If there ever was a Nigerian dream, Lagos would easily be the land where those dreams came to life. The urban and semi-rural blend in this city is commendable not quite because it is seamless but because its divides are crystal clear enough to subconsciously put everyone in their places in an auto pilot format.
However, because Lagos is a land of dreams, the ability to cross over either of the divides is strongly tied to one’s ability to sell: sell their dreams, sell their wares, sell their souls, sell anything sellable in a disgustingly persistent manner, and rightly packaged, to the ‘right’ divide. And there’s no salesman more persistent and well versed in the wiles and antics of a salesman than the ones on the streets of Lagos or the maestros in a certain capital territory.
While the former tries to cross the barrier into ‘higher’ realms, the latter seeks to permeate the divide leading into the lower cadres, each selfishly out for their own gains.
The first rule of a Lagos street salesman – strut the best wares in your possession or present the worst ones in the best possible light. Like the ‘change’ Nigerians are usually quick to give out to street beggars in the hopes that they have done something good for their souls and their nation.
The second rule of a Lagos street salesman – persistence. The fact that you’ve signaled to one does not mean you are buying. So five others come along, crowding around your window and shoving their articles of trade in your face even if they do not match the quality of your initial interest. It’s like expressing the desire to rule a group of people over and over again and when you finally get a chance, you take flight to an undisclosed location like an undercover FBI agent.
And if in eventuality you do make one purchase, there are chances that in your black, intimidating Range Rover is a bag of excess cash looking to find expression in lavish and unwarranted expenses. Persistence.
The day is almost over and it’s time to take stock and retire for the day. A Lagos salesman knows how to treat himself right and commensurate with his earnings for the day because of the third rule of a Lagos salesman – save for the rainy day. Sadly, the latter group of salesmen have hardly any regard for this rule. At the end of the day, fun treats are never commensurate with earnings, always bloated, like an overstuffed teddy.
Lagos is a land of dreams, of constant flight and movement, of growth and survival of the fittest. If Nigeria were to grow and be governed at the pace that Lagos has been in the last few years, these salesmen may never have been the subject of this piece. And there would be no need for an Acting President or the ridiculousness of discovering billions of naira stashed away in an even more ridiculous hideout in a country looking to borrow N2 trillion to fund its budget.
Photography: JoeyJayJunior for Amore