KINGS OF KADUNA, MAGICIANS, PROSTITUTES, KID BEGGARS HOLD SWAY
Lagos Garage at the Kawo area of Kaduna, Kaduna State, essentially exists as a point of arrival and departure for Lagos travellers in the city. But this place has ironically birthed a conscious scripting of a certain theatre of the absurd featuring unethical practices. Prostitution, child abuse, suicidal street trading and other odd things hold sway here among the operators and travellers.
A two-day observation by sun provides shocking insight into the absurd nature of these practices.
24 hour trading
Contrary to the expectation that at night a garage should go to sleep while guest houses or hotels serve as haven for travellers at such hours, it was baffling to discover that there is unending trading here everyday and night. Petty traders here hawk bread, tea, kilishi, suya, tuwo, drinks, food, and of course, prostitution.
Surprisingly also, most travellers from Lagos who had stopped over or arrived at the garage late patronise the unwholesome trade in the garage. Indeed, there seemed to be no sleeping time for the traders as they carried on and felt at home chatting in Waconia local tongue, Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba and a first caller is stunned on realising that the people do not behave like it was midnight as they all go about selling and buying.
This continued from dusk to dawn.
Curious to know why the place is a different world, Saturday Sun engaged one of the traders identified as Aminu, who serves travellers hot tea, fried egg and bread at a fee in a friendly chat. His frank confession is that such trading is very much common in all motor parks in the state and everyone does it to survive.
'It is what we do for a living. I have my wife and children to cater for. They often help me here. My wife is a porter in this park. She also does it till this time (2:34 am) so if you have a heavy kaya (load) to carry to where you want to put up this night I can send for her to do that. We sleep here. There is the toilet and bathroom over there. (He pointed to a ramshackle behind him where some of the traders were observing prayers and others bathing). Our children also live with us. Allah is taking care of them. Trading for this long is a survival tactics. I have many mouths to feed.' Asked if he operates the business in shifts with any member of his family who must have slept during the day, Aminu nodded a vehement no and said it was not necessary. 'Sometimes, I can doze off and I wake up again. There is no barao (thief) here. That is one of my sons sleeping on that table. Some of us who are younger have members of their relations or hired hands helping them', he clarified.
Just in front of a Conoil filling station in the garage, at the other side of the road is located a half tarred narrow lane called Liberia Street. It looked quite normal and ordinary during the day but the street is usually alive with some other unethical activities such as prostitution, midnight trading, film shows and heavy drinking. There are also many okada riders operating at the street's junction. Incidentally, the kind of prostitution done here is so subtle that except on keen observance, it is hard to find out. Most of the ladies involved in the act hide under the cloak of being bar attendants and traders in the shops and restaurants that line up the street.
You need to approach an okada rider on the Liberia junction for you to discover that you could easily get a call girl to warm the night for you before you proceed on your trip at day break. 'They don't charge you much. It depends on how rich you look. From N200 to N1000 you can get your bed warm with any of them till day break. You are to pretend as if you want to buy a drink or meal, then you stay much longer. That would attract the girl to ask you if you need her for a session or the night. And if no girl came to you, you are to make the subtle move, such as giving her your balance of the purchase to strike a deal.
His word was confirmed much later when Saturday Sun went to one of the bars to have a drink. The lady that soon came had no time for any chat as she insisted it was business straight away. 'You get your car or you don get room for Mando Guest House?, was her prompt response. The guest house is located right inside the garage. A no response to the sex worker was met with a long hiss and swift walk away. Other attempts at other ladies met with same treatment. But for the uniformed men, many of who formed part of the patronage, the ladies just followed.
On Liberia Street is a certain Yoruba woman who is a food vendor popularly called Iya Osogbo. She cooks and sells her meal from dusk till dawn. When one of her daughters was asked if they ever sleep at all, she said that was only possible by just dozing off occasionally. This is the time we sell most. We dare not miss this business especially at the Ramadan like now. Interestingly, a lot of Muslim travellers and traders patronise her to observe their sari (midnight meal in readiness for fasting for the day.)
Most of the Igbo people who trade at midnight on Liberia Street operate bar business or food vending. You could recognise them through the loud gospel music in Igbo language that blared from the loud speakers in their shops. While Yoruba men dominated the okada business, the Hausa men trade in provisions, tea, bread, suya and other local foods.
Prof. Peller of Kaduna
In another interesting development, a young man, Audu Bauchi, who hails from Taraba State proclaimed himself a magician and powerful healer of all kinds of ailment: malaria, infertility, blindness, staphylococcus, and anything you can recall. Audu said he has a pharmacy called Gargajiya where he dispenses local herbs or drugs for such ailments. He displayed some of these herbs in form of dry leaves, dead and dry animals such as crabs, tortoise and others.
To prove his healing prowess to the audience, many of which were children, he began performing some magic. He would thrust a new, evidently well sharpened local sword in his throat, arms and belly, but surprisingly, the sharp object did not cut him. He also asked one of his assistants to shoot at him a sharp local arrow and this could not also penetrate his flesh. Finally, Audu challenged anyone who was ill among the crowd to come out so that he administers his powerful herbs for an immediate cure.
He boasted in Hausa: if any one is having a very serious sickness among you, come out and I will heal you right here with my powerful drug. Funny enough, nobody was ready to dare but some approached him personally for patronage. Saturday Sun asked Audu if he could grant a comprehensive interview on his claims, possibly afraid, he declined saying he doesn't need such publicity.
Kid street beggars
The most appalling on the street of Lagos garage in Kawo is a pitiable sight of underage little boys in rags begging for alms very early in the morning. They look dirty, and famished. They go about in small groups, chorusing in Hausa, asking for alms with religious flavour. Of course, their aim is to solicit arms from travellers as they hang on buses looking expectantly at passengers for help.
Trust the usual travellers at the garage for cooking up their own stories about these little beggars. Their rumour suggested that the kid beggars are actually children of Hausa traders who live in the garage and trade even at midnight. Other versions have it that the kids inherited the trade from their parents who had grown too old to go out but now rely on the returns from these kids for survival. It is rather pathetic that while most of their mates were preparing for school they wasted their time begging for alms at motor parks across the state. Perhaps, it is true as a passenger pointed out that some of them still go to public schools after an early morning session of alms begging. It all boils down to an indication of abject poverty plaguing thousands of Nigerians.