I walk past that particular bus stop frequently and he is always there. As early as 8am or late as 9pm, in the scorching heat or pouring rain, he is a constant fixture at the bus park.
Even though the park is always agog with activity, he stands out. He wears a smile that never reaches his tired eyes. I often marvel at his drive and what pushes him to leave his house very early in the morning to do the same things over and over again.
With old Gala wrappers stacked on rusty iron rods and a fading Fanyogo logo, his cart had probably seen much better days. Still, he wheeled his trusty sidekick along slowly. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Suddenly, about five other hawkers sprung out of nowhere in response to the passenger on a nearby bus calling for their products. He scrambled towards the passenger as well, with all six vendors vying for the attention of this potential customer. Eventually, the bus pulled away and the hawkers dispersed, leaving two engaging in a spat of words.
He wiped sweat off his forehead, removed a napkin from his pocket, and swiped it on his cart warding off flies. It was only 10am but he looked like he had been there for hours. Then, another passenger called for Fanyogo and he sprang into action once again, almost tripping on a stone in the rush to make a sale. He must have caught me watching this all unfold.
“Madam, na the hustle be this o. E no easy but we dey do am.”
Christian, 30, is one of many eager young people drawn to the city of Lagos by tales of this land of milk and honey, bright lights, fast moving cars and skyscrapers. He wanted to be successful. He wanted to be rich. Lagos was the only place to actualise these dreams. So, he left his home state of Ebonyi in pursuit of the hustle. He believed he would hit it big like the people from his village but life had other plans. Today, the profit from his Gala and Fanyogo business mainly goes towards feeding.
“You see this one?”, he said pointing at the Fanyogo. “Company dey sell am N150 and I dey sell am N200 so na N50 gain. This Gala, company dey sell am N35 and I dey sell am N50 so na N15 gain.”
On average, he makes N600 daily, making essential costs like transportation a luxury for him. Unable to afford the cost of travelling from his home to Obalende, Christian walks to this particular spot to sell his wares every day.
I imagined he lived close to the Obalende bus stop for this to be possible. I was wrong.
“I live in Makoko and I dey trek from there to this place every day.”
He would love to sell his wares in Makoko but Obalende simply offered more opportunities to make higher sales and to meet relevant contacts. He simply had to go where business was and, if he couldn’t afford to pay to get there, he had to walk.
With barely enough money to cover his own travel, Christian sometimes has to bribe KAI officials in order to sell freely without harassment, eating further into his profit. With all these financial pressures, it came as no surprise that he has been unable to further his education or support his family back in Ebonyi.
“All my sister and brothers dey village dey hustle with my parent, I no fit afford to send them money.”
Unable to complete his own secondary education because he couldn’t afford it, Christian is now unable to help others out of similar hardship. The man who arrived in this city in 2008 full of dreams is now a hawker living with an uncle in a one-room apartment, struggling to survive. His story is one of many mundane tragedies scattered across the city of Lagos – sad but commonplace.
He believes he is now too old to go back to school, but remains open to other business ventures if he can manage to raise the capital.
“If I see money now, e no compulsory to do Gala business. I will use the money for any business wey profit go dey. I fit even do keke.”
Life has thrown a lot at Christian. Yet, he remains tenacious, open to life’s opportunities and, most of all, hopeful.
“I still thank God sha because when there is life, hope still dey.”
People Like Us is an exclusive column created by TNC to document the lives of everyday Nigerians.
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