Living in Lagos State – My One Year Experience by Ita Mijinyawa
In the beginning
05 July 2018 marked the start of my next one year; with the receipt of my employment letter to work with the fun firm to work with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC); this particularly was a dream come true as all my time in university I had heard about the “Big 4” audit firms and I wanted to work in one of them. After several attempts at getting jobs at Access Bank, Saro Africa, Seplat Petroleum, Pal-Pensions; I had faith that all hope was not lost as I was yet to get any rejection mail from PwC and KPMG whom I was on their recruitment process. On 13 April 2018, I had my KPMG assessment center as part of the recruitment process – a three-hour long activity which in all sincerity went well but to my dismay on 16 April 2018, I got a mail from the HR, KPMG as usual that unfortunately they would not be proceeding on my application. A very sharp pain pierced through my heart. All hopes now lost but then I had just taken PwC verification test on 10 April 2018, a test I did not want to go for but thanks to an African mother’s push I went for the test and now this was my last hope of getting employment in 2018.
As it stands at this point, PwC was my last hope of employment as it was the current recruitment process I was on. To the glory of God, 2 May 2018 I got a mail of success at the verification test and an invitation to the assessment center for 15 May 2018. I was nervous, I never got feedbacks on why I was rejected at previous job interviews. But I was determined that no matter what it was, this time I was going to land this job. I spent several hours reading ‘common interview questions and answers’ from www.biginterview.com as well as watching YouTube videos on how to answer major interview questions. Sleepless nights as well as endless coaching sessions from friends – Stella Ezea, Arnold Adigwu, Precious Obiagwu, Abdullahi Adekanbi; you guys really brought that believe in me that I could land this job. And with their coaching, I arrived Lagos the night of Monday 14 May 2018 with high vigor and the believe that ‘we die there’ because actually I never wanted to have that feeling of being unemployed for a long time after my MSc in University of Ibadan. I was charged, I hardly could get any sleep that night as I continued to watch HR videos on how to answer interview question on YouTube and Abdullahi also was giving me drillings on composure, confidence and temper management. This went a long way in ensuring that I delivered on the D-day
Tuesday 15 May, 2018 was here and it was very eventful because I had planned to arrive early as the assessment center was scheduled to start by 8:30 am but unfortunately Lagos rain had other ideas, it rained up till 6:35am and you know how Lagos traffic could be; well I had no choice than to wait and after the rain had subsided I moved and thankfully there was no Lagos conductor troubles. I arrived at my interview venue at exactly 8:21am (at least I wasn’t late but I was the last to sign it). Walked into the waiting room and seeing the beautiful and handsome faces of fellow candidates I refused to be intimidated and remembered the encouraging words from Precious, Stella, Arnold and Abdullahi. By 9am the head of HR walked in and welcomed us to PricewaterhouseCoopers and offered us tea and biscuits to ease off. So the show started by 10 am and it definitely was a great time – from the group discussion to the panel interviews. I definitely had a swell time as I have equally enquired on how to handle group discussion; I hear it is usually a nice idea to present for your group as well as contributing meaningfully; this I ensured I incorporated in all I did on this day and by 11am we were done and next was the panel interviews (in order of first come, first serve). Definitely I was the last to come, so I was the last to be interviewed. I was fidgeting all through the waiting period – with the AC freezing my fingers and skull. I was extremely worried when candidates were with interviewers for over 80 minutes, I thought to myself – what will the questions likely be? I refused to be bothered and by 3:58pm after a torturous four hours plus wait, it was my turn eventually. Met with warm smiles and calm exchange of pleasantries. I was offered a seat and my session started. I honestly wasn’t even tensed as the panelist made it an amazing experience and by 4:23pm I was done. In my head, I am like was I boring or were they able to get what they desired within the short time? Be it as it may; they panelist asked if I had any question for them and I asked with a smile – how do you think I performed? And one of them goes “you will know when they HR gets back to you”. I smiled and appreciated their hospitality and that was it, this PwC had better come through #sigh
The wait was long because the interview sessions were scheduled from 7 May 2018 to 20 June 2018 and here I am having my interview on 15 May 2018 (so early ah swear). I tried several ways to get distracted and thankfully I had my MSc thesis which was keeping me busy and I consistently kept working at that, knowing that I must be done with my masters before any offer letter comes from PwC. I had a wavy period through that but to be very honest eventually I was able to finish my thesis on 24 August 2018. Well this is a story for another, as there were several backlashes with my supervisor but in the end we will all be fine.
Eventually the interview sessions finished by 20 June 2018 and it was time to start counting down to when the success mails will be rolled out by PwC HR. Fear gripped a number of us on the group page created for the candidates. Again, during this wait my birthday came on July 4 and actually I wasn’t even interested in any party because I was really thinking of so many ‘what ifs’ but then little did I know that actually Almighty God had a birthday gift in stock for me. On Thursday 5 July 2018 at exactly 5pm; I got a mail from PwC HR titled ‘Congratulations, you were successful at the last assessment center’ . Was this a joke? Was I dreaming? I swear to God, I was ecstatic, I ran the length and breadth of my house in amazement and super awry. My dream to work in one of the “Big 4” has finally come true or what? I never imagined this, I was wowed and could not hold back my tears as I was really overwhelmed. Put calls through to everyone who had helped me plus my family members motivation especially my mum who had pushed me to attend the verification test on 10 April 2018. It all ended in joy and happiness. Alhamdillulahi, this is the day that the Lord has made. Eventually I was soon to become an employee in a renowned global firm. I was thankful and jumat on Friday 6 July 2018 was filled with appreciation to Almighty Allah who has continued to be a “God of Second Chance” and then the journey began. It was another prayer hoping that my resumption date falls in the second batch – those scheduled for 2 October 2018 resumption. Lo and behold, on 9 July 2018 I went to pick up my offer letter alongside my fellow successful friends from UI – Femi Fab and Lolu. We were all excited about the new experience before us and eventually we picked the letters studied the offer and appended our signatures signifying acceptance of the offer and fortunately my resumption date was slated for 2 October 2018. I was happy, a time for me to wrap up on my thesis which I did in record time 24 August 2018 and also writing my last exams 3 September 2018. The beginning of a new era in my life and a time to actually become an adult yeah.
Moving to Lagos State – Land of milk and honey
A long month of august and September 2018 to prepare and re-orientate my mind on the reality that I was moving to Lagos; I dreaded actually having anything to do in Lagos. I have heard of the traffic at third mainland bridge, the crazy drivers and their impatience, the high rate of pickpocket and to mention other social vices. I had to put it to myself that – if I do not take up the challenge, I might forever be a weak adult. So I decided that I will move to Lagos a week before resumption date at PwC and on 21 September 2018, I had last series of discussions with the family and registering my fear about a new life and big thanks to my father for the push and believe that he was always going to be there for me. On Sunday 23 September 2018, I left the premises of University of Ibadan with the company of my mum and elder brother, Muhammed to Lagos. It was really an emotional 2 hours journey as the reality of not seeing my parents at will dawned on me and I had accepted fate. At 11:23 am we arrived at Mushin where I was going to be staying with Abdullahi (the latest oko iyawo); he accommodated me, and he did not want me to leave, I actually could not thank him enough because he has been really supportive through my life. I stayed here all through my time in training school (2 October 2018 to 31 October 2018) a period where I had to learn several things the hard way. Having to resume work before 8am so as to avoid being fined was a struggle because back then in Ibadan, nothing took me out of the house until 8am even during my time working at Rare Edge Media, Bodija. A perpetual habit, I have learnt now as the ease of waking up early these days come easy without any alarm clock.
At the training school, I met a host of people whom PwC had tagged ‘Best and Brightest” a brand name that makes every new joiner want to compete healthily, this was the thing that kept ringing in our head. During the period, we had a number of group activities – My group TEAM VERDANT emerged as winner on two of the weekly challenges (The Core Values Challenge and the PwC Strategy Challenge) earning us gifts and recognitions by the Learning and Development Unit of the firm. A wonderful time with the great video
director Okechukwu, Nnenna, David Alade, Saheed Alaya, Omotola Olayeni, Blessing Moradeyo, it was definitely a great time and way to get into the system being in a group with these great minds. Thank you for everything guys, we have made it this far, an anniversary in a bit. And I trust you guys have been enjoying work as well.
After the training period, full work starts and trust me it was still a struggle having to commute as early as 5:45am and also with the hint from Abdullahi on how to carry my laptop bag (in front of me, on my chest with a body hug); this sounded funny but coincidentally I see many people using the same security measure. Rowdy places like Oshodi would get you scared, thinking the whole of Lagos was let loose as early as 5:45am. Continually this process continued and to the glory of the Lord, I am still smiling and unhurt from any Lagos drama, I pray for continuous security and sanity because almost all my colleagues have been ‘Welcomed to Lagos State’ #chuckles
Slow and steady, I kept understanding the demands of my job and also the need to have proper nutrition but every time I ‘deceive’ myself that I would cook when I return home, I was always exhausted and many a times I go to bed in the night on empty stomach. This was becoming a routine such that days when I got to eat at night was a strange occurrence. Eventually I developed a working plan to be able to close early and arrive home early. But my people, no matter how early you have plan to leave work early, please always appeal to the gods of LAGOS TRAFFIC because they always have a counter plan. Mehn for several weeks I kept having knee cramps because these buses are hardly spacious (me and my long legs) and then we would be in traffic for several hours. I got fed up of this and decided to start looking for accommodation closer to the office, trust me this was an experience as things ranging from pricing to size of room to tenancy agreements were an experience to have and many at times I cry that I want to relocate to Ibadan but the stern reality was that Lagos is a land of opportunities, what do you want to go back to Ibadan for?
The real hustler life in Lagos State
On 2 November 2018, I started my house search. This became a weekend hobby as the search for accommodation in Lagos was actually an employment opportunity #laughs which definitely needed no formal recruitment process. We the new occupants of Lagos state voluntarily offered ourselves to the housing corporation and definitely we enjoyed our tenure during the employment (search for houses). I found a number of houses around Palmgrove, Onipanu, Yaba, Oniru. In fact at that time I was really of the desire to get a room and parlor self contain and I wanted to stay alone without any flat mate or room mate but again Lagos landlords had other ideas – one of which was the high exorbitant pricing and the demand for two years house rent up front. I was in shook because if you were asking me for say N250, 000 for two years, that’s N500,000 well I can do that and as an economist, calculating my net present value of future cashflow that will be reasonable transaction to carry out but no LANDLORDS OF LAGOS had brilliant ideas. I got a very nice room and parlour spacious at Oniru, Lekki at N900, 000 (N750, 000 rent and N150,000 agreement and commission to agents fee) but the landlord was asking for two years payment, meaning that as a two month old fresh employee in Lagos state for me to get comfortable accommodation , I had to be ready to part with N1.8 million which off course if you use a valuer on my assets (which don’t exists) and my worth – I cannot even be up to N500, 000 at that time. I was really bitter and mentioned to the landlord that this was never going to happen in Ibadan and that with N1.8 million I would be paying house rent for a three bedroom flat for at least six years, he flared up and sparked saying “oga dey go your Ibadan, na Lagos be this. If you no get money, dey go”. Well I did not get angry instead I responded saying “better soup, na money kill am”. I left that place and after about a month of voluntary employment to LANDLORDS OF LAGOS I gave up my search and decided to just be patient after all it is not like I had the money begging to be spent, na loan I go still collect from popsy. I continued to stay in my host (Abdullahi’s house) for the remainder of December 2018. In between, I saw other houses for rent, but to be very honest, the size of these houses were worse than Musa’s guard room #sigh. Work took me to Ibadan and Ilorin throughout the yuletide break and in one of those days, my colleague Lateef Asiru contacted me informing me of a two bedroom apartment he had gotten and felt we could share; local man was super excited and jumped at the offer even before sighting the house (but well since in Lagos except you are a big man, you definitely need to share housing cost; I had no choice).
On 13 January 2019, I visited the accommodation Lateef had gotten at Ebute Metta, to be very honest the house is very nice but the environment is very disheartening. Upon getting there with another of my friends’ Ibrahim. We immediately noticed the generator directly under the window of the room I had chosen to stay and in no time, we registered our discomfort with the position of the generator. My neighbor told me that he did not have money and that if we could help him with some cash, he will cut the cage and move it to the position we desired. I shrugged off such comment and decided to just stare at him and sadly that wasn’t resolved but then light was good then so I decided to move on and just move into the house. Abdullahi and Ibrahim asking me severally before moving in a week later if I would be comfortable with a flat mate, if I would be comfortable with the generator noise. Indeed, they were only looking out for me but instead I just wanted to leave my host side as he had tried enough hosting me but he wasn’t complaining but just had to move out by my standards. To be very honest, it has been a very torturous experience. But Lagos has taught us to be strong hearted and adaptative.
The week following this inspection, I moved into my new accommodation on 20 January 2019, a day filled with mixed feelings because typically it was the first time I would be staying all by myself. Thoughts about how I would survive feeding, how I was going to be waking up early for prayers, how I was going to be able to control the kind of visitors I entertained all crossed my mind; but I mentioned to myself that in the end “guy you go dey alright”. So life continued and living with Lateef has had its on and off days yeah but the most important lesson learnt is that one must learn to tolerate people and that way you will find out those bad habits you think a friend has are only mere scripts in your head. Everybody is nice and sweet all they need is someone understanding that people have good and bad times. A lesson I have picked and superimposed into my day at work and in my communication with friends outside of work. Lagos has taught me that you cannot have it all, you may have money and have a good house but have senseless neighbors and you could also be broke and afford a square room and then have sanity around. In the Lagos, anything can happen honestly. At least for now the housing issue has been resolved but honestly I am in sifia pains with the way my neighbor blasts his generator and I am tired of complaining. Somebody please help a brother?
The joy I derive with where I stay is my ease of commuting to anywhere be it on the island or mainland. But my greatest distaste with how transport system in Lagos works is with the way there is a rush for buses in the early part of the day or late evenings. I use to do “fresh boy” and say I am never going to be rushing to buses and that whenever a bus ‘meant for me’ comes; I will be careful to join the rush because again the hastiness for bus is an avenue for those “Welcome to Lagos” gang members to give you a proper ceremony. I continued with this patience for bus and relaxation at the bus stops until this fateful day. On 1 March 2019, after closing from work at Lekki Phase One, I intended boarding a bus from Lekki to Obalende and in my usual way I was doing patient man, I stood here for over 90 minutes and I asked myself “oh boy you no go rough this thing?”. Mehn that was the beginning of the spirit of “we die here” entered my body in this Lagos oh and I think now I am overdoing it now sef. On 20 September 2019; I still remember using my long leg to block the entrance to the front seat of this Toyota Camry and when I got it, everyone was looking at me with one kian bad eyes and I just ignored them jaare, did they know how long I had been waiting? PS: In this Lagos, if you no wan wise, you go wise by force oh. Another day asides battling for space in a bus, it is the hike in fee which these drivers do with ease then tell you eh road dey blocked. In my head I am like so what exactly are we paying the extra N100 for? But then you know, I am just speaking grammar I would still enter the bus. If the drivers are not hiking prices, they are ensuring that you forget your change (I advice you always have the exact amount of fare) or they are “marrying” you to get your change; meaning pairing you with someone else whom you do not know from Adam o. Life in Lagos is just fast paced and the moment you start speaking grammar, they will just use their intimidating Yoruba to finish you – you go just humble my dear. Whenever my friends relocate to Lagos and just complain of traffic, the buses and all I just smile and tell them this was me one year ago and like I have learnt in Lagos; I tell them don’t worry YOU WILL BE FINE
Shine ya eyes for Lagos babes oh
How would this story be complete without sharing my experience with the Lagos goddesses (meaning Lagos girls). I smile often time within the last one year, when I tell my female friends that I was still single and they go – Lagos where girls plenty? well. Hian, these ones everything is possible to happen oh, there is just a “price tag”. If you are ready to spend my guy, you can have all the comfort you want and more. I actually had my fair share of their excesses, so I met this aunty via Instagram and then asked to meet up with her at my place, she mentioned that she was busy. I noticed she wasn’t actually busy and I was presenting the wrong venue to her, I decided to change it to Domino’s Pizza, Yaba – yes your guess is correct, she immediately became UNBUSY and boom in a jiffy we were together. This is just one out of the many Lagos aunties experiences I have gotten. Mind you, I am not condemning these acts but I most times desire that we have a symbiotic relationship. Because it is not possible that she would pay the bills when we go out because I was the one clamoring for the outing. So my point is, when he keeps funding outings, what does he get in return? Again sex is not the only gain for spending, just so you know. But many at times, what they probably say is that their presence is just enough. In this Lagos, if you no wise, you go spend all your salary on UNILAG and YABATECH ladies. A word of advice to my guys, if you come Lagos as an engaged man pray you don’t loose it sha (because you go see ladies, you go confuse eh) and when you come in as a single man, that your “hold body” wey dey worry you, you go spill in a jiffy – after all, Lagos is a land of milk and honey, a land of opportunities.
On a concluding note
Life in Lagos in the last one year has been interesting and challenging. Although, I would have sworn that I did not ever dream of working in Lagos. But the search for greener pastures brought me here and indeed it has been a tasking one but we have survived thanks to Almighty God. It is actually an experience I cannot regret having – the last one year has been a redefining phase of my life and it is expectant that things get better but people help me oh as I dey write this piece; this generator noise here want to kill me oh! I cannot cry again .. Oh Lord come down and save me #tears
If you no wise for Lagos, my people wetin you gain? I am a happy resident of Lagos now and I have forgotten that I never wanted to move here, I love it here now.
The author of the article is a first degree and second degree holder of economics from the University of Ibadan. Currently working as an auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Victoria Island, Lagos State and with lingering passion for writing and theatre production. For follow ups on the post and other gist, call or WhatsApp Ita Mijinyawa on +234 813 345 9046