On the 11th of November, my phone was stolen at a restaurant in Lagos. This is a brief audio narration of what happened and how I recovered the phone.
Have you met some folks who seem to have no drive to do anything? I knew a guy like that. He used to live across my grandma’s house in Lagos. Every morning, he stood bare-bodied on the exit corridor of the multi-room compound and stared at people going to work and traders jostling the streets. At this time I was home taking care of my grandma and working at my dad’s Law Chambers, which was also in the same building where grandma lived. In the evenings, this 30-something year old guy would dress up and go hang out with friends at adjoining streets, doing nothing but having loud conversations.
Lagos Island was littered with such young men, guys coming from somewhere but seemingly not going anywhere. From Campbell street to parallel streets like Igbosere, Bamgbose, Tokunbo, to sides streets like Ricca, Odunlami, Joseph, etc with a fearsome population, these were the boys of the area (I use that because the term Area Boys have become quite derogatory. These boys however were not all illiterate and dangerous). I spoke with a lot of them, and we interacted on the make-shift football pitches all around the corners of the Brazilian Campos Square.
These were disillusioned young men with raging hormones, freelance street politics and sports commentators, football/table-tennis/snooker playing, Ewa Agoyin and Agege Bread eating, boys tired or bored with school work. They constantly searched for the slightest and easiest opportunity to make money, then run to Mandilas corner off Broad street to buy the latest Italian baffs and prey on gullible feminines of their kind. Some of them ended up popsie-ing five kids from five different women.
I was quite eager when the opportunity came to relocate to Lagos from Calabar after my secondary education. Despite opposition from some peudo-motherly quarters, I made the exciting trip by road to Lagos (with a bottle of non-alcoholic wine to celebrate). This threw me into a whole new circle of activities and contacts with new people, although my grandma was always there to stabilize my emotions. She was the reason I moved anyway.
Months later in 1994, I was invited to a Vacation Bible School, at the end of which I made quite a few friends and collected several addresses and phone numbers. Before now, I had only posted letters a few times in my whole life; a couple letters to my dad in Lagos, and one or two to my uncle in the United States. I was used to telephone conversations, which were far between in any case. I remember our NITEL phone number then was 087-222889. My brother and I used to randomly choose numbers from the telephone directory and prank calls, until the day my mum screamed at the phone bills.
In Lagos however, grandma had no NITEL telephone. My only options were to write letters to my new friends, or walk from Campbell Street down to NITEL tower at Marina to use the pay phone, which meant I would have to gather enough 10 kobo coins to place my calls. These were precious moments. To hear a friend’s voice at the other end and spending minutes conversing inconsequentially, or hearing the post man opening the postbox outside the house, was most times the highlight of each day.
It’s hard to look back and relate to those days, when communication was carefully planned and labouriously thought through. Today, we carry about fancy gadgets that instantly perform multi-functions, and we rarely think about what we channel via these devices. The rise and pervasiveness of communication technology has so sharply widened the gulf between our immediate past and today that I can’t even imagine how I stayed in touch or fixed appointments with friends.