A popular saying goes: "Accepting one's failure is the first step towards true healing". It is sad that a majority of the respondents to a truthfully and passionately written article about the city of New York, as compared to our beloved city of Lagos, have missed the import or the challenge that inspired Mr. Reuben Abati's beautifully written article. Mr. Abati truly portrayed New York City in the eyes of a visitor from Lagos, as his words reveal a hidden wish - a desire - that Lagos could someday be like New York; a city where everything works. A city where there is a real semblance of law and order, of organization, of efficiency of public service and relative security in spite of the size of the city's population – when compared to the city of Lagos.

The author of the article was without doubt conscious of the fact that he was a visitor in New York. A quick reminder that he was no more in Lagos was highlighted by his reference to his attempt at jaywalking somewhere on 6th Avenue. I am willing to bet he missed Lagos for a fleeting second at that moment. He could easily have crossed the road if he was at home in Lagos and be on the other side of the road in a jiffy. The worst that could happen afterwards was a rain of curses and horn-blasts [which is part of our daily music anyways] and an interruption of traffic flow. If you get really, really unlucky, you might fall victim of a mobile policeman's horse-whip as opposed to getting a ticket for jaywalking in New York.

Somebody who disagreed with Mr. Abati's views as expressed in his article saw Mr. Abati's case as that of a young adolescent, who swept off his feet by the beauty of a female peer, blurted out that he loved the girl more than his mother. While that may be a humorous analogy, it does not truly portray what Mr. Abati is about in that article. Mr. Abati's story is more of a man whose marriage has gone dysfunctional. He goes to visit another married friend and during his stay there, he marveled at how peaceful, loving and happy his friend's married life is. While he is very happy for his friend, he is pained that his own marriage is nothing compared to his friend's. After he retired to the guest room on the first night of his visit, he proceeded to put his thoughts down in his diary.

That simply was what the author did in his article. Unlike the majority of our leaders in Nigeria, he has the presence of mind to digest the life around him both at home in Nigeria, and his location at that point in time - New York City. He is one of the few Nigerians who just don't come to have fun abroad and go home empty-headed. Instead, he is one of those who wish he could take the good deeds he has seen in places like New York back home. The man in the story would wish he could return home and work on his marriage so it can be as peaceful, as loving, as stable and as happy as his hosts' marriage is. It is quite apparent Mr. Abati was doing just that by putting his thoughts down in that article.

Mr. Abati wished Lagos could be efficient as New York is. He wished that  Lagosians will not only talk about how much love they have for Lagos but show, by their everyday actions, that Lagos is not a "prostitute" for them to use and dump as they are wont to do. I can relate to what he meant there and so can every true Nigerian or Lagosian: people drive down the wrong way and scare the life out of oncoming traffic; they refuse to use the few over-passes provided and make dare-devil attempts to cross the motorway [like Mr. Abati contemplated doing in NYC]; they dump refuse illegally in drainages under cover of darkness; the rich close major roads to host major house parties and frustrate ordinary citizens' commute; they park illegally on main roads or stop in the middle of traffic to say hello to a friend driving the opposite way [and curse out another commuter who has the effrontery to complain]; the city government leave mountains of refuse that dot the city to rot and pollute the air; people build properties on sewage paths, canals etc.

All these happen and we are still the very happy Lagosians in Lagos. The truth is that lawlessness can be 'sweet' and their lies the famous "happiness" that most Lagosians refer to. The crazed, dare-devil skills of the ‘molue' driver can be likened [by some distorted minds] to a ride at one of America's "Six Flags" amusement parks - until you fall victim to such reckless adventure. Holding up traffic by stopping to buy 'gala' from a roadside vendor or talking on the phone for the sheer fun of it feels good until the day you get stuck behind the guy buying 'gala' or behind the guy sweet-talking a pretty girl in the opposite traffic. Ignoring the use of the pedestrian crossing or the overpass will be a happy and easier way out until you hit someone who was stupid enough to make a daring attempt to run faster than your car. Car racing on the Third Mainland Bridge will be fun until the day some drunken university student smashes his father's CLK into your Lexus.

The great ‘Afrobeat' legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, captured it all too well with the "Suffering and Smiling" song track he released years back. We are more content to endure the worst of conditions, shrug and grin and bear it all - excusing such situations as a way of life. Meanwhile, those who are responsible for making Lagos and the rest of Nigeria a more decent society for all of us come to places like London and New York without as much as a thought for bringing home the very things that made life easier for them while they were out in those cities where things actually work. You would have thought one of the many leaders who throng the capital city of our former colonial power every now and then will suggest for us to build an efficient underground public transport system like London's. Oh, I forget; the Power Holding Company of Nigeria [PHCN] is busy "holding" the power needed to run such a system.

Crying foul here over the views of a man who has the presence of mind to literarily show an in-depth appreciation of the society where he finds himself in comparison to where he came from is plain old self-denial. An excuse for the failure that the city of Lagos is. A patient read of Mr. Abati's article and a subsequent muse over his words should reveal to all keen observers that he does not love Lagos any less than the average Lagosian or any of those labeling him for doing their motherland a disservice. "I love New York" doesn't have to be taken literarily. Upon reading the article, it is apparent that the author's true yearning was "I love New York; it is so like Lagos. I wish Lagos can be like New York". Of course, that will be a Lagos without the hopeless chaos, lawlessness and filth! Every city has its relative 'ghetto'. In Lagos, you don't have to go too far from any particular location at any point in time to find a reminder of the hopeless 'ghettoness' of some parts of the city. There is always one closeby.

The truth is that there are some latent similarities between the two cities - forget if one is light-years behind the other. Apart from the respective historical similarity that Lagos and New York share as former capital territories of Nigeria and the United States, as referenced by Mr. Abati, they are both the economic jugulars of their respective countries. Also, the sister cities of Lagos and New York were respectively one of the first ports of entry by foreign explorers when both countries were still 'virgin' lands. And I can go on and on listing the remaining similarities between the two cities. And that is why it is so easy to imagine Mr. Abati thinking, as he stared out the window of his hotel room, that the idea of a Lagos as decent as the city of New York is just so close and yet so far away, which can be frustrating to think of – enough to compel someone good at writing as he is to put his thoughts down on paper.

There are a lot of similarities between the analogy I gave earlier and Mr. Abati's true life experience. The happy-go-lucky spirit Reuben Abati saw in the average New Yorker is the joy the man in the narrative saw in the eyes of his married friend and his wife; the ease and peace Mr. Abati felt as he looked out from his hotel room window is the same as the peace and love that is radiant from his hosts' marriage. Mr. Abati only sat down to write about his admiration for a seemingly peaceful city in contrast to the city of Lagos in Nigeria. Nigerians in New York, Washington DC or London should try to relate with poor Mr. Abati. The things you take for granted is what others yearn for; it is what they cherish. It is special to them because they don't enjoy it the way you do. Maybe people should think of that before they claim Mr. Abati did their beloved Lagos a disservice.

And by the way, if you are a Nigerian abroad who is beginning to miss the 1km/hr commute from Lagos Mainland to Victoria Island, you better realize you are due for another well-deserved vacation at home before you totally loose it. Sometimes a visit to Motherlan' Naija can be a good reality check - short of a psychiatric evaluation. You may come back a little tired and a little tanned [and perhaps with a dose of malaria if you are careless], but it will be a trip worth your dollar or whatever currency you spend where you reside if you give it a consideration. You might also be able to shed a few pounds as well if you are looking to shed some. One of those who are opposed to Mr. Abati's views stated "there is, after all, joy in [madness] which only a mad man knows." That, my fellow Nigerians, is another example of a Nigerian who needs a vacation in Nigeria.

In the meantime, let us stop misdirecting our vents at a man who longs for a Lagos that is as efficient and safe as New York is. Let us not castigate a man who has used the mastery of the pen to highlight both his appreciation of a working city and his frustration with our inefficient yet beloved Lagos megapolis. If you think Mr. Abati's article does a disservice to your Motherland by highlighting Lagos' lawlessness or "madness", do something about it. A first step is by NOT glorifying the "madness" of Lagos while you are in London, New York, Seattle or Washington DC, enjoying the civility and tranquility that your host communities afford you. Move to Lagos and live in the thick of the madness. Then I can actually believe you are as 'mad' a Nigerian as I am.

Dear Lagosians and Nigerians, the truth as spoken by Reuben Abati may be bitter, but accepting such truths is the first step towards our true healing as a decent and law-abiding society. Lagos is scary; no stranger from New York will take a fresh-air walk down the street in the heart of Lagos like Reuben did in New York. Not unless you are trying to confirm the story of that ‘JJC' who was charged by miscreants for staring at sky-scrappers on the streets of Lagos Island. After the miscreants had charged this ‘JJC' 500 Naira for looking at 5 sky-scrappers and left, the fellow chuckled to himself saying "See dem; mugus, dem no know say na fifteen tall buildings I see".

Poor fellow. Welcome to Lagos, the "Centre of Excellence".