Lagos will not court you. It is a city that is what it is. I have lived part-time in Lagos for 10 years and I complain about it each time I return from my home in the US — its allergy to order, its stultifying traffic, its power cuts. I like, though, that nothing about Lagos was crafted for the tourist, nothing done to appeal to the visitor. Tourism has its uses, but it can mangle a city, especially a developing city, and flatten it into a permanent shape of service: the city’s default becomes a simpering bow, and its people turn the greyest parts of themselves into colourful props. In this sense, Lagos has a certain authenticity because it is indifferent to ingratiating itself; it will treat your love with an embrace, and your hate with a shrug. What you see in Lagos is what Lagos truly is.
And what do you see? A city in a state of shifting impermanence. A place still becoming. In newer Lagos, houses sprout up on land reclaimed from the sea, and in older Lagos, buildings are knocked down so that ambitious new ones might live. A street last seen six months ago is different today, sometimes imperceptibly so — a tiny store has appeared at a corner — and sometimes baldly so, with a structure gone, or shuttered, or expanded. Shops come and go. Today, a boutique’s slender mannequin in a tightly pinned dress; tomorrow, a home accessories shop with gilt-edged furniture on display.