“I was a teenager when I left Ibadan. That was in 2004. Unlike a lot of people who left Ibadan out of their own free will, mine was not like that, I had no choice. My mother was to leave Ibadan for Osogbo and I had to follow her. She actually left in 2002, but I had to wait till 2003 to complete my secondary school education. I stayed back to work as a primary school teacher for a few months and then I went to join her.
Eventually, I moved to Lagos in 2009 for a different reason – in order to pull through the university I needed to work in between breaks. I discussed with a mentor who got a place that perfectly matched my need at that point. The money was small, but the job was flexible and that was just what I needed. I could hop in and out of the job anytime I wanted, and the best part, the director offered us the chance of sleeping in the factory as well so I did not have to worry about accommodation.
And yes, that was how I got to Lagos. Lagos is madness especially if you entered the way I did.
My first day at the factory, I had been told we could live in the factory, but I did not ask where. When it was night, I just realized all the other boys had taken different angles in the factory, even ladies. Some were on iron sheets, some on planks of wood. Some scrambled unused paper or neatly spread their cloth on it and they had all started their night gist waiting for sleep to come. I just sat, looking all surprised like “is this the madness in Lagos?!”, then one of the guys, Saheed, noticed my surprise, came to me and offered me a place he had prepared to sleep, and that was how we became friends.
The next morning when I went to buy something, the woman whom I bought it from looked at me and said, “My son, it is not easy to be a man. You slept in that factory abi?” I was surprised, I did not like the pity in her voice, I have never liked being pitied, you either help me or leave me, just don’t pity me because I do not need it. So, I went back to the factory to ask Saheed what had happened to me, he said my entire face and neck were riddled with mosquito bites. That moment I realized that if I was going to survive here, the jungle part of me must come to life.
Lagos taught me I could survive anything, and can survive faster if I “shine my eyes” So while I was at the factory, I made friends with people who were directly involved with printing. I would hang out with them, ask them questions and all. For me, I was trying to learn the profession. I could not stay for long as I always had breaks due to school. But I learnt enough to execute some printing contracts as an undergraduate in Ife.
In Lagos no one really has time to pity the other person. All you hear is “double your hustle”. The owner of the factory where I worked, an Ife grad himself, told us how he came to Lagos, how he lived in a factory, and how he had become a millionaire. He told us no matter what life had thrown at us, no matter how disadvantaged we might have been, at that point he was speaking with us, we were already young adults, he told us that where we will be five years from then would be nobody’s fault but ours.
I think that is what Lagos tells every young adult, that there is no excuse and that where you will be in the future will entirely be your choice. I should state that of all the guys in that factory that night, only Saheed and I went on to have University degree.
Lagos was where I first realized that help may not be entirely free. In Ibadan, people could help you for free. But in Lagos when people begin to offer you suspicious help, I mean when they are trying to impress you with help, just be ready to pay or walk away. I had gone to get something for someone at Oshodi. I missed where I was supposed to connect the bus to my destination, so I saw a street hawker, and stopped her to ask for direction.
She just looked at me as if I was speaking Portuguese. That was when I realized that, here in Lagos, help comes at a price; or else she could get angry or add further to my misery by helping me to get really lost. I had to buy something from her first before she realized, miraculously, that we were speaking the same language, and of course, she helped me.
Another example of Lagos madness. There was this day at Berger, there were no buses- the crowd was crazy. Then from nowhere, a bus showed up, I struggled through the fierce crowd. As I was about to step in, I saw a nursing mother in the struggle as well- she was reckless with her baby, I couldn’t stand it, so I jumped right behind her to protect her baby from people’s elbows, I lost my balance in the process – people of God, it was same woman who used her elbow to push me off. I fell, like I fell flat with my glasses. In the end, I missed out on the bus but she entered.
As I picked myself from the floor, I still struggled to tell her she didn’t protect her baby while struggling for the bus and that it was not right, and yes, the baby was still crying. The woman was just looking at me o, same way she ignored her baby’s loud cry. That day, I knew Lagos was not for me.
Having been away from home for a while, if there was one thing I could change about Ibadan, it will be the dialogue – the exchange between the youth and the leaders. I think self-awareness is low on the part of young folks, so much that when they ask questions from their leaders, they do not ask from a position of strength. They do not ask questions that have to do with building institutions, and they do not hold their leaders accountable.
It is sad that years after the demise of Chief Adedibu, Amala politics still reigns in Ibadan. Politics of what is in it for me and what is my share. Without institutions, we will only be the largest city in West Africa, and not the Greatest city. The dialogue must change! And yes, creating a neutral, youth led platform that engages and holds our leaders accountable in the great city of Ibadan is not what I THINK I will do, it is what I KNOW we all have to do, and the time is now.”
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