Oshodi, Lagos – The first thing that hits me as I step out from the bus is the manic rush, wringling and pressing. Oshodi is not a place for the faint-hearted; from every angle is a roar, a shout, colluding and roiling off the busy roadside markets and railway track and bus parks.
There’s an undertone of survival that can’t be ignored and twenty-nine-year old Ibrahim is one of the many people living and working in Oshodi. His livelihood is quite an interesting one – he fries akara, small fluffy bean balls that floats on hot groundnut oil, which he leaves to turn a light shade of brown before he seives them out from a wide pan. He is good at what he does, but he gets occasional help from his sister, who does the grinding of the beans and attends to customers.
“Most times I’m here by myself, doing everything,” Ibrahim says to me. The smoke curling from the pan makes him squints. I squint too, unable to remove myself from the enveloping fog of smoke. “I have been doing this for over three years,” he continues, “It doesn’t bring much but I have to survive.”
I marvel at his articulation, something he probably must have gotten from having formal education. Above all, I marvel at his die-hard spirit.
At Sky Mega Food, a restaurant that overlooks a busy road, I step in to have take-outs. The security guard manning the door greets me with the kind of obsequiousness common with Nigerians when they smell wealth off someone. Patrick by name, I engage him regardless, asking to know if he likes his job.
“I earn 25,000 a month,” he reveals, which elicits a shock from me, “I won’t mind if you can help me get something else, please oga.”
Patrick has a wife and a child, and It boggles the mind how 25,000 naira would cater for his family’s needs. On living in Oshodi, he eyes lits up, animatedly, “I came from Anambra and moved to Oshodi in 2007 and I haven’t seen any other place like here. You can find anything you want, the market is big but you have to be sharp.”
Finding a house in Oshodi is relatively cheap, depending on the area. There are storey structures and modest apartments, though squashed with a kiosk here or a shop there. Oshodi is not the cleanest of places. There’s deterioration and waste and rain-soaked debris but there are no blighted hopes. Oshodi has a pulse – a minuscle Lagos wrapped in lofty dreams and aspirations.