Diary of an Ibadan hustler in Lagos (EPISODE 1)

Lagos they say is the city of 'hustlers'. A place with a small landmass of 385.9 sq. mi (city).    But being occupied by over 21 million people from different tribes in Nigeria; setting out all day in search of their daily bread. It’s no news that majority of the high-paying jobs in Nigeria are in Lagos. Lagos is a place where people welcome challenges of life, embrace them and give concrete solutions to them. This accounts for the big success of people in Lagos. This is a land for the brave, the warrior of valour. Here you need more than skills or talent to survive. Your mental strength counts here. That is what keeps you going no matter how ''Ajegunle" the place you are.

Everything in Lagos is very discouraging. Is it the constant bad traffic? Or the overpopulation? Low rate of executive employment, high rate of crimes, presence of "corporate hustlers" who live off others like its legal. They con people chasing their dreams. You find such people in the entertainment industry. Have you observed the problem of lack of fresh air in Lagos? The air is generally hot due to overcrowding as well as the closeness of building structures that are unnecessarily tall to cover up for the problem of lack of space.

I will share some major experiences which I had in Lagos. These are occurrences I will never forget. They will be shared one after the other in an episodic form. It was from that point I came to the conclusion that Lagos is undoubtedly a land of milk and honey but like Nigeria as a whole, only a few people are accessing the gold mine. Several others are living off the crumbs that fall off the tables of the privileged class.

In the year 2013, around the month of August to be precise. I had just finished the first semester of my Masters programme when the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) went on strike, I decided to re-awake my acting passion. I was checking for acting auditions on Nairaland when I saw a recent audition with the Movie Director dropping his BlackBerry Smartphone pin. I added him immediately. His name was St Livingstone Ekanem. In the course of our first chat, he demanded for my picture as he wanted to list me among his casts. When he saw it, he offered me a role and gave me a number of costumes I will need on set. I was so excited. I wanted the general public to see my face on screen again. He said something alarming which was that I would pay a fee of N2, 000 since I am not a registered member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). This will be the cost of an identity card that will cover me in case the AGN taskforce members storm the movie location. I felt his reason was genuine so I packed my things, raised some money and set out on a trip to Lagos. Before I left, I called him on phone and I observed he was forcing out a British accent out of a Calabar voice. It was irritating but I was blinded by my passion. I also did my usual internet background check by going after him on the social media with his personal details. I saw his Facebook account where he shared details of his ongoing Cinema movie project, calling for actors to apply. He had a few set pictures too. I felt convinced that I wasn't walking into a death trap at least. I never knew I was dealing with a calculated scammer. He fixed our appointment at the Ikeja hotel claiming he was lodged there to make his claims believable since that place is associated with a level of financial comfort.

He lied the cinema movie shoot was going to kick-off the next morning which was on a Sunday. I foolishly didn't go to church. I went to Ikeja Airport hotel with my big bag straight from Ibadan as if I was with money to lodge. I was embarrassed from one point to the other. I wasn't allowed to even take a seat at the reception. The so-called director was virtually unknown at the hotel.

I switched on my phone and I saw the shock of my life. The director had forwarded a broadcast on BBM that the shooting was postponed. I was cold to the marrow of my bone. When I called him, he gave me a bit of hope. I sat around a closed shop in Ikeja on a Sunday morning when people were busy in churches praising God. Guilt filled my heart; every passerby looked at me with imploring eyes. I was obviously strange to them and my big traveling bag was the centre of attraction.
The so-called director lied he was in Badagry to secure a movie location. The idiot was actually on his bed in a God-forsaken unknown place in Lagos. He took forever to come and when I sensed the people living around the area were close to accosting me, I hopped on a bike and headed for a cousin's house which was close by.

I made myself comfortable at my cousins' place. I talked to them about my new movie role. They were so happy for me. This motivated me to see the acting deal work. At 4pm, I got a call from the director telling me to meet him at the Ikeja Airport hotel where he lodged. He smartly packed his old Jeep at the garage, as I approached; he drove out slowly like he just checked out. He was quite young, a light-skinned man from Calabar probably in his mid-thirties. The vehicle was an eye-saw but I ignored the state of it. He drove me to No 14, Awolowo way which he claimed to be his office. We were right outside the office in his vehicle. He demanded for his registration fee before giving me audience as well as two passport photographs to make it look real. I had to take a big straight back to my cousins' place to get it. On getting back I pleaded with him about the authenticity of the job because losing that money cheaply would also affect my transport fare back to Ibadan which would be worse. He assured me of a major role and high pay if my performance was good. He did a quick audition for me in his car or maybe I should better call it a 'container'. The script wasn't well punctuated at all. I ran into serious problems but my performance wasn't that bad.

He nodded his head to express his satisfaction and then told me the shoot would kick off that night. The most amazing thing was that he kept using the word 'WE' and he was just one person. He said he had actors and actresses lodged in several areas of the Ikeja Aiport hotel. My instinct kept telling me there was something wrong about him but I couldn't figure it out. I was quite confused. That would have been my third film job. Directors are always busy with phone calls, one problem arising from one actor of getting a prob. Then you see his Production Manager, Personal Assistant, Costumier and some aspiring actors loitering around him for roles. This young man had none! It was virtually late for me to turn back. I felt the stress he was going through for just N2, 000 wasn't real. That a cheap scam. I went home feeling great and ready to shoot the movie my forefathers organized for me looool.

I was so excited like a kid whose parents wanted to take to an Amusement park. My running mouth shared the gist among my cousins. Being on set is always fun. You meet a lot of exciting people and beautiful faces. The challenges are always fun. That evening, I wanted till 9pm before for my call which never came. Patience became my new name like the wife of Nigeria's former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. When he finally picked my incessant calls, he lied again that they had a setback on shooting that it would be done in the morning. He apologized for any inconvenience caused. The following day continued with the same story, there was no shooting. I was patiently waiting and calling him on phone like a lady that just found love in the hands of a big fish.

After that day, he called me to come for a final audition. Then I had the opportunity of entering the office he claimed to be his. It was like an education consult centre. He had just a corner to himself which he often vacated for another man. There were no cameras, just his usual old scripts like Professor Wole Soyinka's manuscripts of the old Lion and the Jewel novel. I only met a guy who happened to be my gay toaster on Facebook and then one female corper who was almost 'facially-challenged' I was not motivated at all. On seeing the gay guy I almost melted, I was sad. He gave me one stupid smile that almost got me weeping publicly. I am so straight. I love ladies so much. I have never imagined myself doing guys. As if that day was my doom's day. The so-called director asked me to pair up with him, he took us to a private classroom and told us to learn a very long script together within a time-frame of 20 minutes.

The gay guy smiled again and tried reconnecting our chat online with reality. I was irritated and shivering deep inside of me. I immediately told him how I borrowed money to come to Lagos for the job and how much I needed the job to pay my debts. He knew no jokes could be tolerated. We got down to business. To cut the story short, we learned the script so fast, he was quite a good actor. The job was easier. The director after watching us act and also switching side felt 'impressed'. He openly revealed he was considering us for very minor one-scene roles called 'Wakapass' but for the good performance, we would land lead roles. I was so happy. He called me privately to ask about my driving experience because I would be using an exotic car on set. He claimed to be scared of a possible damage. This was mind-blowing to me; I have always had the fantasy of playing comfortable roles that will highly exaggerate my societal status. He fixed the shooting for 4pm that day and we guys were asked to go home to get our belongings. The venue was set at the Ikeja Airport hotel swimming pool as the converging point.

I got home feeling great as usual, I updated my Facebook status showering praises on myself as one of the most talented guys from Ibadan. I got my things set and was ready to move. My cousin opted to drop me off at the hotel in the family's beautiful Toyota Camry 2.4 car in order to give me the reputation of a comfortable actor. It was indeed a great idea. My aunty who happens to be his mom begged me to wait for a couple of minutes and eat before going. She served me my food at the dining table. As I was about taking my second spoon of rice, I got a text message from the idiot of a director telling me that the shooting had been postponed again till the next 10 days.

It was as if my world was coming to an end. The bad news was TOO bad to share. It became obvious I was in a 'One Chance vehicle' (robbery vehicle). I couldn't laugh or cry. I broke the news to my cousins like a warrior on the battlefield. I had to collect extra money from my aunty and then left for Ibadan immediately. I just wanted to leave Lagos so as to feel sane again. Everything about Lagos started driving me mad. The amount is quite minute but why will a young man capable of doing something worthwhile with his time go through that enormous stress to scam. That little fund couldn't have boosted his standard of living in any way. Probably a massive scam of Lagosians could have been a hit for him. These were my thoughts as the Ibadan bus at Ojota car park got filled up gradually. My cousins kept calling one by one to offer their sympathy. I felt pitiful. It was a terrible experience.

I kept in touch with the director while I was in Ibadan but the game of excuses never stopped. Till date, he is yet to shoot it. He made the shooting seem like a terrorist attack like the unforgettable 9-11 attack on the World Trade centre which took the late world renowned terrorist several years to plan.

This is Lagos. You have to be smart and vigilant in order to avoid unscrupulous people who have decided to die in Lagos doing nothing rather than going back to their villages to practice subsistence agriculture.

Thanks for joining me on today's episode of 'Diary of an Ibadan hustler in Lagos’; I will share my second experience on the next episode. Lagos is indeed full of drama.
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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on smile2georgex@yahoo.com Phone number: +2347053302356.
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