Editor’s notes: This is the second part of the essays analysing lessons to be learnt from Nollywood’s web series. While the first part focused on love, ‘Lifestyle Notes from Lagos’ focuses on career and leisure in Lagos.
Written by Funmilayo Amusan
If you follow Nollywood, you must have watched or at least heard enough about numerous web series that depict life in Lagos. Titles such as Skinny Girl In Transit, Rumor Has It, and Phases, which can be found on the Ndani Youtube channel.
Skinny Girl In Transit tells the story of the relationships of a woman, Tiwa (Abimbola Craig) working in a media company while Rumor Has It is about a lady, Obi (Uru Eke), who runs a celebrity vlog (from which the title is coined) until it spirals out of her control.
Phases follows a man, Sukanmi (Tosin Ibitoye) building his tech startup.
These Ndani-produced series have built a narrative of how it is to live in Lagos, and while a lot of them are true, there are some we have to question as young adults working in Lagos.
Career Lessons from Phases and Skinny Girl in Transit
From the point of view of someone living outside Lagos, the lifestyles of the characters of these series might be unrealistic or overhyped but it is pretty normal after observing some people in the city. Picking out Sukanmi in Phases who lives in a nice shared 3-bedroom apartment (likely on the island) and drives a Lexus ES 350 in his early thirties can feel like a dream but in Lagos, it’s normal. Now considering the fact that he is the CEO of a startup makes it seem all the more usual.
There is also Mide from Skinny girl in Transit with a relatively rich lifestyle ( has a great house, car and travels frequently), whose lifestyle is also understandable considering he was the managing director of a radio station and came from a rich family. Most of the characters that may at first glance have a high standard of living, have jobs and living circumstances that make them plausible. It isn’t such an exaggeration to say the place to make money is in Lagos. I’ll say that the confusion might arise in not understanding how long these people have built their careers in Lagos.
On the other hand, taking a fresh graduate migrating from another state as an example, getting a job in the city of Lagos in their first year would be nothing like these series depict. It’s likely to be a realization that the attractive salary of 120k at maybe a tech company on the island is barely enough. By the time cost of house rent of a barely tolerable apartment (that you have to share with a few people to be able to afford the rent), transport, feeding and small laulau to help relieve the mental stress of your job(if you can even afford any) are removed from that 120k, you are left broke!
Financial Independence Lessons From Phases
The realities projected in the series aren’t first year in Lagos lives but 5+ years in Lagos. After 5 years of working in Lagos, you have most likely figured/designed a comfortable enough lifestyle for yourself in Lagos. You might not be rich yet, but you’re good enough to enjoy Lagos life a lot more and plan your career in advance. You could be living in a good enough apartment alone or with one or two friends, maybe have a car, have a fresh closet, going on several vacations/holidays know live a Ndani series character lifestyle.
I’m not saying that after 5 years of working in Lagos, you’ll be getting enough money to live lavishly. Instead, it’s likely you’d have learnt how to make smarter financial decisions without losing out on some luxuries. An example is communal living like we notice with the main characters of Phases. Some may do it to always have company but it is mostly to cut down the rent of each individual. House rent is really high in Lagos, especially if you want to live within close proximity to your workplace in a more developed area. It is really common practice to search for housemates as you search for apartments;both go together as a young adult in Lagos. The most familiar pattern/arrangement I know is 3 people renting a 3-bedroom apartment costing 2 million naira per year, splitting it into NGN 600,000+ each.
It might seem like an unnecessary investment, but renting an apartment in a less expensive undeveloped area might mean living with poor water and electricity supply which would be a disaster in this period when remote work is on the rise. The worst downside is the lack of security. A lot of high earners are robbed in their apartments. The cost saved by living in a cheaper apartment is lost with subsequent robberies. So a ‘lavish’ lifestyle as shown in the Ndani series might not be as unnecessary as it seems.
Looking through these series again, which industries seem most attractive financially? Media like Tiwa from SGIT, tech like Sukanmi from Phases, or blogging like Obi from Rumour has it? This translated well enough into reality, especially, for the tech industry in Lagos. You could start out with a reasonable salary like 120k as mentioned above, and with the right skill sets move higher in the company or to another company. A lot of people are entering into the media industry. Bloggers and digital creators are popping up everywhere now because these fields have proven to be well paying.
Finding a Work-Life Balance in Lagos
While I can almost accept the realities of Ndani characters, I have one major disagreement. In reality, there is an imbalanced work-social life, at least for most employees. People who have to go to work, experience Lagos traffic to and fro every weekday, that reach their homes 8-9pm dead tired don’t have the energy for parties or hangouts with friends. Weekdays are strictly wake-work-sleep cycles with no time or strength for other engagements, which are relegated to the weekend. For people who prefer their frequent sleep , weekends are for all the enjoyment needed to erase the stress of work life. In Skinny Girl In Transit, there were too many dinner parties attended.
In phases, too many friendly lunch meetings. I don’t remember ever seeing one of Lagos’ famous characteristics— traffic. The only time traffic was part of the story was when a character was late for an event. It is understandable that traffic scenes would be hard to film and we could assume that every character is so used to it that they never talk about it during casual conversations.
I think Nigerian web series by Ndani TV might have showcased realities of only those in a particular financial bracket for reasons I can guess and understand. Ndani series are known for characters with good fashion sense, slayed makeup, good cars, apartments and so on. Things that most of their viewers, comprising young adults (still trying to figure life out), see and say,”God when?”.
There is a brand Ndani has successfully created in our minds with the series and actors, even outside the screen that involves a level of luxury. This is cool as Nigerians are attracted to watching stories of people displaying a high standard of living; we want to laugh, smile and maybe dream with our entertainment.
How accurate is the depiction of Lagos life in these series? What major aspect is missing in them? Are the lifestyles overhyped or just right? Let us know what you think.