Makoko, Lagos, April 2021. Photograph © Michael Runkel / Alamy
Right here in Lagos we’re approaching the tip of the so-called wet season (versus the so-called dry season). So-called as a result of why embrace the phrase ‘season’ within the first place? No one says the ‘winter season’ or the ‘summer time season’ however we’ve given up on our indigenous languages in favour of the English that colonised us and so wet season it’s. Nomenclature apart, it’s a welcome reduction from the regular build-up of warmth within the weeks earlier than the ‘little rains’ in April that farmers, particularly, would have been anxiously anticipating. The heavy rains peak in August, by which era the crops needs to be sufficiently properly rooted, barring a freak deluge, in a rustic the place anticipating issues is a handy avenue to ‘chop cash’ within the hope that Jesus, Muhammad or the Ancestors – we’re promiscuous in these issues – will postpone the evil day.
For town folks who comprise half of Nigeria’s 200 million folks, particularly these of us within the ‘overpopulated, opinionated, 21-million-bodied eye’, as Eloghosa Osunde describes Lagos, the response to the rains is combined. On the plus aspect, the cooler, windier, overcast climate means we will get a very good evening’s sleep. Followers and air-conditioners are little use when it’s scorching due to the intermittent energy provide, presently a fitful 4 hours a day. In my comparatively well-to-do neighbourhood we not less than have sufficient area for no matter air there’s to flow into. The one comfort for the greater than 80 per cent of town’s inhabitants who reside in overcrowded slums is that even the rich are complaining in regards to the skyrocketing price of diesel for personal turbines since Putin invaded Ukraine (don’t ask why Africa’s largest exporter of crude oil can be the most important importer of refined).
Wealthy and poor alike should additionally undergo the flooding that the rains convey to a metropolis already infamous for its ‘go-slows’ within the absence of the sunshine railway we had been promised in 2003. A heavy downpour will make many streets impassable, even in prosperous Victoria Island, the place in 2017 an oyibo (white) man was filmed paddling a kayak amongst half-submerged vehicles. It was an instantaneous hit on social media as a result of Lagosians, most of them younger (the imply age of Nigerians is 18), are sardonic about our many failings as a option to fend off despair: ‘Sharp man,’ tweeted Kate Henshaw, the Nollywood actor.
Because it occurs, town’s many creeks and lagoons – therefore Lagos, from the Portuguese for lakes – may resolve the visitors downside as soon as and for all, particularly through the rains. There are ferries that are theoretically each quicker and cheaper than going by street, however they usually break down and have been known to go the improper means and get misplaced within the bush. In observe, long-suffering commuters have little selection however to take a seat it out for hours on finish within the cramped yellow danfos (buses) with their hopeful slogans – ‘No Stress’, ‘God Dey’, ‘No Situation Is Everlasting’ – as they journey between work and residential, which could be in a slum submerged by overflowing gutters. Even when there isn’t flooding, the canals are choked with plastic bottles, Styrofoam containers and the ever-present ‘pure water’ sachets which can be among the many ten thousand tonnes of non-recyclable waste discarded every day.
On the flip of the century, after nearly thirty years of navy rule, an enlightened administration (comparatively talking) planted greater than 4 million timber in six years. Town is shockingly denuded of them regardless of being properly inside the tropical rainforest zone. However ‘Na flower I’m going chop?’ (‘I want meals not flowers’) was a depressingly common chorus initially of the initiative. No one now doubts the efficacy of it even when most have ignored the concomitant attraction for residents to plant not less than one tree in their very own compounds.
Not like the residents of Accra in neighbouring Ghana, few Lagosians appear inclined to take care of even a few pot crops for the sake of appearances. In my avenue of fourteen compounds, solely two of us have them; and but, with common temperatures between 24ºC and 33ºC all yr spherical, you possibly can have a backyard that by no means stops flowering. It’s through the rains that it actually comes into its personal although. I travelled in a foreign country for the month of June this yr and was greatly surprised by how lush the backyard had turn out to be on my return. The banana timber that nearly at all times shock first-time guests – bananas in Lagos? – had been particularly extravagant with their vast, overhanging leaves and stems bending beneath the load of the bulging bunches of fruit. We give away a lot of the bananas from our 5 timber earlier than they begin to rot within the excessive humidity (73 per cent in the beginning of July).
Nearly a 3rd of Nigeria’s 92 million hectares is arable; Bangladesh, with a comparable inhabitants, has solely 9 million. Nevertheless it’s reckoned that as much as half the tomato crop grown within the drier local weather within the north rots earlier than it reaches its principal market in Lagos due to the numerous checkpoints alongside the best way – ‘Mr Man, shake bodi’ – to say nothing of the toll taken by potholes on the threadbare tyres of overburdened vehicles.
Travelling across the nation, I’m at all times struck anew by the good mounds of fruit – mangos, melons, oranges, pineapples – bought for a pittance at main junctions by native girls. I as soon as slept over in a village – with properly swept compounds and designated locations for litter – and remarked on the closely laden orange tree on the entrance to my host’s compound. He laughed and mentioned he had tried offloading your entire crop in trade for a calabash of palm wine however no one was , all of them had their very own. Moreover, you could possibly hardly evaluate plucking an orange to the trouble of climbing a palm tree.
Not that every one palm timber must be climbed to be harvested. We have now two of the dwarf selection in our compound with their ground-level bunches of the purple kernels whose oil lubricated the economic revolution that led by a circuitous path to our colonisation, and with it our new-fangled seasons.
For myself, I favor the cooler wet season for the straightforward purpose that I work at home, which have to be like a dream for the numerous Lagosians obliged to battle the visitors each working day, however I’ll additionally take the warmth of the dry season any day earlier than the chilly of the winter season. It looks as if an indulgence that I can put on a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops (or toilet slippers, as we name them) all yr spherical as I recline on the balcony overlooking the backyard.
This piece is a part of the LRB’s collaboration with the World Weather Network.