Travel is great! You know, it gives you a lot of mind-blowing experiences, some not-so-good experiences, and some downright nasty ones too. Nobody wants bad experiences, but hey, this is life, and sometimes, it sucks.
Lagos, Nigeria is an amazing city, I tell you. This is a city where everyone fits in. The ultra-rich have an island for themselves. They call it the Banana Island. You should visit there, you’ll know there’s money in this country. The middle class have the mainland where they sweat it out in traffic night and day. The lower class still has some part of the mainland where the hustle is so real you can smell it. Then, there’s the place for the poor. You find them in the slums of Ajegunle and the creeks of Makoko.
One of the things that make Lagos very notorious is the high crime rate in the state, chief of them being fraud and armed robbery. Let me pause here for a moment and say that Lagos is both the business and tech hub in Nigeria. Its internally generated revenue can comfortably take care of many states in this country. But that’s also one of the many disadvantages of mega cities with outrageous populations, they ooze of crime, one of them being One-Chance Robbery.
If you’re hearing ‘one-chance’ for the first time, it’s a crime committed using commercial buses. Lagos is what I call the ‘land of yellow’ because of the outrageous number of yellow-painted commercial buses called ‘Danfo’, and so, robbers take advantage of that. Usually a gang of criminals will pose as the driver, conductor and passengers. You’ll flag them down thinking they are going to take you to your destination. Instead, they’ll speed off to an unknown destination, rob you on gunpoint, take all your property and throw you off the moving vehicle while still on top speed. In some cases, they murder their victims after they’ve robbed them. Some even take their body parts for rituals. While some just rob their victims, and drop them off.
So my story:
My friend had just flown in from a business trip to Ghana. We were supposed to travel together but plans changed last minute. He’d also successfully secured a partnership deal, and I needed to hear the full gist. He messaged me the hotel address, and since I wasn’t so familiar with Lagos, I needed the help of locals to get there as is usually the case when I travel to not-so-familiar places. The hotel was located in Ago Palace.
Someone gave me a rough sketch on how to get there from Surulere – where to board okada (motocycle), Danfo, and the rest. Finally, I successfully made my way to Second Rainbow, and that was where things began to get interesting.
I flagged down the first danfo I saw, I told the ‘conductor’ I was going to Ago and he ushered me to the seat in front beside another ‘passenger’. There were four other ‘passengers’ behind me apart from the conductor. They were all males. This didn’t seem out of the ordinary. The ‘passengers’ were well dressed, didn’t look suspicious and simply sat quietly.
Then the ‘distraction’ started. The door beside me refused to close. The conductor while hanging out of the bus kept banging my door but it wouldn’t close. I wasn’t scared, I was just amused. In mind I was like, ‘What will I not see in this Lagos?’ Since the door wouldn’t close, the conductor asked me to help him hold the door a bit. So while all this was going on, the ‘passenger’ beside me kept pushing out my phone. It’s called ‘Distraction and Action Strategy’ (the friend I was going to visit later told me that). So while they distract you, another action is going on, but you’re too distracted to notice.
Once he had ‘secured’ my phone, he signaled the rest of the gang. Immediately, they began to argue.
“No be there he dey go nah” One passenger said.
“Ago na the other side. See eh, you go drop, cross road go the other side.” Another passenger chipped in.
The conductor was now shaking his head as though I agreement. “Na true sef. We no dey go where you dey go. Na the other side you go cross. Driver stop am.”
The bus halted, and as soon as I got off, they sped off. I was a bit curious why they were in a hurry to leave until I put my hand in my pocket and I couldn’t find my phone. Immediately, I started running after the bus while my eyes could still see it. I kept flagging down okada riders but none would stop (perhaps they saw how I was running, and whatever it was, they didn’t want to get involved). Finally one stopped, but it was too late. We tried chasing down the vehicle but we couldn’t find it anymore. I ran through that road a couple of times, but nothing. My numbers were dialed but they were switched off.
Okada man turned to me, “Was it just your phone they took?”
“Then count yourself lucky nothing else was taken.”
Immediately I remembered stories I’d read of people losing their body parts to incidents like this, and I mentally began to check myself. At that moment, being sure I was completely complete was more important than my phone. Thank God I am.
As I recounted that story to other Lagosians, the recurring statement was, ‘You’re lucky it was just your phone’, and it began to dawn on me on how more grateful I should be. It did hurt a lot knowing that months of travel documentation I’d done for Yolar Magazine that were yet to be backed up were on the phone, but I was grateful that the story didn’t turn sour.
I was still able to meetup with my friend using the only ‘GPS’ available to me which was asking locals for direction. Because, though the world is bad, there are still good people. And never should you allow bad experiences prevent you from enjoying the many beautiful ones available. But then, it comes with a lot of lessons too. It teaches you to be street-smart at all times, follow your instincts and obey your gut-feelings because most times they’re right. And yes, God will always look out for His own, because that your seeming bad experience could have been worse. True.