By Oge Obi
It’s 7:25 in the morning and I have arrived the station just in time to catch the next train to my office in Victoria Island. I look up to the board to see that the next train is due in exactly 10 minutes.
Efficient is an understatement to describe the bullet trains on the Yellow Line of the Lagos light rail. They have made people abandon their cars, not to beat traffic which just doesn’t exist anymore in the city, but because everyone is simply spoilt for choice. High speed trains, double-decker BRTs, lush ferries and super smooth roads for those who still insist on driving their cars.
Today, there are no hot guys around to make eye contact with while I wait for my train, so I turn up the volume of my music player and allow my thoughts wander.
I pace around for a bit then I decide to get my morning fix – Maishai tea – my favourite food kiosk in the train station.
“Well done o, usual please”, I say to Audu, who proceeds to show off his tea mixology skills. He holds two cups in his hands, one empty and one filled with creamy tea just how I like it, then he raises the one containing the tea high above his head and empties its contents into the cup in his other hand balanced on his hip. He does this three more times while I record the entire thing on my phone. Instagram content for the day, check! Audu hands me my tea in a fancy paper cup that would give Starbucks a run for its money.
Ecstatic. That’s how I feel every Wednesday ever since Nigeria reduced the national work week from five to three. We no longer have to hustle to put food on our tables because the government says we are now a rich nation. All debts have been paid off and our foreign reserves are touching $1 trillion, thanks to our industrial and service exports that dominate Africa and are increasingly in demand globally.
Every last Wednesday of the month is also the day I receive my welfare alert and this should have entered by the time I get back home. This has been the norm since the President approved a monthly welfare cheque of N400,000 to be paid to all unemployed and mid to low income earners in the country. Again, we are just that rich a nation.
That N400,000 incidentally, is now worth $2,500 because the USD-NGN exchange rate has come down to $1- N160 after the government embarked on an aggressive export promotion drive some years back. Gone are the days of border closure, banning Twitter, Buy-Naija-To-Grow-The-Naira, shaking down businesses and North Korea CBN policies.
The government spent years building huge industrial parks and cheap modern housing all over the country, then it built a nationwide network of high speed rail lines and superhighways. The Niger River was dredged and Onitsha became the second busiest port in West Africa, boosting exports and adding over $100bn on its own to Nigeria’s GDP. Nigeria is an economic supercar right now and the whole world wants to drive it.
As it happens, these N400k alerts will stop coming next month as I will be quitting my job soon to become a tech sis – not as an employee but as the founder of my own tech company. The days of witch-hunting tech companies in Nigeria are far behind us. These days, the government is actively seeking out local disrupters to partner with and export across the world. Who knows, my company might just be next in line.
Shoot! I forgot to take out the jollof rice from the fridge before leaving for work. This new Nigeria of 24 hours electricity is clearly still growing on me. “I’ll just order pizza for dinner”, I say in my head.
Our national heroes – the young men and women massacred at the Lekki tollgate – must be beaming with smiles in whichever Heaven they are in. This is the Nigeria they fought and died for.
The train finally arrives but wait a minute, this does not in any way look like the sleek, high speed train I was expecting. It’s a rickety yellow and black bus, with a young man whose pants are sagged so low I can see his butt crack, hanging by the door and screaming out names of bustops.
“Ajah Lekki Ajah, wole pelu change e, enter with your change. N500, N1000 ma wole o!”
I heave a deep sigh, turn down the volume of Tony Tetuila’s 2004 hit song, ‘E go better’ which I had been listening to on repeat all the while and join the rest of the crowd scrambling to get into the danfo bus.