Ikeja, Nigeria: The Nigerian Dream

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Ikeja, Nigeria: The Nigerian Dream

I was born in Enugu state, Nigeria. When I was barely three years old, my family (Dad, mom, siblings and 2 maids) moved across the country to Lagos State in search of greener pastures. I spent most of my childhood and all of my teenage years in Ikeja, and I surely feel at home here.

Coming to Lagos is the average Nigerian’s dream, just like moving to New York or Los Angeles is for the rest of the world. There is a kind of respect a Lagos resident commands, which is not the case for people from other parts of the country. My family and I lived in a three-bedroom apartment in the capital of Lagos State, Ikeja. My dad took the master bedroom; my mom also took a room for herself, while I, my elder siblings and the maids took the last room, which was also the smallest.

Ikeja is a small urban area with lots of people. It is located in the heart of Lagos State and houses most of the state government residences and secretariats.

My primary and secondary education was in Lagos proper. I remember it was less rowdy then than it is now, but there was so much competition. I could remember that my siblings and I were always put under pressure to excel in school against all odds.  The competition was intense and our failure to meet our parents’ standards was severely punished.

Ikeja is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural area. No particular group can lay claim to Lagos in general. Unlike in other parts of Nigeria, tribalism is at its barest minimum.

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In those days, our parents were very protective of us because of the rampant cases of ritual killings and kidnappings. We were not allowed to visit friends or relatives on our own without an adult accompanying us. Many people believed that ritual killings (i.e. sacrificing a person or a body part to some god) would make them rich. Parents were advised to keep watch over their children because children were the most vulnerable – and my parents did just that.

My dad was a banker, while my mom was a full-time housewife. In the morning, dad with his driver dropped me and my older siblings at school while my mom came to fetch us in the afternoon. Back then, it was very rare to see women go to work in the morning, just like men. We were used to seeing our mothers clean, cook and wash, but today that is no longer the case.

We had (and still have) the best of everything Nigeria had to offer. From job opportunities to decent social amenities to great schools and hospitals and a good transportation system. But development like this also attracts many social vices. The city of Lagos used to be a den for some of the greatest criminals in Nigerian history.

One thing about Ikeja that I really disliked was the way jungle justice was carried out in broad daylight. It was not an unusual occurrence to see a mob burning or killing an accused thief or kidnapper in the full glare of the public. A little boy was once burnt simply because he stole apples. A group of robbers were also burnt on my street. Even when I was young, I knew that taking the law into your own hands in such a savage manner was very wrong! Some of these killings even happened in the presence of security officers, but many Nigerians do not have faith in the security agencies.

I also didn’t like the erratic electricity supply, which is still the case today. We didn’t use electricity very often and I could remember my joy when my father finally bought a generator.

A very common sight back then, and even today, was child hawkers. It is not uncommon to see children as young as five hawking in traffic with a big tray on their heads, and this saddens me a lot.

Ikeja House

Ikeja House

There is also a popular ritual that used to happen regularly back then. It is called the ‘Oro’ festival. It mostly occurs at night and women are forbidden to see it – women who see it will have to die. An announcement is made some weeks or days before the festival, warning women especially to stay in their houses. There are not a few horror stories of women who allegedly saw the ‘oro’ and died. Young girls like me were specifically warned to be careful of the ‘oro’.

Ikeja is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural area. No particular group can lay claim to Lagos in general and, unlike other parts of Nigeria, tribalism is at its barest minimum. For me, Ikeja is home. It holds a special place in my life that no other city in the world is likely to replace.

Also check out, Living in Lagos.

Nchee

Nchee

Nchee is a microbiologist and writer from Nigeria. She loves travelling and meeting new people, irrespective of where they come from.

1 Comment

  • Erika
    Erika

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    June 4, 2017 at 3:48 pm
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