The street hawking ban hurts those who have the least – Agbaosi Sevezun Gloria

©Premium Times NG|street hawkers in Nigeria

Following the latest ban on street hawking in Nigeria; in Lagos in particular, an ex-street hawker speaks out about the lives street hawkers live and how very tough it is to exist in this manner.


Do you know what it means to live daily from hand to mouth?

I’m in a comfortable place now.
Not really where I want to be yet.

But I will tell you about hardship.
I will tell you what it means to survive by the barest minimum .

I lost my dad in 1987. My mom worked at ASCON as a housekeeper. My dad gave us an elitist life style. It is a polygamous home. What he left as properties couldn’t be accessed by my mum to augment her meagre salary.
On that salary, she insisted she won’t take us out of ASCON Staff School to public schools.
So, our school fees, three of us, the school fees of the three of us took a heavy toll on the small salary.

See, a luxury as small as a television, we didn’t have. A family member took away my late father’s television.
I guess that’s why I’m not a television freak.
Ordinary refrigerator, we couldn’t access that one anymore. We were denied using it for about 3 years. We were locked out of many basic necessities of life.

I can make sawdust stove very well.
I will go to the timber shed to pack bags of sawdust.
Some entered my eyes one day and it aggravated my eye problem.
If I make you firewood to cook, you will look at me again and again. I am a pro at it.

I hawked.
I hawked iced water ( after the refrigerator was released with much begging and sucking up by mom).
I hawked gari, I hawked water leaf, I hawked Cocoyam, I hawked cooked maize, I hawked cold drinks, I hawked oranges, “agbalumo”.My younger ones hawked too.

Life was very, very hard.
Many times, we cooked soup that had no fish.
One day, my mum prepared sweet potatoes and there was no palm oil to go with it. We ate it like that even as it stopped in our throats and we pushed it down with water. One day, my aunt introduced my mom to “asamu egungun” (biscuit bones) . After our mouths peeled from dragging bones ehn, my mom didn’t buy it again.

There was a Christmas ehn, ordinary rice and even fish to prepare, my mom couldn’t afford it.
We went for the Christmas vigil mass like that.
My mom needed to use the convenience at church and that was how she saw a One Naira (N1.00) note on the floor.
That One Naira note was a wonderful manna.
Na that one gangan suppose be “sent from Heaven”
She bought rice and my late aunt gave us a local chicken.
That was Christmas!

My mom will take gari and kuli kuli to work.
Tie the gari in small nylons for fellow workers who couldn’t afford to eat at the cafeteria.
She sells those at a fee.
And she had to hide the gari to sell because it is not allowed at work.
Civil service work no get prestige at alllllllll.

In all of this, one thing my mother insisted on was that she won’t compromise on our education.
At a young age, I knew lack and want.
Rather than buy clothes, she will make sure our textbooks and notebooks are complete.
She will come to staff school EVERY WEEK to check on my academic progress.

So, you see the same girl that used to eat bread and Planta margarine, yam and omelette, drink Ribena and Tree-Top, scotch eggs and orisirisi.
The same girl that used to present bouquet for visiting heads of states and different dignitaries in Badagry when my dad was alive turned a street hawker.

When you ride in G-Wagon, air conditioned machines, when you live in Lekki, when your life is about contracts and TGIF, it is very convenient to applaud Ambode’s elitist policies.
When we talk of suffering, yours didn’t include going to “AlakotoMeji” to fetch firewood, where you walk in shallow waters and carry firewood on your head.
You don’t know about “Abacha’s stove”.
You never had to rely on “Ice-water tutu re oooo. Omo oni ice-water naa de o. E ra omi e p’oungbe” {“Here’s your cold water oooo. Your iced-water seller is here o. before you will put something in your stomach for the night.

And this was how I got ulcer.
My mom cooked for us with so much “ata gbigbe” – dried pepper.
Others came out of it with no injury to their stomach walls.
I was not that lucky.
Ulcer is a reminder for me.

I have not forgotten where I am coming from.
When I was in Secondary School, I will look at some of my mates and I will tell myself “If I tell this one that I haven’t eaten fish in a week now, she won’t believe o” (please, don’t even mention meat. Where I see am?)

I agree, there are robbers amongst street hawkers.
I agree, they are exposed to danger.
But wait…..

You. Yes you! Are you not a pen robber?
You. Yes you! Are you not a danger to society?
Well…. You wear ironed shirts and dresses, so your own thief thief isn’t obvious.
He campaigned to these “miscreants ”
Some of the “miscreants” are true born Lagosians.

What has been done, no I’m not talking of paper work; what has been done to actively move these ones out of the street?
What has been done to help them get by daily?
There are homeless in New York.
There are street urchins in New York.

I know you won’t agree that these people live from hand to mouth.
Don’t stay too long reading this.
You might miss your connecting flight.

Una good morning o.

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