The Day Snow Fell in Lagos

No Comments » September 24th, 2007 posted by // Categories: General Articles

It started to snow from 2am and it didn’t stop until 4am. Being a delicate (some say dangerous) city, no one was awake at that time except a few groups of people who must work at night. Among these groups are the men in masks. In the believing minds of these masked men; they were sure that the God of the innocent people in bed was watching afterall. They could not withstand the cold and snowfall. So for the first time in their tumultuous career, they retreated before it was too late for them. They would have frozen to death. The nurses at the various hospitals could not explain what was happening to the patients or to one another. Silence and panic ran simultaneously in their minds. The security guards on Marina road and elsewhere ran to get warmth and shelter.

That night, for the first time in a thousand nights, Lagosians unconsciously found a reason to close their windows. It was cold inside even though there was no electricity to power the blades of the fans and ACs. It was unusually cold, yet many people did not even think about looking out through the windows while closing them. Instead, more blankets were retrieved from the closets here and there.

It was midweek: traders and civil servants must set out as early as 5am. Danfo drivers and molue drivers must wake up, many of them only get about 4-5 hour sleep everyday. It is hard to make ends meet. Alas! Practically no one could get out of their homes that day. The snow measured 15cm from level surface, they had to use the best toro snow blowers to clear the entrances of the homes. That was a lot! Many were shocked and confused. Some went back to bed hoping to wake up from their nightmares later. But it was not to be. It is true, it had snowed in Lagos: this defiled all geographical or meteorological explanations.

The homeless people could not escape this judgment that came to town unannounced.  Painfully, they froze to death, all of them. Even many people inside their houses were freezing but they stayed alive using all the blankets and warm clothes at their disposal. For the first time in their lives, Lagosians appreciated the warmth that the sun brings yet they have always tried to shield themselves from it. The sun will not come to Lagos at midnight.

Everyone was certain that this was going to be a work free day. Lagosians have always believed that they must hustle everyday. They bustle through life daily, like it is normal. They are convinced that is how life should be. Apart from the strikes called by the Labour or announcements to stay at home for predetermined elections, Lagosians never believed in holidays. Getting an annual leave is difficult and some jobs do not even have off days.

That morning (with many strapped in 5 to 6 clothes) confusion reigned supreme in Lagos. Everything and everyone stood still. The whole of Lagos has been taken over by snow and there was no one to stand up to it. Television and radio stations were running of course; people who worked on night shifts would have to continue for as long as possible. No one could drive and there were no danfos on the roads. Additionally, there are no winter tyres to carry on and no one was sure of where the roads started or ended. This has been difficult even without snow. Even the bold danfo and molue drivers could not dare the steering wheels. Firstly, there are no passengers and secondly their knowledge of the canyons and pot holes was sufficient that they would be heading for a suicide mission. Emergency services were virtually absent as all flights into and out the airport were suspended.

People could still move around in their neighborhoods but such movements were very restricted and were only undertaken when necessary. No food canteens were opened so people were forced to cook in their homes and those who have not been in that habit swore loud. It was easy to trade blames when nobody has been paying attention to the needs at home. No one could play busy today. Some children cried for food as desperations set it in some homes. On a day like this, everyone appreciated the importance of having dry/stored food at home. However, not everyone could sustain that wish.

The midday sun that appeared was appreciated more than all the miracles in the churches and mosques since the 1980s when religion became a means to wealth and deceits. After 2 hours of intense sunlight, the unexpected snow was no match for the tropical heat. The ice melted and everywhere was wet but at least people heaved a sigh of relief. Lagosians are used to the resultant flood. There was no rapture and the world has not ended afterall. Gradually, life returned to normal but it was too late to start any hustling now. Millions of people including the area boys, the agberos, the under-age pure water hawkers and even the police check points took that day off. Those on essential services went about their normal duties. Traffic was light (but clumsy due to the flood) and life was relatively easy on Lagos roads. The governor addressed the state around 6pm but many people didn’t care about the speech.

Instead, Lagosians gathered at various spots. The temperature was perfect resulting from a blend of the midnight snow and midday sunshine. Smokers found good reasons to warm their internal organs. As they gather over drinks and under fumes from cigarettes, many elderly people worried and argued on theories that brought snow to Lagos. No one won the arguments but those who spoke loudest were people who have sojourned abroad especially those who have experienced snow. There was a particular man who was going around with a picture he had taken in 1975 when he visited the Soviet Union for a 2 weeks course and it had snowed on him then. He felt his time had come to explain more about his experiences then. He spoke about the trucks and tractors that are used to remove snow and that never had life stopped for a minute before in places where there is real winter. That man could have spoken forever but NEPA took light. People became discouraged and left the bar immediately. This is why the youth preferred the sports bar. They cannot sacrifice the champions’ league games for any kind of speech, be it from a governor or an excited pensioner.

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