Stalled in Lagos Traffic, The Area Boys Are Coming!

lagosAt the very end of a book I’ve twice typed into Twitter under #fridayreads: Ted Conover’s The Routes of Man.  He finishes his fifth road trip with a stop in Lagos, Nigeria. Because he’s heard that it’s one of the worse places on Earth for traffic problems, urban crime and other huge problems.  He takes a ride in a Danfo, a public van that’s  packed with citizens and he is the only white.

Then the van is riding down a road and they decide they have to turn around, the traffic is too backed up. As they are reversing to turn around, the van stutters, then dies.   Conover sees a Área boys inside the cloverleaf,  stop their soccer game,  and begin walking toward the van.  “They became very interested in us,’ he said.   As the boys begin jogging at him, passengers began yelling at the driver, to convey the urgency of the situation…

Then the van finally jumps to life, as the menacing boys are full stride. They are too far away, it starts, and the van zooms out of their reach, like it was escaping from snapping alligators in a cartoon.   These Area Boys are gang members who rob and steal to survive.  No one in Lagos is a more probable target than this white man. He breathes a sigh of relief, but the fear sticks with him for the rest of his time in Nigeria.