Lagos! The city that will make or mar you. The city of unrivaled splendor and lofty ambition! Where dreams come true one day and nightmares can become your reality overnight. In this town, your network is truly your net worth because who you know is often just as important as what you know. There’s been a lot of talks recently about the one percent of the one percent. Who they are, what they do, how they live, and what makes them so revered. I hear many of you asking, “Who are the 1%?” but if you even have to ask then you certainly don’t belong to the club. You see, there’s a belief that Nigeria’s wealth is controlled by 1% of the population but the social scene is run by yet an even smaller fraction of that. Everything about them is news. What they wear, who they date, where they holiday, who they marry, what she got as a push gift, what her ring looked like, who made her wedding dress…we are obsessed with their lives, and thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, everyone gets a front-row seat to witness it all.
I was born in Lagos and have lived in this city all my life save a six-year stint at boarding school. I’ve traveled across Nigeria and visited over 15 states but I know in my heart that I will always call this city home. One of my earliest recollections of the Bling Lagosian lifestyle was in the early 90s on a visit to an aunt’s house with my mum and sister. Aunty Mimi was one of the Lagos elite married to a handsome playboy and had a gorgeous home. Everything was white, gold, and resplendent, the house temperature was a controlled coolness. Everywhere was immaculate and quiet, a real ajebutter residence. Lunchtime was announced with a bell and we proceeded to the dining room where the table was set. We took our seats and I wondered why there was no food on our plates because you see in our own house, you went into the kitchen, picked up your plate of food, and filed out to eat whatever had been dished. No mede-mede variety, no selection or complaints otherwise you were automatically forfeiting your food till the next mealtime. My thoughts were cut short by my aunt’s voice “Chef, you may commence with the serving of the okro’. Hey God! I turned my neck to see what was happening… an army of stewards was upon us, offering different types of swallow, soups, meats, and other delicacies with the precision of an elite fighting squad. I’d never seen anything like it but I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut and wait till I got home to ask my mum why aunty Chidinma our nanny could not dress up in such a fine white uniform and bring out our food from the kitchen when it was ready. I’m sure any 80s kid here would know exactly how that conversation turned out, a beating galore (Why mummy, why?). I would grow up to understand that there is nothing wrong in enjoy slivers of the good life when it is presented before you but a comparison of one’s life to a point of resentment and ingratitude would lead to self-destruction eventually. By all means, want more for yourself but be ready to work hard and make even harder sacrifices but most of all accept responsibility for your actions on your way to the top. Oh, I would also later discover that Aunt Mimi’s husband was a reckless man who did drugs, beat her, put his whole family at risk, and eventually went broke. How’s that for the rich also cry?
You see there’s something about the pecking order in Lagos that forces you to level up and reach for more. Back in the university of Lagos, there were two sets of guys, those in the exclusive clubs (fraternities) RHO, FOADS, EXCEL, and ABC, and the rest of them. These club boys were the toast of campus…handsome, stylish, cool, bad, bougie, influential, popular, and connected. They dated the prettiest girls and drove the nicest cars in school too and they threw legendary parties. I remember someone telling me one day how she pitied one particular classmate of hers because he was broke and need to buy fuel in his Honda Skirach because he needed to have his windows up when driving up school, apparently if he was caught by a club official or senior member with his window down, he would be fined and 3 infractions would land him a suspension thereby demoting him from a godlike campus status to mere mortal. His club’s unspoken motto was beg, borrow or steal plus he had already driven around campus twice without the AC on and the window up but it was hot and he was beginning to feel lightheaded. My friend told me she was sick of lending him money because he was in heavy debt to her and the possibility of getting her money back was nonexistent! I howled with laughter because at that moment I totally understood my mother’s words about self-destruction.
The Bling Lagosian culture calls for faking it till you make it, keeping up with the Joneses (and the Kardashians), incurring debts to fund holidays, weddings and international births, rolling out in Range Rovers and an empty fuel tank while clad in white native, Cartier rimless glasses, Rolex watches and assaulting our senses with the strongest Arabian Oud. Why? Because it’s what the people want! It’s far more fascinating to watch the flash and be dazzled by the razzmatazz than accept a mundane life devoid of excitement. Because you see, we are all guilty- the 1 and the 99 percent in this Eko. You may not be into the fake life but you’ll sure as heck accept an invitation from one and show up too, dressed to the nines because on some level these things are important, after all if you cannot wow them, let them at least not see us finish. These days, going by Instagram it would seem we are all successful, happy, fabulous, living our best lives without a single hair out of place and just winning! And it is indeed okay to project all that positivity but like all things in life, moderation is necessary to steer us to reality and away from fantasyland. I’m reminded of the Instafamous blogger who recently went as far as posing in front of a new completed building, claiming it was hers and coming up with the standard faux deep captions that we’ve come to accept when these fantastical posts are made. We watched with twisted fascination how the whole story crumbled away like a packet of expired shortbreads and the disgrace that ensued as the true owner of the house flew back from China to claim his property and set the record straight. The depths to which this debacle sunk needed just two more feet before it would have struck crude. Last month in New York, a 28 year old lady by the name Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin) was convicted for fraud and sentenced to 4-12 years. For years, she had pretended to be a German heiress with a trust fund, lived in expensive hotels, partied with the rich and famous of Manhattan and even dated sons of the elite class! Truth is she was a Russian immigrant who had conned a bank out of a $100,000 loan which she never paid back and was first arrested in July 2017 for absconding from two luxury hotels, leaving behind bills in thousands of dollars as well as a lunch bill of under $200 dollars at a fancy restaurant.
Were there lessons to be learned here? Definitely. Were those lessons learned though? Highly unlikely because you see the true 1% of the one the 1% are unrepentant in their pursuits and undaunted in the face of disaster or disgrace. Don’t believe me? Then you will want to watch the Bling Lagosians, Bolanle Austen Peters’ directing debut that chronicles the lives of the Holloways, one of Lagos’ most prestigious families. They holiday in Europe, dress like royalty, hobnob with the political class and own the city’s most luxurious high-rise, St. Ives Towers. Their family name is a synonym for class and poise. When MOPELOLA HOLLOWAY (50), the sophisticated matriarch of the family, announces that she’s throwing a flamboyant party for her fifty-first birthday – to top the headline-making shindig she threw the year before for her fiftieth – she unwittingly sets a series of events into motion that will have repercussions far from pleasant for the Holloway household. The movie stars Elvina Ibru, Gbenga Titiloye, Osas Ighodaro Ajibade, Sharon Ooja, Alex Ekubo, Monalisa Chinda, Toyin Abraham, Denola Grey, and many more. It starts showing in cinemas nationwide on June 28th. Avoid the “Sold Out” news and book ahead.