• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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BusinessDay

Seeing Lagos with new eyes

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When the two coaster tour buses left Federal Palace Hotel & Casino in Lagos that morning, the occupants (mainly tour operators and travel agents from South Africa) were not in a hurry to see the busiest city in West Africa.

Of course, before their visit they had a mindset about the country and Lagos in particular. For them, the rhetoric question may likely have been; ‘What is there to see in Nigeria when many of her citizens are thronging our country for visits, residence, business, and even education’.

Even, the regular visitors among them still wonder what more there is to see beyond the ones they have seen from the airport to the Island.

Well, Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), the sponsor of the tour, insisted there was more to see in Lagos and Nigeria at large, hence the tour started from Lagos Mainland.

Driving to the Mainland was smooth as the tour buses drove against traffic. At least, they did not witness the usual Lagos gridlock. But it was also revealing for the South African delegation, especially driving across the Third Mainland Bridge. It was while on the bridge that Francisca Wophill, the tour guide, from Easy Travels, explained that the bridge was the longest in Africa. “The bridge measures about 11.8 km in length and was commissioned in 1990 by Ibrahim Babangida, former Nigerian military head of state”, she said even as she asked if there was a bridge in South Africa that is half the length of Third Mainland Bridge. “No, no no, this bridge is awesome”, answered the most enthusiastic of the delegates.

On getting to Oworonsoki, the end of the bridge from the Lagos Island, and the first point of call on Lagos Mainland, the South Africans began to see changes, especially as sky scrapers and corporate offices that adorn the island gave way to middle level estates. From Oworonsoki, the tour buses drove along the dual carriage way until the old toll gate at Ikeja where they stopped for the guests to take pictures.

The tour buses zoomed off later through the 7Up Bottling Company Plant through the beautiful gardens around the Lagos State Government offices, the House of Assembly complex, the state secretariat, governor’s office, Ikeja Shopping Mall and through the Allen Avenue down to the link bridge, and to Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way.

While driving along the road dotted with gardens and past the Lagos State government offices, lots of smiles (probably of admiration) were beaming on the faces of most of the delegates.

So, it is not all about the Island, Lagos still has places to see. One of them even made good remark on seeing Protea Select Ikeja and Shoprite from the Ikeja Shopping Mall.

On Bank Anthony Way, the buses made u-turn at the Police College and drove slowly through Isaac John Street in Ikeja G.R.A to re-join Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way at the Ikeja Army Cantonment axis.

From there, some of the delegates spotted some soldiers and were impressed because they were not gun wielding like the policemen they saw when they arrived at the airport.

It was at the Anthony Village end of Ikorodu Road that one of the visitors opened up saying: “I thought there are gridlocks on every road in Lagos, but this one is wide and traffic-free”.

Some others might have felt the same, but the disbelief was obvious. Yes, their country may have all the good roads in Africa, but Nigeria and Lagos do have some.

Taking advantage of that scenario, Nkereuwem Onong, president, Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), told his South African counterparts that it is time to collaborate more on improving tourist traffic between the two countries, especially South Africans visiting Nigeria for leisure, as most Nigerians do to their country.

The good feelings on Ikorodu Road continued till the National Stadium on Western Avenue where the tour guide enumerated notable football matches that took place at the stadium.

Before then, the tour guide was magnanimous not to mention the notoriety of Ojuelegba, which is synonymous to Hillbrow, a notorious inner city residential neighbourhood of Johannesburg.

It was not long, the busses drove through Eko Bridge, where the tour guide urged the visitors to look far left to see Carter and Third Mainland bridges, few metres away.

Back to the Island, the visitors were driven through Awolowo Road in Ikoyi to the end of Bourdillon Road where they linked the Lagos Cable Bridge to Lekki.

While in Lekki, visit to Nike Art Gallery was the highlight for the visitors who were well-received by Nike Davies-Okundaye, the owner and her team.

Dressed in different Nigerian cultural attires, the visitors had beautiful picture session at the gallery, as well as, buying souvenirs, mainly artworks.

The tour ended at Terra Kulture on Tiamiyu Savage Street in Victoria Island where the visitors savored special Nigerian delicacies.

However, Onong and other members of NATOP were fulfilled that they were able to bring South Africans to see for themselves things to sell to their clients who wish to visit Nigeria for holiday.

He also invited them to visit Osogbo and Ugep this August for the Osun Osogbo and Leboku festivals respectively and most importantly, Calabar this Christmas for the carnival.

OBINNA EMELIKE