For some weird reason, on a rainy Tuesday I agreed to go the market with my mum. Let me explain why this is quite weird on all levels.

Going to the market in and of itself isn’t so bad, however, going with my mother was choosing to wait while she haggles about the prices and compares prices at different stalls until she got whatever she wanted. That generally means instead of spending one hour, you end up spending two to three.

On this day, however, I decided not to just sit in the car while she went into the market to get everything she needed, I went in with her because they’ve always said, “Whatever’s worth doing is worth doing well.” If you’re wondering what market it was, it was the Bodija Market in Ibadan.

Bodija Market
Now picture this, it just rained, the ground is all muddy and slippery. There is practically no space for anyone to go through as everyone wants to get their goods fast. Traders screaming and goading customers, “Mummy e ba mi ra. Rice mi da gan” (loosely translated as mummy please buy my rice. My rice is very good). Many of the stall owners, and those who only have an umbrella covering their goods all had the same strategy, ‘tell them your goods is the best and always remember to call everyone customer’. One particular tactic that makes me laugh whenever it happens is when the trader who you have never met in your life goes, “Ah ah, uncle, o to ojo meta, iyawo nko, oya e wa ba mi ra isu” (Ah ah, uncle, it’s been a while. How’s your wife? Come and buy my yam”…). I don’t have a wife by the way.

Bodija Market
However, this article isn’t about the antics these trader play to get their goods sold, I mean, a man has to survive and that’s respectable.

This article is about how people survive in the Bodija market. the ‘alabaru’ (a person who helps you carry everything you buy till you get to your car or the taxi that would take you home). On this day, mother had just bought some cereal and milk at her friend’s shop and she was going to buy some other things, and then here comes this lady carrying packs of Spaghetti into this shop. That in itself isn’t a surprise, what was shocking was the fact that she had a child strapped to her back as she carried the wares into the shop. I was shocked but I couldn’t say anything about it. But my mom could and she asked, “Why are you carrying this child around in the market?” she asked in Yoruba, the answer this lady gave is the reason for this article. She said, “?m? na yó jèun” (the child has to eat). Mother decided then decided that she would be her ‘alabaru’ (basically works like a trolley in the supermarket) for the day. She made just about 200 naira while carrying our goods (that’s less than a dollar) and she’d probably not make up to 1000 naira for the whole day.

It’s easy to just listen to statistics when they say that Nigeria is now the world’s poverty capital, it’s a whole different thing to see it face to face. I saw it in the face of that woman, in the face of the child who has to be in the rain with it’s mother because they need to find something to eat at the end of the day. It makes you realise how real poverty has become in many people’s lives.

From the recession, to the inflation of prices. From being able to eat consistently to not being able to afford the basic things needed to survive as a human.

My heart bleeds because there are a lot more people in that market who are living from hand to mouth. There are kids who can’t go to school because they have to help their parents with money, so, they become ‘market children’ running errands for people or hawking in the market. The reality of the poverty that has hit our land, our Nigeria that is supposedly meant to be filled with milk and honey, the Nigeria that’s meant to be the so called ‘giant of Africa’ is a stark reminder that as a people we have failed ourselves. For once, I’d not blame the politicians or the leader because in the end, we’re all Nigerians and we have watched as the system decayed and we’ve let it. We’ve continually voted for our stomachs and not the nation. We’ve incessantly refused to hold our leaders responsible for their actions. The system is this bad because the people themselves are.

What if we chose to do better. A country is only as great as the people, in truth, the country is the people and right now, our country reeks of poverty and many of us feel it’s just numbers in the statistics place. Would we sit the hell up? Would we fight to bring our nation back to where it’s meant to be because in the end the people who suffer aren’t those who are in the position of power. The person who suffers is the woman in the market who carries goods on her head every other day saying, “?m? na yó jèun.”

Till I write you again…

Oyekunle ‘Fikayo Oyediran.

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