Lagos, through the eyes of a sassy traveller
Lagos is noise. It is chaos. It is fast paced.
But Lagos is also rich history, vibrant culture and ecstatic entertainment, not to mention its reputation as a city for the business traveler.
While acknowledging the former, it is the latter defining characteristics of the ‘city of aquatic splendor’ that travel and lifestyle blogger, Funke Ogunkoya-Futi, chooses to distil in her cute and handy Lagos Travel Guide, published in 2020.
It is evidently a labor of love, a commendable attempt to promote Lagos tourism. In spite of government’s lackluster commitment, the industry has managed to stay relevant, thanks to mobile telephony and online digital platforms.
And it has been on the upswing over the last six or so years, propelled by a tireless crop of self-driven, adventurous Nigerian youths travelling across Nigeria like never before. Through creating a constant stream of innovative content on social media, they are showing fellow citizens — and proving to the international community at large — that Nigeria is a worthy travel destination.
And granted that these travel influencers are genuinely passionate about growing domestic tourism, and helping the world to see and appreciate Nigeria, they have confined the totality of their experiences to their social media feeds.
With her visible presence on Instagram, Tik-Tok and YouTube, Ogunkoya-Futi belongs in that class. But she has opted to extend her influence offline, walking a path her contemporaries haven’t yet caught onto. Curating content for social media is fun and wins the creator an algorithm-enabled fan base,
But planning content for and producing a book isn’t quite so — it’s a more daunting and demanding enterprise, embraced largely by individuals willing, not only to be patient but also to pay the price of delayed gratification. As the author of five travel books I should know.
Ogunkoya-Futi says Lagos Travel Guide is the ‘definitive book’ for visitors planning to visit and explore Nigeria’s entertainment and business capital. From the outset, she establishes a couple of the reasons why people choose to visit various places of interest: architectural landmarks, heritage, markets and the food, among others.
“In Lagos, it is all of those things together, along with the perfect dose of drama, chaos and mysticism,” she declares in her introduction to the book. “You never quite know Lagos until you become a part of it, breathing its air of opportunities, tasking its home-cooked meals, dancing to the music of its heartbeat , laughing with its people.”
The author and I met at an industry event in 2017, where she was introduced to me as ‘Sassy Funke’. I would also learn during that brief encounter that she’s widely travelled (40 countries as of when the book was published).
I assume that her decision to write this guide must have been partly (if not largely) influenced by her extensive travels around the world, a chunk of which she has dutifully documented on her website, and seeing that there are local equivalents in her home country to rival the sights and sounds of those destinations.
And to help the visitor get a leg into the often-intimidating air of the city, she presents its unique appeal through the eyes of some of the residents who, by virtue of their business, help shape the perception of the people they encounter on a daily basis.
Take the most well known of them all, Chief Mrs Nike Okundaye, founder of the gallery-cum-cultural hotspot in Lekki. Okundaye rightly acknowledges Lagos as a place to pursue one’s dreams.
“Everyone knows that anyone who comes to Lagos and can put in the hard work will make money,” she says in her conversation with the author, recalling her own frustration in Osogbo (Western Nigeria) before choosing to relocate to Lagos, where she found success and recognition. “If you’re selling an ordinary toothpick and you know how to target your customers, you will make money.”
Ogunkoya-Futi also interviews other Lagosians — a stylish tricycle driver, a half-caste chef, an actor and a media practitioner — for the book, asking them multiple questions about their favorite parts of the city, what inspires them the most, their favorite Nigerian dish, and where they go to unwind.
She uses these block of interview as fillers (somewhat) and transitions for the district-by-district listing of recommended bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels, galleries and tourist attractions.
Most of the recommendations are upscale establishments on the Lagos Island, the part of the city favored by the elite, the wealthy and the expatriate community. It is also where international visitors prefer to stay, so they are better served by the publication.
At a glance, first-time visitors will get a condensed view of where to go, what to do and where to see in the city, with the author providing useful and insightful synopsis of every entry.
But budget travellers and backpackers will have to look beyond this guide to find practical tips for their needs and tastes. They may choose to begin on the author’s Sassy Funke website, where she devotes an entire section to the delights of Destination Lagos. One post in particular recommends five joints to eat on a budget as low as N1,000.
The book ends with a ‘Made in Nigeria’ section, which explores a selection of music, movies, literature and fashion that has put both Lagos and Nigeria on the world map.
That, I can say with my full chest, trips me the most.