Why Lagos? By Antoinette Steemers

Why Lagos? By Antoinette Steemers

Sometimes, as a mother you have to cope with unexpected surprises! My name is Antoinette, I am the mother of Sanne Steemers, who came to Lagos to build a new life in Surulere. We live in the Netherlands and when Sanne told me that she was planning to stay in Lagos, I felt sad and couldn’t understand her decision. Why Lagos?

For people in the Netherlands, Lagos has a reputation for being a very dangerous city with noisy and unfriendly people, traffic jams, irregular supplies of water and electricity and a high rate of violence. For all these reasons, everybody kept telling me that it is an extremely dangerous place and that I should never go there!

I decided however, that I wanted to see for myself why Sanne took this unusual decision and I also wanted to find out what was true of the things people say about Nigeria. In August, I spent a week with Sanne in Surulere. It was special in many ways and I love to share my experiences with you.

It was already dark when I arrived at Lagos airport on a Thursday evening. Here I had my first experience with aggressive, uniformed Nigerians who asked me many, many questions. It took me ages to leave the airport but to see Sanne again after a long time was a moment of great joy never to forget!
Arriving in Surulere was quite a shock to me. I saw a rundown street with big potholes; electrical wires tied together in a bundle between houses. I saw bars on the windows, walls and fences around houses and a gate at the beginning of Sanne’s street that had to be closed at night; so very different from my country!

Unlike Lagos, the Netherlands is a very well-organised country. There is a constant water and electricity supply and everything functions, every day. We are used to that; we don’t even think about it, consider it to be normal. Until August, I had never experienced spending two days without water. It was, however, my first welcome to Surulere.

I noticed that nobody was particularly stressed about the lack of water or electricity that occurred several times a day. You all seem to have a matter-of-fact attitude and I find that very impressive! People in Lagos appear to cope very well with such challenges, and I am sure that we, Dutch people, can learn from you in this respect.

Sitting on the balcony I loved to watch life on the street below. I saw women walking up and down the street who, with their colourful dresses, are like flowers in an urban jungle. It scared me to see the little yellow tricycles driving down the street with enormous speed and loud hooting and I wondered whether this was allowed?

In our country, driving at such speed is unthinkable. We have many rules and regulations for safety. It comes first, always. On the other hand, however, we all are overly cautious about everything. In Nigeria, there are also rules and regulations, but you seem to have a much more flexible way to cope with them.

The next morning, Sanne shows me her new place. We drive around Lagos, and I find the city quite overwhelming. I notice that all stereotypes about Nigeria are true: I see noisy and aggressive people everywhere as well as many uniformed guards. It is complete chaos and living here must be a tremendous day-to-day struggle.
After a while however, I get used to it. Dutch people are, after all, not that different from Nigerians, in particular when it comes to directness and humour. I begin to like my journey. Over a nice Sunday lunch, I meet Sanne’s friends, and I can feel their energy and shared desire to make this world a better place.

Energy is the word for Lagos. There is so much happening here and everything is taking place at the same time. Although there is no infrastructure or subsidy, I see plenty of idealistic, pioneering entrepreneurs who are very much involved with all kinds of new projects, new ideas and start-ups; they work very hard to get results.

I also discovered that Nigerians are very welcoming and friendly once you get past their directness; they are not so bad after all! This journey was a unique experience and it changed the way I perceive life. For this reason, I am most grateful for the name ‘Abiona’ (which means: “born on a journey”) that my new friends gave me.

I was glad to meet Sanne’s friends, who are all very friendly and idealistic. Being an entrepreneur is hard work in Lagos: sometimes rewarding, very often not. However, you learn lessons for life, get considerable experience, and become very streetwise when you manage to find your way through the chaos of this uneasy and challenging country.

After a week, I can say from the bottom of my heart that I do understand now why Sanne decided to go and live in distant Surulere. She is very happy with her new and challenging life, and as a mother, this is so good to see. She is passionate and very motivated to make a success of her Chocolate Factory, and of course, I wish her luck.
Back in the Netherlands I realise that the journey changed me. It changed the way I consider my life. In my mind, I can still recall the sounds of Surulere: the call for prayer from the mosque, the voices of the women in the street, the weird bird with its loud scream, and the siren that announced the power coming back.

It is good to be home again; I have more appreciation for our well-organised country, but I will never forget the warm welcome and all the friendly and caring people I met in Lagos. When I think of you all, it is with a big smile on my face. I do understand much better why Sanne chose to live in Lagos: it is the place-to-be for her.

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3 Comments

  1. May 16, 12:23 #1 Tawny

    Schau mal auf das Datum des Bertaigs Ich spiele schon lange nicht mehr auf RG und auch auf keinem anderen Privat Server, dazu hab ich keinen Nerf

  2. May 17, 14:36 #2 Eunice

    I was waiting for this form of matter. Thank you very
    much for the place.

  3. May 27, 01:21 #3 steph

    this is only the beginning, more greatness and blessings coming raining down on surulere

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