A Nigerian New Years

Hi PT,

Hitting you with a double-dose of editorials this month.  I hope you don’t mind!  I first felt compelled to write about my New Years experience when writing to a friend, and thought it worthy of sharing with all of you.

It was a truly Naija experience.

First, at the age of twenty-something, just about very single person I know in Lagos spent their New Years/Eve in church.

Blank stare.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with church, I believe that there is a time and place for everything.  To me, NYE is neither the time nor the place. So, you can imagine that finding a companion to get into some debauchery with was not easy!! Well, with some perseverance & thanks to Blackberry Messenger (a Nigerian’s best friend), I was able to find a friend from Abuja who was in town and as adventurous as I :) .

We made plans for him to pick me up in Lekki from the mainland at 7pm. From his middle of nowhere to mine without traffic is probably about 45 min to an hour.  I get a call at precisely 7:16 telling me that he’s running late because he had to stop & do (garbled voice)…..


An hour & thirty minutes later, we are back in action. I step outside thirsty for some adventure & adult time after a week plus of family (who I adore) & sitting at home.

As soon as I’ve let out a sigh of relief into the surprisingly refreshing Lagos night air, I know I’ve made a mistake. A huge one.  My “date” introduces me to our third companion for the night — “Ade, meet Octavia.  Octavia, Ade.” His 1985 or so Spado Octavia (and yes that is a make and model).

Octavia is a death trap.

I’ve barely closed the door before she starts to stall.  Perhaps she’s just a bit uncomfortable with the new, feminine energy in the car — no one likes feeling threatened right?? — so I make a joke about her making clear who is calling the shots around here. It takes us about 10 minutes to drive the 600 feet or so to my Estate’s (aka neighborhood) entrance.  Point well-taken…

I can tell that the road ahead is clear for our  journey back to Victoria Island’s Bar Beach were the city is sponsoring a Times Square-style countdown and concert.  If you’ve ever been to Nigeria or know someone who has, you know that Lagos is infamous for its traffic and the country for its reckless and inattentive drivers.  Even before stepping out in a 4×4, I try to say a prayer . Today we are lucky because there is no traffic, but that means that everyone is free to drive as fast and carelessy as they like.

SLOOOW DOOOWN!!! ” I scream each time we nearly side swipe an SUV or are cruising with no sign of braking with a stopped car not too far in front. I consider myself a pretty laidback chick; I’m down for an adventure and def not a backseat driver, but tonight I really can’t help myself.  This is serious.

Lord, let this not be my last night on Earth. Let me make it to see 2014” I pray.  When I’m not  scolding him for his driving. we are on the verge of stopping dead on the freeway.  No joke. In the middle of a turn at a round-about Octavia just quits on us. During the hour or so trip, I get used to cars honking impatiently as he sheepishly attempts to restart her.  In retrospect, I can’t tell if our problems were due to the poor state of the car or his lack of experience driving. He’s had his car for three months and his license about the same.

Octavia, be good. We are trying to impress Ade!” He chides.

My anxiety is rising, but I’m trying to keep my cool. This guy is trying o! After thirty or so minutes of torture, we get to the beautiful Christmas lights display at Lekki Phase 1; I’ve been meaning to take a picture for my Instafans. Can I roll down the window? I ask. “Uhh, no…” He responds a bit bashfully.

Despite his incredibly poor judgment and seeming lack of common sense, I feel bad for the guy.  He is clearly trying to impress me.  In Nigeria, which is a cash-based society, pretty much every asset to anyone’s name is bought outright.  From cars to homes, for the average Nigerian (more on that later), what you have is a direct reflection of what your hands have been able to produce for yourself. So despite the fact that to any normal human being this car is a solid piece of junk, he’s proud of her.  “She’s my first,” he brags. In a place where unemployment hovers at 70% a young guy who can afford to buy his own car (with working AC!!) without the luxury of co-signers, trust funds, and installment payments isn’t doing so bad.

With all that sad, we finally made it to the show. It wasn’t bad, but to accommodate all the church goers the show doesn’t really start until well after midnight. And Olamide, D’banj, Wizkid,  & co. are still backstage by the time we leave to accommodate my self-imposed curfew.  You can be sure I took a cab home though ;)


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