If you look around you, you’ll notice that the number of northerners in Lagos has increased. It is a case of cause and effect; the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast has forced a lot of people to move down here. Of course, northerners have always been in Lagos but these are newly displaced people whose homes and livelihood were destroyed by Boko Haram and they had to run for their lives.
It was after I visited some of them, living in Lagos late last year that I became more conscious of their presence. Most of them live with relatives and have taken up different types of menial jobs to survive. Others have started some sort of trading or the other.
It is a very courageous thing to make a new life for yourself after your life has been unexpectedly disrupted by some situation in which you totally had no control. You find these men everywhere: for instance, when LAWMA disposal vehicles cannot enter your street because the road is too narrow; there is someone with a barrow early in the morning to pick it up and dispose properly for a small fee.
When IKEDC refuses to restore power, and you can’t pump water or the water board fails to supply water, there is someone with jerry cans of water that you can buy from.
We all know that men from the north make the best noodles; I have observed them, taken a few lessons and followed the method they use at home, but no, mine still didn’t turn out like theirs.
Security guards, wheelbarrow boys, okada riders, sellers of fresh vegetable produce; these guys are into all of these. There is this mindset we have down south that makes us use ‘aboki’ or ‘mallam’ as a derogatory term. We do not even realise that these words mean friend and teacher, respectively. As a result, we treat them like they are less but they are not. A lot of these young men were farmers, some were in school, and others were learning a trade. Their lives were a lot simpler than ours and to be thrust into the jungle of Lagos just like that, it is no wonder everyone I spoke to wanted to go back home.
They are not on the roads begging for alms, or taken to robbery, instead they find whatever they can lay their hands on to make a living. So, before you turn your nose up at an ‘aboki’ next time you meet one, imagine if you lost everything (including family members) and had to start life afresh in a strange place. Imagine how well you’d cope.