Sleepless in Nigeria

Ali Baba and the 40 winks

The stress levels in Nigeria can reach alarming levels. In no other nation on earth, could you experience the joys and frustrations of living at the same time. You could be stuck in gridlocked traffic, look out of your car window and see an act that would make you smile or cry – like complete strangers helping a driver to jump-start a faulty car.  

We deal with so much in a typical day – traffic scrambles, work, business hustles, power outages etc etc. Insomnia, while it is a word that most may have heard about, is not something that you would ascribe to the typical Nigerian.

Here, it is presumed that once you have a roof over your head and can afford a decent Mouka or Vitafoam ‘mattrass’, then you should be able to catch 40 winks. If you  buy and lay a bed,  then you should lie on it and shut your eyes.  Only ‘winches’ and ‘armed robbers’ stay awake at night. Okay, noodles/mai-shy (fried egg) sellers do too, especially in the Obalende and Ojuelegba areas. In Naija, we also used to have ‘night-soil men’ who packed faeces from homes for a fee in a huge bucket, but ‘soak-away’ (septic tank) people have replaced them in most urban areas. Those night-soil men used to operate in the dead of the night because their job was really gross. Heaven help you, if you laughed or snickered at them, as they carried their load in a huge pan on their head. They would usually send a few your way.

However, I find myself up nowadays, sleepless and anxious, starring at the roof tiles and the swoosh of my Binatone ceiling fan. There are many things that would keep someone awake on a hot Nigerian night. There are many; please share yours:

  • Baygon and Shelltox defying mosquitoes singing in my ear and biting lumps out of me – I can’t go to sleep.
  • Noisy inconsiderate neighbors having an Owambe party on the street, with Ayefele music blasting from huge speakers – I can’t go to sleep
  • ‘Man Shall Not Live By Bread’ Ministries holding a ‘By Fire, By Thunder’ revival vigil next door – I can’t go to sleep
  • Armed robbers sent my street residents a notice to keep our valuables and cash ready as they are coming to make their rounds this week – I can’t go to sleep
  • Armed robbers make good on their promise, and are now operating and collecting the rent and other monies in our Landlord’s ground floor apartment right now – I can’t go to sleep
  • The sound of the exchange of gunfire in the distance, between OPC agents and robbers is just like a scene from Rambo 2 – I nor fit sleep o.
  • Our transformer blew up and has not be functional for 2 months now, so I am in pitch darkness, and starting to make out gruesome figures in the dark – how I go fit sleep?
  • The loud clank and stutter of my neighbour’s ‘Pure Water’ plant as he produces sachets for sale day and night in a room in his flat, in defiance of NAFDAC – I can’t go to sleep.
  • Free Glo midnight calls from cheapskate dates who would never spend a penny – I can’t go to sleep
  • Writhing from side to side, thinking of elaborate schemes to come up with the cash to pay 2 years rent even though my salary is only paid  monthly – I can’t go to sleep
  • Staying awake to check my window every now and again because the mai-guard sleeps on duty instead of doing his job – I can’t go to sleep
  • Remembering the deaths of the brave NYSC corpers murdered in cold blood last week, and those of them still stuck behind enemy lines – I can’t sleep at all
  • The roar and fumes of my neighbour’s ‘I better pass my neighbour’ generator from just outside my window despite the fact we agreed that he should install a silencer – I can’t go to sleep
  • The groans and moans coming from Mr. Okafor’s window as he loads his wife again for the umpteenth time this night, even though the number of children they have are almost a complete football team – I can’t go to sleep.
  • The putrid smell of fried fish mixed with the bad ooze of stagnant gutter coming from the opposite “Face Me, I Face You’ building – I can’t go to sleep
  • Etisalat sending uncountable ‘balance reminder’ or ‘marketing information’ SMS messages at all hours of the day – I can’t go to sleep.
  • I did the 0-1-0 diet plan today because I was too broke to afford foodstuffs – I can’t go to sleep
  • They have laid off most of the workers in my department, except the Boss’s girlfriend and people from his village; I may be next – I can’t go to sleep

20 responses

  1. The mosque that’s a stone throw from my house choosing to have a night vigil on the only night that the church behind my house doesn’t have a vigil–I can’t go to sleep.

    My mother insisting that our 15 minute trek for Friday night vigil isn’t enough to secure my future; I must also go to the Wednesday night vigil–I can’t go to sleep.

    My 16 year old younger brother insisting on staying in my room while running game on the phone to some 14 year old girls that think they’re grown because of the pimples on their chests–I can’t go to sleep.

  2. Thinking of the traffic I’ll enter in d morning and wondering if my car will agree to start in the morning… I can’t go to sLeep!
    Life can be hard sha, Lagos life especially!

  3. My neighbour’s 3year old, deciding to learn his 1,2,3 within an earshot of my bedroom window.

    My upcoming exams are weeks away….very insomnia inducing….infact I am like macbeth at the moment..I have murdered sleep.

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