Popular Poet Dami Ajayi writes about his favourite places in Lagos, one of the most populous cities in Africa.
I am yet to find that signpost that welcomes anyone into Lagos, not even newborns. Of course, the ambulant adult waltzing in through Ojodu Berger suffers a similar fate; it is at the sight of sculpture of the three elders that he realises that, “This is Lagos”.
By far the most cosmopolitan city south of the Sahara, Lagos, former capital of Nigeria and current economic capital, remains a port town with an expansive reach.
Living in Lagos on and off for the better part of my adult life, these are some of my favourite places.
Lagoon Front, Unilag
University of Lagos lays ownership to the lagoon banks. In this space where water interfaces with land, there are several tall coconut trees with truncal chordee. The soil’s consistency is disrupted by holes made by crabs and other crustaceans. Small clusters of Christian students pray in tongues. Student members of social organizations deliberate or rehearse dance. The occasional guitar-wielding musician sits, strumming his guitar or playing with short locs. Lagos speeds past in the far distance, on the seemingly endless arc of what is called the Third Mainland Bridge.
Social Centre, Harvey Road
8 Harvey Road, Yaba: an innocuous street address that might suggest itself as being residential but this is the address of that former mental asylum where the mentally disturbed were sheltered. These days, it is the psychiatric hospital popularly called Yaba Left in Lagos parlance. It also houses a popular recreational centre, the social centre, a sit-out garden where football matches can be watched, where finger foods are sold and beers are kept near mortuary standard temperature. The social centre is an attempt by the hospital to the reduce stigma and enigma of this fenced structure which many Lagosians believe houses wild men and women with disturbed minds.
Walking distance from the Falomo bridge at Ikoyi, there is a private library open to the public. Located within a white one-storey building, Zacchues Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries is a place where everyone who delights in books must visit. The serenity is exceptional so that if one is not careful, sleep will be the result. Books of all works and trade of lives are neatly arranged for welcome readers. And their world range of literary fiction is particularly impressive. And their staff are genial; they remember faces and care for readers.
Freedom Park, Lagos Island
What used to be the colonial prison where the likes of Obafemi Awolowo and Herbert Macaulay were imprisoned has become a freedom-themed park and aptly so called. It is certainly the best spot for live music in Lagos. Every day of the week holds some promise of good music with different successful bands and their lead musicians like Seun Olota, Aduke ,Edaoto and Wura Samba in performance. Sometimes you might be lucky to find guest performances by maestros like Tunji Oyelana.
On the third Friday of every month, there is the grand finale of all live music concerts in Lagos, Afropolitan Vibes, which boasts of a 2000 man strong crowd. The allure of this show is the dynamic line up of popular musicians performing with the 13-man collective BANTU. Besides the great music, there is also fresh intoxicating palmwine and beautiful people.
*Dami Ajayi is the author of poetry collections, Daybreak and Clinical Blues.