Born and bred in Lagos, I pride myself as having some sort of ‘Lagos sense’. I may be bad with directions but I have a strong idea of places in Lagos and what they are known for. Ladipo is for spare parts, Mile12 market is for the bulk purchase of food stuff, Ojota houses one of the biggest bus parks, Kontagora is for bulk purchase of second hand clothes, Computer Village is the home of anything technology related. Recently, I walked into a street in the Lekki Phase1 area of Lagos and got the shock of my life.
This street – a crescent actually – was nothing special. Cars sat obediently on the tarmac while people went about their business. It was flanked by tall buildings on the left and smaller structures guarded by squat gates on the right which marked the only demarcation between this otherwise unassuming street and the vast lagoon.
I was meeting with some people in the area when I ran into old friends so I seized the opportunity to get reacquainted. A few drinks under fine weather is always a great idea. As I walked further along the street, I noticed that it curved. Along this curve, the seemingly quiet road suddenly became agog with activities. It was a cacophony of blaring horns, slap-slap sounds of slippers, and general camaraderie.
I moved closer to the action, trying to stay on top of the conversations with my friends but I kept getting distracted by the activities on the other side. There were hawkers sitting on the platform on the left side of the road, closely guarding the gala, groundnut, and candies they had for sale.
Some guys were nestled against the wall of a building looking around almost as if they were waiting for someone. An SUV slowed down on the road by the curve and these guys swarmed the car like bees. They were basically running at the pace of the car, by the driver’s side and talking inaudibly. The car left and less than a minute later, another car drove past, the hawkers ran after it and it left.
This routine went on for some minutes and I noticed a trend: most of the front seat passengers reclined their seats while many of the drivers wore dark shades. The cars drove at top speed, got to the curve, slowed down and then made a U-turn. Another car drove past and the hawkers, who were probably in their teens or early twenties, ran after it again.
‘Ahn ahn, is the groundnut on this street that sweet?’, I asked.
My friends burst into laughter and one of them said:
‘You think it is groundnut they are selling?’
I looked at the hawkers again and noticed that the ones selling groundnuts, gala and candies were different from the ones that ran after cars. All the sprinters held a medium sized polythene bag with no sign of branding.
‘What are they selling?’
I was really curious now. One of my friends called one of the sprinters and he came over. His oblong face was almost as dark as charcoal. His sunken reddened eyes seemed to be pushing back stories that he would rather forget. His perfect aquiline nose looked down somewhat condescendingly at thin lips that housed stained teeth. He wore baggy shorts and an oversized t-shirt that was loose around its sleeves and neck. He sold weed for a living and was called Fada.
My friend who spoke fluent Hausa asked him to recommend one of his products to us. He replied in Hausa, but I picked up the word ‘Arizona’.
‘Will this Arizona get me to that place? I asked raising my hand high above my head to explain just how intoxicated I wanted to be.
He nodded confidently saying in faltering English that it is very good.
Another friend of mine asked:
‘We fit smoke am here?’
He nodded with so much confidence that I wondered if their kingpin was one of the law enforcement officers.
‘Police no dey come here?’
‘Dey no dey come.’
‘You are sure?’
‘How much be the Arizona?’
‘Ahn ahn is it that expensive?’
My friends laughed at my question. I then went on to ask a few more, this time about the man himself. He moved to Lagos last year, originally from Maiduguri. In his words, he came to hustle. He dropped out of secondary school because of inadequate funds and his uncle brought him to Lagos. He loved mathematics very much.
‘You go go back to school?
He laughed and turned to speak Hausa to my friend. According to my friend he asked if we still wanted the Arizona. He also added that he had SK too. My friend asked if the Arizona would do the work and he replied, asking him if he was planning to sleep with me. Our illegal pharmacist was also doubling as a sex therapist.
I asked if he had many female customers.
‘Yes oo, dem dey come well well.’
‘If I wan do this business, how I go start am?’
He told me when I was ready, he would hook me up. He was a smart business man, guarding the tricks of the trade.
‘Dis Arizona you wan sell, how u know say e good? You dey smoke am?’
‘No o, I no dey smoke am but e good.’
Another smart business move: never get hooked on your own product.
Fada dipped his hand in the black polythene bag and brought out Arizona. It was in a transparent miniature Ziploc bag. Its contents looked like crackling dried leaves and smelt like suya pepper. A friend offered me some.
‘Ahh! Taste? So I can casually stroll into the ocean to visit the Queen of the coast?’
My friends requested for rizzlers; small sheets the weed is wrapped in for smoking. Fada excitedly returned with two brands of rizzlers that already contained the weed. My eye caught the striking red one and almost as if he was reading my thoughts, he said it was 1500 Naira each.
We decided to take this party into a bar close by to avoid the rush hour traffic going home. The bar was cursorily occupied when we entered. The few people there had one thing in common; they were all sporting a blunt almost as if it was a trendy accessory that affirmed your membership into an exclusive club. The bar shared a fence with the ocean. One would think that the sweet and fresh scent of crisp air with a shocking tinge of salt would overshadow the pungent smell of weed. It was almost as if the bar was barricaded by imaginary impenetrable doors that the ocean breeze couldn’t infiltrate. After sitting uncomfortably for a while, we left leaving behind hordes of customers and their blunts.
We stepped outside into the night. The air was pregnant with an overpowering smell of weed and the streets were littered with Fada’s colleagues. They had gotten bolder. They accosted people on the road now.
‘SK dey o!’
It was almost as if they were hawking drinks on Third Mainland Bridge. Ladies of the night clad in sequined crop tops and skirts that defied gravity weren’t left out of the action. They strolled around, somewhat seductively, looking for customers for the night. My friend and I walked to his car and I saw Fada and the rest of the boys running after cars, doing what they know best. I entered the car and we sped off, embracing the fresh respite from the scent from hell.