MeetUp: Amuloko, What’s the Dream?

I was standing under the scotching sun at the last bus stop where the cab I had taken from Olorunsogo to Amuloko had stopped. ‘Yes, this is the last stop,’ the driver replied. I had asked to be sure I wasn’t lost. It was my first time in this part of the city.

My guide assured me he was on his way when I called him that I had arrived. I had nowhere else to wait for him than by the road, by the market.

Standing there, I clearly stood out like a sore thumb.  More cabs and buses continued to pour fresh batches of people at the bus stop. Everyone gathered their things and disappeared; leaving me there, standing by the rough portion of the road, lined all the way with market women sitting by their wares.

 

While I stood, I observed the people. My mind took notes. There were two categories of people that jumped to the eyes. First, the religious-conscious folks. It was right there in your face – the hijabs, qimars, beret, scarfs, turbans, the caps worn by the men, the stickers with Arabic inscriptions or bible passages on buses and any surface that could hold stickers.

Second, there were the group of wannabe social/hippie youths. The ones with the outrageous hairstyles and the funny-looking tattoos and the hippy-like dressing. They are the ‘happening guys’. Their trousers sag and there is a bounce in their steps. The girls are for the attention – they whip their hair and it would seem they hope to God that someone notices the effort they have put in looking hip.

I was heartbroken by what I saw. Two strong influences: religion and pop-culture.

Nowhere in the lives of these people was there a reflection of education.

My guide eventually arrived. We hugged. He held my hands as we crossed to the other side. “Before we go to where we’d sit and meet people, I want to show you something,’ he said. I was itching to tell him what I had observed but I wanted to see what he wanted to show me. We took a turn from the main road and walked down the road. We got to a shed held up with wooden uprights, some of the planks broken. There was corrugated roof for covering and a blackboard that was half damaged. The chairs under the shed were crudely made and some were even broken already.

‘This is a school,’ my host said as we walked closer to the shed. ‘Students sit in here and take classes. Government schools here have been neglected for a very long time now, it is like people here don’t even to the government. The last time I was here, we were not allowed to take pictures. You know the way these things are now, instead of doing something about it, government may decide to punish the principal for letting this kind of thing get to the public.’ My phone was up at this time, I was clicking away.

Then, in that moment, I understood.

I understood why there is a teeming population of young people leading their lives without a reflection of education in their way of life. I understood why I had seen a good number of young girls with babies strapped to their backs and wares on their heads, hawking. I began to understand the aimless wandering of the hippy ones who have tailored their lives after things they have seen on TV without even understanding why and how those things have come about. Here, education is not a priority. If it is, living to survive has robbed these ones of quality education – the kind of education that reforms the mind and shapes the future.

A curious question flashed through my mind. I turned to my host as we began to walk up the road back to the market, ‘do these young people have dreams – do they have desires and aspirations?’

My guide gave a smirk, ‘of course they have dreams, the question you should ask is what are their dreams?’

 

*****

 

We finally settle at Friendly Top Restaurant, my guide and I.

There’s a drama going on. A madam has four women seated before her and about six girls standing together to form a curve. Madam is scolding them, she is thoroughly displeased. We would later gather that the madam owns the restaurant and that the women seated before madam are mothers or guardians of the girls being scolded. We learned further that these girls are attendants in the restaurant and in a day, they had entertained their friends with foods and drinks that totalled N150, 000. The oldest of them could not be more than 24 years old. I may be wrong.

 

It then began to make sense. These are the hippy-wannabes who just want to live and have fun. The dream is to have fun. They have no time for hard work because – who hard work epp? Who big dreams epp? They want to live the good life, that’s the dream. The good life.

this is a shed called a block of classroom

We spend almost 4 hours at Friendly Top Restaurant. No one shows up to see us, except my very good friend Makanjuola Nurudeen Olatunji (MNO). He passionately talks about Amuloko, about why things are the way they are. When education is not taken as a priority, a dysfunctional system is what you get. When there’s no betterment in the quality of lives of those with an education, it becomes difficult to convince others to toe the same path. The grit, the passion, discipline to be resilient until the dream is achieved is not a very common thing among the youths of the Amuloko-Akanran community.

The only thing that ever matters is the gratification of the moment. Like using your Madam’s money to turn up for friends. It doesn’t matter whose money it is, just turn up!

The ones who dream dream small. My guide reminded me of the story of the man who was born in Adelagun who said, “a man cannot think beyond his environment”. The ones who are dreaming can only dream within the parameters of what they see and know. ‘There’s no big dream here, people just want to survive,’ MNO said with pain and passion. You need to step out of Amuloko-Akaran to dream and see possibilities of everything that you can be.

It’s 7:42pm, I am leaving Amuloko. Only one question lingers as I journey back to Ring-Road:

‘Amuloko, what’s your dream?’

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