced by Abuja, a purpose-built populous in the geographical centre of the country.