PS: This post was inspired by Nedoux’s I LIVE HERE.
Disclaimer: I no be Lagos pikin o (i.e. I was neither “born” nor “bred” there). Infact I’ve never really been a fan of Lagos, and I don’t think I’m ready to change my mind yet😁. So y’all should take my observations/conclusions with a pinch of salt (and pepper😜). Tenkiu!
Like some of you know, yours sincerely was a short-term guest (and tourist) in the famous city of Lagos for about 3 months, because of the MDCN remedial program for FTDs which took place at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). While my stay wasn’t an entirely rosy one, it sure had its perks.
Since LUTH provided limited accommodation for those who registered for the program, I had to make alternative arrangement. For the first few weeks, I stayed with my cousin’s family in Ebutte-Meta, but the commute (especially after closing hours) took its toll on me. So I was all determined to find a place to rent around LUTH (i.e. Surulere-Idiaraba-Mushin axis) which proved even more challenging than I expected.
House hunting anywhere is not an easy task, but unlike my SVG experience, the Naija house agents I came across were quite “mouthed” (i.e. smooth talkers with little integrity, unfortunately).
I didn’t even know there was such a thing as viewing fee- where you paid the agent a certain amount just for showing you an apartment (whether you want to rent the place or not. Like seriously?!). One guy requested for a whole 5K as viewing fee and I was like, “Mba, I think I’ll pass.”
I had to make calls upon calls, visited a couple of places (including stuffy wannabe guest houses, *rolls eyes*) before finding an apartment (thanks to a contact from an old friend), that was remotely affordable and suitable for the purpose of my stay. Thus began my sojourn in the neighborhood called M-U-S-H-I-N.
And looking back, I have no regrets (except that I didn’t really get to explore other areas in Lagos, because “no time” and “no money”).
Living in Mushin.
Mushin, a closely-knit community, largely known for its history of violence ranging from local gang clashes to political uproars, is one of the few neighborhoods in Lagos, that the average (educated, upper middle-class) Lagosian, wouldn’t consider living in (as a first choice, anyway).
When compared to its immediate neighbors like Surulere and Yaba, Mushin is but a REFINED (or should I say, GLORIFIED) slum. One of the things I admire about the community though, is that the streets if narrow, are relatively well-planned and the roads are fairly accessible.
A friend of mine who has lived in Lagos for a while, expressed his concerns about my safety in that neighborhood. Thankfully, throughout my stay I did not have an unfortunate experience.
Mushin is quite densely populated, with buildings literally filling up every inch of land in the community. My street, Kosobameji (which is a 3-minute walking distance by the way), apart from the residential buildings, had at least 5 Churches, 2 Mosques, 4 Schools and 10 Shops; and is just a mere fraction of the Mushin Community. Other streets were interconnected to ours in such a way, that there were multiple routes to get to the Main Street (LUTH road), which eventually joined the dual-carriage Mushin main road.
My roommate and I shared a storey building (that sits on about half a plot) with 5 other families. That’s the smallest compound I’ve ever lived in. Thankfully, we had a cordial relationship with our neighbors, most of the time. We simply had to contribute to paying for the prepaid card for electricity, as well as the waste disposal fee, and took turns washing the gutter.
Mushin is everything from hilarious to sometimes utterly ridiculous. There were days I enjoyed the bustling LIFE, and other days I wondered how I found myself in such a place in the first place.
Highlights of my stay in MUSHIN:
The early morning call-to-prayer by Muslim clerics that unfailingly usher you into the day (doesn’t help that there are multiple mosques in the area), plus the subsequent calls till late evening. The good thing though, was that I learnt the specific times Muslims pray every day (5 a.m, 6 a.m, 1 p.m, 4 p.m, 7 p.m, and 8 p.m) and tried to adjust accordingly.
– Street Football:
Sunday afternoon in Mushin, is a time for anyone and everyone to participate in a local game of football whether as players, fans or mere observers. The annoying thing though, is that the entire street is converted into a playing field; so pedestrians and motorists have to maneuver their way through, to avoid getting hit.
Owambe (a slang for Partying) in Mushin, is on a different level. It basically consists of late evening drinking, dining and dancing, that extends from the host’s compound to the front of his neighbor’s compound (for lack of space), often rendering the street inaccessible to motorists and passers by. And I don’t think anyone needs to obtain their neighbors’ permission before doing such.
I recall how surprised I was the first time, when I met people partying right in front of our gate, only to discover that the celebrant wasn’t even from the compound.
– Street Food:
On moving to Mushin, fried yam/sweet potatoes, fried plantain and akara, became my favorite things to snack on, because there were food stalls on every street corner. It’s perhaps the only thing I really miss about Mushin.
Street food in Naija is a MUST for any foreigner to experience.
– Water Vendors/Borehole Madam:
On days when there was no electricity to pump water into the house, we hired Water Vendors (locally called Abokis) to supply us with water and although the unit cost was cheap (N25 per fetch), it quickly added up to about N1000 at the end of a week, which was expensive.
A number of times, I had to go to the neighborhood borehole (less than 2-minute walking distance from my apartment) to buy water from this thick, black, never-smiling Madam (whose name I didn’t know). I was always intrigued by the number of people, both young and old, who were her daily customers and wondered how much sales she actually made every day.
– “Akape” Story:
This is still the funniest experience as regards my stay in Mushin. One early morning (around past six), I had to go in search of painkillers, so an Okada guy took me to an open drugstore, where I found one sleepy Baba seated.
After telling him what I wanted, he offered me a clear plastic bag containing about 10 tablets, of different colors, shapes and sizes; popularly called “Akape” by the locals. This was from someone with little or no medical knowledge about the drug interactions of what he had prescribed.
When I asked what the pills were for, he said they could work for all kinds of pain (and in my mind I was like 😱😱😱). I quickly asked for known drugs like Diclofenac and Ibuprofen. Thankfully he had the former, so I double-checked its expiring date, paid for it and left. My mistake according to another Doctor-friend, was not buying the “Akape” for a proper analysis of the drug mix. I’ve heard that some local chemists would sometimes prescribe everything from anti-hypertensive meds to anti-thyroid meds for simple cases of Malaria.
– Lights out:
Perhaps the most challenging issue with my stay in Mushin was the initial absence of electricity in the neighborhood, when my friend and I moved in. For a whole week, the light barely blinked and there were nights I cried myself to sleep.
Most nights we had to keep the window and door to our apartment wide-open to allow for proper ventilation, and there were nights we actually slept off…like that! Thankfully, we did not experience any incidence of theft.
Mosquitos, Rats and Cockroaches were our regular companions in the apartment. The first two I could tolerate, the last I absolutely detested. Cockroaches are just plain irritating…ugh!
– Kids at Play:
One of the families living in my compound had four kids, all boys! And these lads loved to play (sing and shout) all day, everyday, sometimes right up to our window/doorstep. A number of times, I actually had to step out of the apartment to reprimand them because I was either trying to sleep or to study. It took an extra caution on my part not to actually SPANK one of the kids, which would have been terrible because my hands ain’t exactly “Child-Friendly.” 😂😂😂
If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy THIS IS LAGOS!
*FTDs- Foreign Trained Doctors.