At first sight, Lagos is like giving a blind man a front-row seat to the Armageddon, along with the ability to see for the first time. It's an explosion of noise, of traffic straight from hell and smog that would leave a Greenpeace junky grabbing at his Ben Sherman shirt sleeve to cover his mouth. Imagine: if you were to drown Durban in the Indian Ocean and relocate Joburg to what once was, you'd end up with something which closely resembles this West African city.
Why I came to the country is not of importance right now, but as a writer born and bred in Joburg, it is my duty to compare the two cities.
A little more than 12 hours ago a man by the name of Ladi knocked on my hotel room door, armed with two beautiful locals and sporting a grin that would make Lewis Carol grow a big rubbery one.
"Ola, Shawno," he said, "it's Friday night in Lagos; the football is showing at an eatery just outside Ikeja - let's move."
The first phrase you need to learn in the wildly spoken pidgin English of Lagos is no wahala, which means 'no trouble'.
The four of us jumped into Ladi's black Honda Civic and took to the road. As we drove into the night, he told me about his country. Local rapper Abdulkareem was blasting through the stereo - a few years ago the man beat seven kinds of shit out of US hip hop artist 50 Cent on board an airplane in Lagos.
"In Naija there are only two ways to get rich," Ladi said. "Either you work for the government and embezzle as much money as you can, or you become a pastor and raid the coffers."
Around town, you often see polio-ridden beggars trailing on skateboards behind micro buses. Reason being that the Islamic north do not believe in inoculating their children against the horrible virus, so the sufferers trek south to beg for money.
We sat down and ordered drinks. "I must apologise - they don't serve Western food here." I was impressed by Ladi's prowess over my West Germanic Language. "Pah! As long as the beer is cold and the food spicy - no wahala," I said. Ladi's favourite football team in the Premier League took to the field on the TV. Note: There is only one volume setting in Nigeria, called 'loud-as-fuck'.
Later the waitress arrived and we shared a big bowl of pepper soup and catfish flavoured with intense chilli and beautiful garlic. The smell filled the humid, heavy air as we sipped on long bottles of Malta Guinness and dry gin.
"Do you support Orlando Pirates or Super Sport United?" The question caught me off guard.
"What's that now?" I asked.
"You know, PSL…" I was quite astounded, and soon learned that SA soccer is pretty big in Nigeria thanks to DSTV's dominance over satellite transmission across the continent. To answer his question I threw up my arms, waved the peace signs at him and issued "Amakhosi for life!" We had a laugh and I indulged in beauty that felt like home.
In summary: as the only oyibo (an Igbo word for 'white man') not locked up behind an electric fence and armed guards, I had caught the occasional eye but nothing weirder than a visit to friends at the Honeydew shacks.
On the drive back to the hotel I thought to myself, "Lord, Joburg's got competition when it comes to being the best city in Africa…"
by Shawn Greyling