You Can’t Beat the Nigerian Spirit

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They are a people plundered by successive regimes of the ruling class. Though denied of every right to good living, the true Nigerian never gives up. In these photographs, GBUBEMI GOD’S COVENANT’S SNR captures the tenacity of the Nigerian citizen no matter how thin or lean, and invites you to doff your hat for the Nigerian spirit.
The core Nigerian has that ‘can do’, ‘never say die’ spirit that won Barak Obama his ticket to the White House, and secured him a second term to confound the racists. Some TV evangelists encourage their hapless audience by convincing them that ‘It is not over, until it is over’; when it became apparent the parlance was losing its steam, the Matthew son of Ashimolowo rephrased it to ‘it is not over … until you win!’ The hawking spirit “Hawking has become a spirit in Nigeria, especially in Lagos”, said a surprised Edward Ndukwe, publisher of a community newspaper in Ajegunle.
“Take a close look at the items these people have the courage to hawk; it would require a clean heart and a determined spirit, with enough faith to move mountains to spend a whole day in the sun or rain hawking items which total sum including their profit may not buy lunch in a grill room, or a bottle of wine for your birthday celebration.”
Let us meet those who were glad to talk to our correspondent, and those who believed he was mocking them and gave him a piece of their minds! Mr. Jerome Okoro (not his real name) is a regular hawker of stock fish (okporoko) in Ire-Akari Estate and environs. He has no shop, but having established a source of supply, Jerome, a husband and father of many children in his 50s decided to hawk the stock fish and he does this without apology to anyone. An essential tool of his trade is the hawk-saw for customers who demand the hard fish be cut to smaller pieces. Jerome is known all over his beat.
Though not too receptive, our correspondent gathered that Jerome doesn’t have to pay for a shop or give the Omoniles any opportunity to squeeze money from him. “I know my right”, he told Daily Times, and ignored all entreaties to talk more. The woman with the gaming machine is a popular agent who sits by the entrance of the Ojota garage along the Ogudu-Ojota gate. She took a lot of ‘tanning’ from the hot sun to invent the peculiar umbrella to shield just her head. A closer look showed she had fastened the short rod of the miniature umbrella inside her peculiar headgear. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention and she has done just that.
By the rail road at Oshodi is this old lady who hawks the cheapest of cheap mouth covers. “Cover your mouth! Cover your mouth! Two for 50 kobo” shouts at intervals. From the rising of the sun to its setting you will find her on her feet. On a good day she could sell off a carton of 35 pieces at two for 50 kobo, that would come to N900. What percentage of that will meet her needs? “Ah, if you think about that, you won’t do anything”, she told Daily Times.
Mama Basira is the woman who prefers to carry her brushes, about half a dozen plus 1 on her head; in her left hand she has three sifters and in her right brushes. The bench she sat on was rented for a fee and council agents and area boys come for their collections before she takes her place. To her right is a cobbler who also mends anything amendable, from umbrellas to old soldiers’ boot, even boots for people preparing for the raining season. He negotiated for a permanent position and the price does not come cheap. Twenty-six years old Bosede parades the Iyana-Ipaja bus terminal and market areas with a heap of hand towels she balances squarely on her pretty head, some others under her armpit and she holds a scissors in her right hand. Among her stuff are handkerchiefs and yards of white poplin materials she cuts to size for customers. The bag hanging from her shoulder serves as her mobile bank and holds other unseen items for sale.
Behind her is another young hawker of food seasoners. They pay their market dues and saves daily with the thrift and credit society located inside the market. Bose told Daily Times she is happy providing for herself. “I cannot depend on any man to give me money; I can hustle as well as anybody, and I am saving to finish my diploma course at the Polytechnic.” That is the Nigerian spirit.
The woman with brown envelopes and files carries a frown on her face all day long. She was not in a mood to chat and our correspondent didn’t try to press. How many of that would she sell to make her day? Your guess may not be as good as anyone’; but she is not alone. Along Awolowo Way are about half a dozen other women and young girls selling the same stuff. To her left is another dutiful woman shading her cucumbers and oranges.
Sister Clara holding out a couple of files in both hands was not in the best of moods when Daily Times tried to strike a conversation. The hope that lightens their faces when you approach them is heart-touching, and the disappointment, sometimes bitterness that sets in when they find you are inquiring into their life’s struggle sometimes brings out the fury in them. Many times our correspondent has to buy their items to keep the hope high and draw a smile and a grateful ‘Thank you’ from them. Just after the railway crossing at the same Ikeja, Daily Times found these young and happy little ladies in a row, hawking a brand of cellphone and chatting away happily under the bright afternoon sun. They are not on salary, Daily Times learnt. “We are on commission; if we sell we make our money; if we don’t, it is just another day but we are keeping ourselves busy before we take the Jamb examination coming soon.” It makes sense, and it keeps them away from doing mischievous things when no one is watching: that is the Nigerian spirit.
The three hawkers in the last but one photo tells a story: while the little mum at the far back hopes to sell her files in front of that gate, the laughing sister, a ‘single’ mother displays three items skilfully while the dear lady squinting at the camera holds out a couple of new arrival slippers for the ladies. The Nigerian spirit is proof of the strength of the human spirit; unfortunately though, if the Nigerian decides to be negative with his tenacity, he does it so well. But whichever way you look at the Nigerian people, you would do well to doff your hat for the Nigerian spirit.

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