Remember that hashtag that trended on twitter a few years ago? #NigeriaForTheRich?
Remember the discussions about how if you don’t have plenty money this country will just be oppressing you?
On my way home that week I met members of some task force demolishing Ojota mall. Ok, it is not a mall, just a bunch of struggling people selling their wares on the side walk. I know this is not right, they shouldn’t be selling there, but what do you want these people to do?
You need to see how the task force men treated them like vermins. They kicked trays of bananas, smashed them with their boots, threw the traders’ goods into their truck, used their batons recklessly on people. Is that even allowed?
Even people buying were not safe. One of the members of the task force threatened to slap a woman buying bananas, but the woman stood her ground and for one second I thought the man would slap her, but he hissed and continued stomping on bananas.
I wanted to get into the melee, talk to one of the fleeing traders, but I stood at a safe distance because there were policemen strutting around with guns. I have heard too many stories of accidental discharges that I cannot talk to a policeman holding a gun. Jesus did not die for me for Nigerian Police to kill me.
Next to me was a woman I usually buy bananas from. She was crying. I walked up to her and said ‘Customer e don do,’ wanting to console her.
‘I carry the banana on credit o, na sell and pay I dey.’
‘Where your husband?’
‘E don go back village. Na only me and the children dey here, na the banana I dey sell take feed them.’
I wondered how many children she has, and about others like her.
I saw the nice looking bags I had admired a few days back being thrown into the truck. From behind me, I heard, ‘Chai, this boy just carry these bags credit o.’
It was chaos, people were running around, agberos looking for who to pick their pocket, others just watching uniformed men (Police/taskforce) flexing their muscles over defenceless people.
What can the government do to help them? Can these people afford those ‘ultra modern’ shops abi na markets the government built? What should they do? These street traders are mostly young people trying to keep their heads above the storm that is Nigeria. They are not robbing, begging, engaging in fraud or prostitution. I know two brothers who make popcorn there, very good stuff. I can bet those boys are still teenagers.
I’m aware that we cannot convert every street corner to a market, yes, but what should these people do? (if you say go back to their villages, thunder will fire you!)
The next day I pass by and the traders are back there like nothing happened, advertising their wares, ‘five five hundred, two two hundred’.
I looked out for my banana customer, she was back at her ‘shop’.
I smiled at her. ‘Madam, you dey here?’
‘My dear, na wetin we go do?’
It was business as usual, they were making fun of one another, laughing with their eyes darting here and there, looking out for the task force.