For me as a writer, the period between 2010 and 2013 was very pivotal as it formed much of the discovery, learning and engagement of my talent and interest in literature and writing. I returned to Lagos finally in 2012 after completing my University programme outside the city and discovering my love for literature. I roamed the streets of Lagos attending book readings and book club meetings; I remember we used to have the Pulp Faction Book Club meetings once every month at Debonairs Bookstore on Herbert Macaulay way, Yaba (now a technology based innovation hub called Co-Creation Hub).
I remember this day I was waiting for a friend at the mall, either for a business meeting or to catch up, I forget which exactly it was. Although, I strongly believe it was a business meeting; I hardly ever waited for anyone like that just to catch up.
As I waited at the mall, I observed the people I saw that day, all of them at that venue for many different reasons; a date, a business meeting, to catch up with an old friend, or maybe just to take a selfie in the mall that I think had just recently opened at the time. I was aware everyone there had their own unique story, but what seemed mostly common was the way they carried themselves, the way they parked their cars or responded to attendants at different outlets at the mall, it was as though the environment suppressed the typical ‘Lagos gene’ we all share as residents of this city of dreams and waking nightmares.
It was hard not to imagine it as uncommon, I mean, this is Lagos after all, the city that deals with you for being weak, “no dulling” as you will popularly hear. You had to be sharp and courageous to keep up with the City’s energy, and to succeed. But this particular environment seemed to have subdued them. There’s a certain consciousness that befalls anyone as soon as you step in through the gate. No, it’s not a desire to stand out, rather it’s a desire not to fall, not fall as in hit the ground, but not to fall one’s hand.
Observing these people, I wonder how much of their characterisation is as a result of the kind of environment they find themselves in. I was pushed further to ponder if it is man who shapes the environment or if it is the other way round. If I consider this place to be a microcosm of the larger community, then it at first appears to be that the environment shapes man, but understanding that this place is an actual creation of man himself, then it is safe to say that the environment is shaped by man to shape man.
This city we live in is a huge network and interplay of expressions of various sorts and forms informed by orientation and character. I make bold to propose that the state and disposition of an environment at any point in time is actually a reflection of the prevailing or dominant orientation and character of the people therein. It’s an open city. Hierarchy is by how much money you have at the moment, potential is meaningless.
This is Lagos, where anything can make you or break you; as in, exalt you or extinguish you. This city, brimming with ordinary people with unlimited wants; where you have to do your own growing up, no matter how tall your grandfather was. This city, overtaken and run by the young and vibrant; age has no hold here. We are all too young to realise that certain things are impossible; which is why we would do them anyway – which is why we conquer.
This realisation is what distinguishes those who win from those who wail in this city. To crossover one only need realise that regardless of whatever conditions this city may subject you to, your heart is free and you must have the courage to follow it.
I continue to grow in this city as it keeps revealing itself to me, I guess that is part of makes it an open city, the fact it is enduring in its revelation of itself. It will continue to evolve and reshape itself, but its essence will always be familiar to those who are connected to it.
I am a Lagos Writer, and the life of a writer here is not easy, but sometimes everything lines up, the world is in-sync, and for one perfect moment, you feel totally alive. I am alive in this open city. I look forward to everything lining up for me as a writer, that moment when effort and opportunity align, that perfect moment when this city will recognise my courage and reward it significantly. Until then, this open city keeps my dreams open before me.