24-hours in Lagos

Posted on March 15, 2015


“Twenty-four hours in Lagos sounds like a film title,” said my friend B from Bozeman.

“Yeah well it was a rather a surreal experience,” I replied in my whatsapp message “Especially as I was only in north Africa two days earlier.

I had got back to London on Friday night from Morocco and by Monday evening I was back at Heathrow and boarding a Virgin Atlantic flight to Nigeria. 

Arise News – the channel I broadcast for – was launching on two satellite stations that are widely used in Africa. DsTV and GoTV.com. It hopes that by securing a channel on these two platforms it means the company will now be attracting more advertising revenue and investment. The station was going live on Monday late afternoon in Nigeria and the boss wanted a contingent from London to be at a launch party that night to network with the whos-whos from the world of business in Lagos. I’m not one to turn down a free plane ticket or a party so I jumped at the chance and volunteered to go.

Myself and one of the correspondents agreed to rendez-vous at check-in desk and then go eat before boarding, as plane food is revolting and it depresses me. I walked up to the economy desk and showed my email which I received only a short few hours before. As I was lifiting my suitcase onto the scales the blonde behind the counter stopped me.

“Errm Madame you need to go further down,” she said motioning with her hand.

“Ah ok, sorry and thanks” I said removing my luggage. “Wow that’s nice we’re flying Premium Economy,” I thought not even looking at the print out.

A few desks down, I stopped and again I handed over the paper.

This time a brunette squinted and smiled. “Wrong desk you’re further down Madame,” she said tilting her head. My brow furrowed and I pursed my lips together.

I looked right and saw the sign ‘Upper Class’. It took a few minutes to register but it suddenly dawned on me for the first time in my life I would be turning left when I entered the aircraft. Holy f***ing crap!!!!! I am flying first class!!!!!!

I was so excited I almost did a gig on the spot right there and then. A year of travelling in-direct economy clearly meant this was gonna feel even more special than it was already. Had I realised my good fortune I would have arrived four hours earlier to enjoy the lounge. “Right no need to eat now love, the food will be amazing!!” I winked at my friend who I had found.

The flight was just six hours. I have never wished a flight was longer. We were given matching black jim-jams. The girls of course changed immediately and we looked like Charlie’s Angels Ninjas. My Skin-Twin (she has the complexion of alabaster) and I ate dinner together at a proper table, we started at the bar, got drunk and then worked through the wine list as we consumed a three course meal followed by cheese and port! With less than 40minutes to go before we landed I crashed into my bed. Yes a bed and passed out. Everyone else had gone to bed hours earlier. We were like a couple of naughty children playing truant.

The crew on this flight were amazing. All young and enthusiastic and so very sweet. Michelle my stewardess gently woke me after what felt like just 5 minutes and served up breakfast. “I could get used to this,” I mused as I struggled to gauge we were in West Africa and I was still tanked up.

Ebola has been in the headlines and it is something that everyone is well aware of in West Africa. We were all checked, temperature taken and a sticker whacked on the back of our passports with the words EBOLA screening in caps glaring at you.

“Hmm hope that doesn’t cause issues elsewhere when I land in another country,” I thought. On arrival the Nigerian authorities also expect you to have a Yellow Fever certificate. Except this is bull****, because if you know the right people this is waived. I was the only person in my party of 9 that had one and everyone got through after a little protesting and cajoling. The boss had rung ahead.

Immigration was a bore. It was 30 degrees at 5am and I was wearing cashmere with a prickly detox sweat coming out of me in a hot office with a useless fan circulating hot air. We had to wait two hours for our documents to be processed before we could leave. Patience is something you learn to develop in this continent. TIA – This Is Africa! The 30-day visa costs 185 dollars per person, astronomical. It’s only 25 quid to get in and our of Uganda. This price is 20 dollars cheaper if you pay by credit card as Nigeria is trying to become more of a cashless society due to fraud and money laundering issues.

Once outside our dusty minibus chugged up spluttering a cloud of black diesel from its exhaust. The white paint work now a murky brown and the windows cracked and stained. It had seen better days. It reminded of those old buses that get blown up in films by suicide bombers. “I do hope this is not a sign,” I pondered.

The drive to the hotel was long mainly because of traffic. The scenery was really interesting. We passed local markets, the slums are all littered with DsTV satellite dishes poking out of the tin roofs; even in poverty television is a must have. We then crossed Nigeria’s longest bridge dodging the hawkers in the traffic and we saw Nigeria’s answer to Canary Wharf before reaching Victoria Island.

Our digs were at the upmarket Eko Hotel. A typical corporate looking chain of hotels but very expensive for Lagos and let me tell you at £45 per person for lunch they are not wrong. The hotel was full. After breakfast and lots of coffee I decided to throw on a bikini catch some rays and sweat out the remaining alcohol by the pool.

Outside was an away day for a telecommunications company. There by the pool were four large speakers blaring out distorted sound. Yup for four hours I listened to really bad singing and really bad singing in both English and Nigerian followed by a dance off competition which was so cringeworthy i was compelled to move closer for a giggle. 

The evening event was glamourous. Thankfully I had assumed it would be even though there was no hint from the big man. In fact he had put the phone down on me the day before when I called to ask if it was a “posh do”. Left me gobsmacked and my mate in hysterics. I did bing a sexy frock and heels with me. I am one of their anchors so I did have to look the part. There were lots of skinny model-looking Nigerian girls with a lot of bling, distinguished looking older men in suits with a mobile clamped firmly to one ear and a hand automatically outstretched ready to network.

Snacks circulated the room and like a tiger shark I followed the waiters swooping in to hoover up the canapes. It was also an open bar with every branded bottle available and Verve flowing. I posed for a picture with Africa’s richest man  – Aliko Dangote – at the time of the picture he was worth $25bn. Now with the fall of the Naira and crash in oil his personal wealth has had $5bn wiped out. Crazy. 

The party was a lot of speeches and as I was representing Arise I refrained from getting hammered instead collecting lots of businesses cards and finding myself sounding like a rather well-versed PR machine for Arise News. Was I being sucked in? I really hope this is a positive step for the station which has been plagued with financial woes from the off set. I’m still not 100 per cent convinced, following a turbulent start to the year but I’d like to think there is too much resting on this project to allow it to fail….!!

By about midnight I found myself flagging, I turned to my crew and muttered something about bed and there was a chorus of protestation followed by ribbing. I’d like to point out that these whippersnappers have 10 years on me and hadn’t just done a 3 week non stop tour around Morocco followed by two 4am starts back-to-back at the weekend followed by a boozed-up flight.

By 8am I was back at the airport eating cereal guzzling water and waiting to board the flight home. I would have loved to have stayed and explored the country but that night was my father’s 70th birthday party and my mother would kill me if I didn’t show. Next time, I really do hope we survive long enough so there is a next time…..