They come trooping from the rural and grassroots areas of all the 36 states of the federation and beyond, all headed to the undisputed commercial capital city of Nigeria.
Eko, as indigenes fondly brand Lagos, ranks first amongst the most hospitable geo-entities anywhere. Her hands are always open to all comers and she has something for everyone, no matter your nativity, nationality or color – and Ambode will assure you Lagos does not insist on passport or visa to receive and accommodate all Ekaetes, Okoros and Abdulrahims!
Now, one or two people selling the same item by the wayside anywhere may not draw attention, though it may raise eyebrows on account of competition. Traders generally love to shield their domain from intruders who want to shortchange them of their customers and half their total sales at the end of each trading day.
The Daily Times gathered that though some traders may not bother, others do – and could go the extra mile – even going diabolical to expel the ‘intruder’ from his or her domain.
Bond of unity
But when three people selling the same product sit together and they do it religiously with passion, joy and love, the sight radiates and transmits a colourful aura that interprets and redefines the beauty of our humanity.
So it was exciting when our correspondent spotted three unique individuals who have carved a niche for themselves in a trade as ordinary as peeling and selling of oranges. The sight underlines the saying that there is power in the number three.
The wise King Solomon proclaimed that a three-fold chord is not easily broken. A native Yoruba adage also says Aromete ki da obenu (The three-legged burner does not spill the soup).
Along the Iyana-Ipaja to Egbeda route in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos, you will find them ever present at the Gowon Estate gate just before the very busy Egbeda bus stop.
Perched just by the road side, the three orange musketeers can be found at their duty post from 4pm to wee hours of the night.
Our correspondent stopped by on a cool Saturday evening and found the three ladies in their early 30s are close relatives from Ogoja in Cross River State.
Understandably uncomfortable talking to the press, The Daily Times managed to find out the secret that bind them together.
They live in the same neighbourhood with their families and do virtually all things in common. Their quest to make ends meet and leave the class of idle and dependent housewives conceptualised the idea of buying orange from the same source and selling at the same spot all year round, except Sundays.
One would wonder, of all the numerous thriving trades in Lagos, why orange? The answer is not far-fetched. These women know how to go about the business in a unique way; they chose a very busy spot overflowing with people most hours of the day and also capitalise on the ’rush hours’ of every day – till the night hours.
Religiously, they arrive the spot around 4pm to begin the business of each day. Despite the sameness of their product, these women go about their business without friction. They never argued over which customer is buying from which of them, or who is making higher sales than the other.
The most outspoken of the three who first warned they won’t give their names and ‘no photographs’, gave a small account of their beginning.
“We started when we realised we cannot sit idle at home and expect manners from heaven. So we saw it as something we can do and make a living. We did not emulate anybody, we just ventured into it and we have never looked back.’’
In times of scarcity of the fruit, the musketeers have a solution.
“Orange doesn’t go out of season,” Chinyere (pseudonym) corrected. “We know where to hunt for orange; although when it becomes very scarce, we still get it but at a very high cost.
“During such periods, some orange sellers back out to try their hands on something else, but we still buy. What we do is that we just reduce the quantity we sell.
“For example, if we have been selling five oranges for N100, we reduce it to three. Our customers understand and they do endure the trying periods with us, so business continues.”
Had they ever clashed over customers or one outselling the other?
Chinyere laughed and shook her head.”Never, we don’t do that. Even if one person did not finish her own we all share what is left and sell it off.”
Considering you stay by the roadside without cover, how much do you pay for this space?
“We normally pay N50 for council ticket every day; but when the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) people comes around, we pay N1000. On a bad day, they demand N1500 and we pay.”
The late night shift
“Sometimes we leave here around 9:30 or 10:00pm, depending on sales. We have to go home and attend to our families.’’
Survival in Lagos is not restricted to daytime alone; business starts from dawn till the wee hours of the night.
At night hours, every corner is busy with traders selling their wares using rechargeable lamps of all kinds.
The three orange musketeers are not left out. If you come around when it is dark, you will see these exceptional women dutifully selling with rechargeable lamps firmly tucked under scarf!
The sight makes one marvel at the tenacity of the Nigerian woman, especially these ladies that work tirelessly round the clock even to the wee hours of the night to get their families going.
Happily, while the musketeers boast that Lagos is their success story, they are not without higher ambition.
“We are looking forward to going into other big business in the nearest future if such opportunity comes our way. We are preparing for that until God will open a way for us.”
Would they be doing the same kind of business like they are doing now?
“Why not? We are very working together. It gives us strength and confidence.”
Their message to fellow women
“It is not good for a woman to be idle. Whether you marry or not, do not be idle. There is joy in making your own money and taking charge of your personal needs and saving for the future.
“Every married woman should engage in some trade to assist her husband to cater for the needs of the home,” she counselled.
There is a lesson to be learnt here: if politicians will allow the six geo-political zones to flourish and bond together like these simple orange sellers, the quest for economic turnaround and national stability will be over, for if a three-fold chord cannot be easily broken, a six-fold chord would lay a solid foundation for future generations where tribes and tongues may differ, but in brotherhood they will all stand until Christ comes again.
God bless the women folks!