#Traffic congestion in Lagos is a common thing
Early February 1980, Babatunde left Accra, Ghana, for Lagos, the populated city in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was then an era when every young man wanted to go to this oil-rich country. It was like the Exodus, the mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt to the promise land. The oil boom had improved the economy, giving rise to employment in every field.
At one time, Nigeria is the largest exporter of groundnuts, cocoa, and palm oil. Petroleum plays a large role in Nigeria’s economy. It is the twelfth largest producer of petroleum in the world, accounting for 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product and 80 percent of government earnings.
Babatunde found himself a place to stay at Surulere, a suburb of Lagos, through the help of a relative living in Nigeria over four decades. Lagos is one of the most populated cities in the world. Looking for accommodation was just as hard and tedious as excavating te ground for gold. The city was very beautiful despite its filth. Lagos Island is surrounded by a vast body of water. It has the largest seaport, especially the Tin- Can port, then also Apapa.
The numerous overhead bridges connecting the whole city exposed the beauty of the country. For example, the Third Mainland Bridge right from Ebute-Metta to Obalende, both suburbs of Lagos, was a well-done job by the German firm, Julius Berger. In the city, wriggling through the crowded afternoon shoppers was what the pickpockets liked most.
The city was very beautiful at night; unfortunately, poor drainage system made life unbearable for its inhabitants when it rained. It was very common to see a single room occupied by seven or more people. Babatunde shared a room with four other men who had been in the country for a very long time. The four were working at the same place, the Apapa port.
Nigeria was a country with regard to foreigners, each one for himself and God for everyone. Don’t expect to be fed when luckily you have got someone to accommodate you, so most of the time Babatunde used to go out with them when they were not working. Thus, within a short period of his arrival, he had already become familiar with the neighbouring suburbs, such as Yaba, Orile, Ebute Metta, Eko, Ikeja, Edu-Motta, Palm Grove, and a host of other places.
Nigeria was at its peak and probably could be one of the richest countries in the world, with various jobs available in all fields. The economy was too good and the poor could afford everything like the rich with a bread worth 10 Kobo on the table. The exchange of the dollar was somewhere between 45 to 65 Kobo. A ticket of four hundred Naira could provide your round trip to Europe and back.
Around the music shops, the competition between musicians Sunny Ade and Ebenezer was heavy, as the fans of King Sunny Ade and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey fight to establish supremacy. I (Babatunde) got a job as a driver to a politician, which paved the way for me to drive the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo through the principal streets of Calabar when the Unity Party of Nigeria was having a campaign in Calabar.
I met great people including Chief Ebenezer Babatope, UPN Publicity Secretary. Meeting Chief Obefemi Awolowo, the leader of Unity Party of Nigeria was a great experience. With him and chief Essuene behind me, I wouldn’t like to listen to their conversation, so I increased the volume of my reggae music. But Awololo told me to bring down the volume and I did. I travelled extensively throughout the states of Nigeria. Just guess, if your boss has nine cars including Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota SuperSaloon etc.
Nobody ever thought such a great country could fall on its knees beyond recovery. Like a broken glass which can’t be mend, Nigeria at the moment is beyond recovery. Poor governance and corruption have crippled the economy of the country to the extent that the common man lives with hopes and dreams. I don’t know any head of state who has a magic wand to pull this country which was once better than many European countries out of this economy storm.
Extract from the book Road Of Agony