STREETWISE: SUNNYSIDE IN PRETORIA IS LITTLE LAGOS, NIGERIA

Posted by Ifedayo Oshin on Saturday, January 18, 2014 Under: Feature Articles
I arrived Lagos around 5p.m. No, did I say Lagos? I meant Pretoria. I was really disturbed and utterly confused. I thought that I have been deceived in the sense that my tour guide has pulled a fast one on me and has driven me back to Lagos from OR Tambo airport where we were coming from.

The winter darkness made my new environment look like downtown Lagos. But my fears were worsened by loud noises and shouts I was hearing as I walked down the Eselen Street. The voices were in Nigerian accents. I heard the rude jokes of Yoruba men. I heard some Ibo men swearing over their loss on ‘Supa’ bets and lotto games. I didn’t really know what that meant. I saw some ladies carrying posters with blurred pictures of women’s hairs. Getting closer, I heard one of them pleading ‘come and do your hair, my friend, I will give you special discount’. Now, that sounds like Ojuelegba market in Lagos. The lady speaking was a Yoruba lady. As I walked further, I saw some men holding pen and some loose sheet of papers. I thought they were journalists. On second look, they were comparing notes. One of them said; “Nna, I almost won o!! If not for this stupid Man U loosing to Everton at home”.  Walking further down the street, I saw a young man try to make fire in what seemed like a ‘suya’ spot in Lagos. “No’, the man told me in a thick Niger-Deltan accent; ‘bros, this one no be suya, na braai. I roast gizzards for money. Man must survive now”. I was dumbfounded. Across the road, I saw men on a long queue from the looks on their faces I thought they were waiting to receive examination result. Sensing my curiosity, my guide said to me those are people waiting for the latest results of their sport betting. ‘It is a profession, here. Some people make a living from it’, he explained.

At this point, I have lost count of my fellow countrymen. I saw some young men- with sagging and torn jeans pants and crazy haircuts - their mannerisms resembled that of the notorious ‘yahoo-yahoo plus boys’ in Lagos. One of them would soon confirm that- I heard him saying; ‘Omo, maga go soon pay’. That was an assurance to his friend who was worried about impending house rent. He said “City property locked my flat this morning. I don’t know where I go sleep tonight’. Oh, do they lock flat here, if you miss just one month’ rent? I wondered. That can’t happen in Nigeria. That’s one more reason I will rather remain in Nigeria. I resolved.

I saw some women too. I was disheartened to see some Nigerian women on the street. All dressed up and hanging around the street corner. Their looks suggested they were lady of easy virtues on easy street. I thought to myself: Is n’t this business a thing of the night? Why are they out so early? And who are their potential customers? Do the struggling Nigerian men have the money and nerve to prostitute with their sisters in foreign land? And I learnt that many South African men don’t pay- how then will these Nigerian sisters survive on the street?

These were the thoughts raging in my mind when my tour guide told me we have arrived at Gerhard Moerdyk Street, here we have the most popular Nigerian spots in Pretoria.’ You have not visited Pretoria, if you have not been on this street’. I said to him take me their let me pay my homage. What I saw there in one of the spots blew my mind away. I remember Alan Paton’s novel- Cry My Beloved Country. I saw Nigerian ‘area boys’ in South Africa. It was 5pm and the tables were filled with all sorts of hot drinks. No, that too can’t happen in Nigeria. I wondered if people go to work here. I saw ‘Alomo’ herbal-plus gin drinks from Ghana. Boys and middle age men were consuming it. I counted over ten bottles of it on one table. It was 5pm on Monday evening and the scene before my sight seemed like it was 11pm on a Friday night. The music was loud, but the bottles of beer on the table were louder.

I saw some girls flocked around the Nigerian men like flies in their tens. The girls spoke pidgin English better than the Nigerians. They were reeling out Nigerian hip-hop lyrics by albums from cover to cover. They were beautiful, drunk and unashamed. The men flirted with them without a limit. Many of the Nigerian men looked 50 years of age. Or maybe I was mistaken. Maybe it is telling signs of rough living in South Africa. They puffed weed and cigarette. Some were begging for R10 to buy beer, some R25 to buy a meal. Many were betting. Supa bets and lotto sheets were all over the tables. Some of them looked as if there was no water in South Africa. They smelled of alcohol and dried perspiration, of women and cheating and lies.  They cursed and boasted. I heard one of them saying; ‘no way, I will never go back to the f…king country’, but they looked to me they could not afford bus fare to the airport.  Some were selling wares- shoes, jeans and different Nigerian herbal drinks for survival. I was gripped with indignation like Jesus when he entered the temple turned marketplace.

Then, it dawned on me I was at Sunnyside in Pretoria and I now know why they call it little Lagos.

Amidst of the women, beer and loud music, the wounded lines on their faces revealed hidden vulnerability, loneliness, fears, confusion, sadness and deep regrets.

Remember, my brothers and sisters the sons and daughters of whom you are! If going forward is impossible, why don’t you go back rather than get stuck in the middle in suffering and shame. Parents try and find out what live your children are living abroad. Be wise!!

In : Feature Articles 



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