Carrying on with life under the brain fog. It’s not too bad, just very distracting. Today in a supermarket not unlike all the ones in England I bought some medicine – Seriously Strong Scottish Cheddar, Jacob’s Cream Crackers and some Milk Chocolate Digestives. My rations of a pack of Dark Choco Leibniz and two packets of Fox’s Chunkies haven’t done so well in the heat so new biscuits were required. Ojo said that these types of supermarkets have started to spring up and are cheaper than the individual markets run by the people, so some shoppers are moving over to shopping in the Mall instead. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. I felt guilty immediately.
Yesterday was another stonking Eko Samba rehearsal. This band plays so well and it’s such a joy being in that room with them. I added two parts to what I’ve taught them – anybody who was in Batala London with me will recognise a lot of this!
Some of the band have taken my phone number and my current Whatsapp picture is of Phil Collins. It’s simply because in my daft sense of humour, the picture of Collins makes him look like he’s in a local paper having complained to the council about local kids playing knock door run on his flat. Until you’ve had a picture of Phil Collins thrust at you by a group of bemused Nigerians, you haven’t lived.
Ojo is originally from Benin City and at dinner told me that a new King of the City, or Oba in Yoruba, had been crowned a couple of days before. Although having no official power, they still hold great influence and these local Monarchs are incredibly important to the people of that area – 100,000 people lined the streets to see a small glimpse of Oba Ewuare II, who takes over from his father who died earlier this year. He spoke immediately of wanting to return to former traditions and glories, especially intricate Bronzes that were synonymous with the area. This need to reconnect with the past, touched upon here a few times, is perhaps becoming a more popular topic for discussion locally. Amongst the questions about tradition on Saturday at the talk we heard that Lagos was recently referred to as ‘No Man’s Land’. On a bit of research, this doesn’t mean that nobody owns it, it means that Lagos is almost another Nigeria again – Nigerians of every corner live there and feel as if they can have a stake in the place. Plus nobody feels more ownership over the area than the Yoruba people.
Today we went to Lagos Market on the island, an absolute madness of a place. There are so many people in this sprawling market, you’re blanketed by it all. There’s just so many people here. We were buying some Nigerian fabric because I’m getting two Native outfits made up. As an Oyinbo I’ll look ridiculous but you know, when in Lagos, as they (should) say.
We got the bus back from the market and there was a phone-in on the radio. Someone had phoned in saying that they’d not had street lights for 18 months but were still having to pay bills to the Nigeria Power and Electricity Provider. Another caller said they hadn’t had water in their area for a year and was pleading with the government to sort it out. In a country awash with billions of pounds of oil money to still have people living like they did 100 years ago is deeply upsetting.
We went to the tailor in Navy Town Barracks. When we arrived they said they don’t let foreigners in. It’s day 10 and the first example of something like this, and of course being military, you don’t ask why. The tailor had to come out of his house, out of the Navy Town Barracks completely and measure me up at a shop entrance opposite, underneath an umbrella cos it was raining. Nobody batted an eyelid. The clothes – and maybe a picture of me in them – are due next week.
There’s also a new pretender to the name Oyinbo. It seems that a lot of locals think I’m Chinese. Nigeria for years now has had strong Chinese ties in trade and investment and I saw a few Chinese people today around Lagos Market and later at the Mall. Both yesterday and today I’ve heard locals doing that offensive impression of Chinese people talking when I walk past. Ojo laughed and said ‘they think you are Chinese’. I’ve never felt more English.