In Lagos today, many youths find themselves doing some jobs not just for the long run, but to satisfy their daily need for food. The quest to understand these young men who find themselves going through the hard way to make ends meet, informed the decision of Information Nigeria’s Michael Isaac to take to the streets of Lagos to listen, and tell the stories of these young men hawking inside the harsh traffic in Lagos.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon at Okota road, Oshodi-Isolo Local Government area of the State, road users are seen moving up and down on both sides of the road as impatient drivers honked their way through the traffic. However, while everyone seem to go about their businesses, the hawkers were also busy moving from vehicle to vehicle in search for that one customer who would aid having bread on their tables.
Watching them from a corner going about their business amongst the other road users who mostly turned down their goods or seemed highly uninterested in giving them attention, I patronized one of the traders; it was a very sunny afternoon, so I decided to buy bottled water. From the corner where I stood, I motioned to one hawker selling water to come and three ran to me.
“Chairman, bottle water or minerals”, they all said as they approached where I stood.
I let all three come to me as I stretched my hand and picked from one of their bowl of drinks.
“This una business, e be like say una dey make money o”, I said to get their attention which they immediately gave to me. As they looked at me they expressed shock that I had said that as they were quick to counter my statement. It was at that point I introduced myself and all three identified themselves as Chucks, Ike and Olamide.
Speaking with the trio, I asked why they resolved to hawk on the streets, but the three gave different narrations
Olamide hinted that he started hawking to support himself because he has no one in Lagos and he finds the daily proceeds from his hawking better and more sustainable.
“You dey make money na,” I said as he concluded, and again, he countered me and said “How much na… Na only 3k or 5k highest for one day, nothing else dey to do so na this level I dey so.”
For Ike, the story was that of a hustler from Eastern Nigeria. According to him, he left Ebonyi State for greener pastures only to meet disappointment, leaving him with no choice but to hawk. He had been promised a job by an uncle and on getting to Lagos, the uncle turned deaf ears to his needs and pleas for something to do.
Chucks had a similar story with Ike as they are both from Ebonyi State.
“How long una don dey do hawk?” I asked and looked out for their expressions.
All three looked nothing excited as they gave their answers. Two years for all three.
Taking a sip from the water I had bought from Ike, I asked them “Wetin you think say government fit do to help una?’
They all wanted to answer eagerly and I let them, one after the other.
For Ike, the government should either provide jobs for them that fit their class as they are neither academics or intellects and if they can’t, they should stop using taskforce officials to harass them harassing.
The other two pretty much said the same thing, but Olamide has a touching story to share.
“Nigerian government is wicked and even if you write heaven and earth, dem no fit do anything. No be everybody go school but everybody get one thing wey dem sabi do. Even their yeye task force, na money everybody dey find. If dem sieze your market, na bribe you go take collect am. So this country, no be today wickedness start,” he said, while his colleagues and friends supported him.
It was interesting speaking to the trio, but it was time to leave for my next location, I brought out Fifty-Naira to pay for the bottled water, but they asked me not to pay; I thanked them, asked to take a picture which they declined and left.
At Maryland, next location, the hawkers here seem to be having a hard time finding customers to buy, and many blamed it on the state of the nation, the just-concluded festive season, and the big guys (retail stores and online marketplaces).
However, I found teenager hawking some potato chips and other crunches, and immediately I found interest in speaking with him.
I waved at him, motioning him to come and he ran towards my direction
“Good afternoon sir, what do you want to buy”? He spoke eloquently and my interest grew.
I don’t like potato chips but I picked up one from his box of chips and gave a I-don’t-really-like-this face. He caught it and said “don’t worry, fine bros, you will like this one,” he tried to convince me.
“Hmm, before nko, you’ll say anything to make me buy.”
“Man gats hustle to survive na, bros,” he said as he stretched his hand to collect his money. I was about to introduce myself to him before another customer beckoned for him to come.
Immediately he left, two young ladies approached me, one with her bowl of drinks. “Pure water, bottled water, minerals, bros which one you wan buy?” The other lady with groundnuts looked at me to desperately buy from her.
I bought a bottle of Pepsi and asked the other lady to give me groundnut worth of fifty-naira.
“Una go don make plenty of money today o”, I started, hoping to get their attention and just like my brothers at Okota, it worked.
They were, again, quick to counter my statement as they pointed out that they have only engaged in hawking to support their families and to have food on their tables daily.
I introduced myself and they felt a little more comfortable speaking with me, I asked them what prompted them to start hawking and for how long they have been on it.
The ladies, Grace and Olaide hinted that it was the condition of the nation that has made them street hawkers, they pointed out that if the country was economically healthy this would not have been an option for them.
Speaking further, Grace said: “If only the people in high places would come out and see how hard it is for the people on the street, the market women. If they can just take a day and come out, they would see that people are suffering.”
Olaide supported her as she spoke and I thanked them for their time after paying for the drink.
It is obvious that poverty, bad governance and corruption are factors that affect the lives of many Nigerians, and as citizens, we can only hope for better days to come as we play our own parts to ensure the better days come fast enough.