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Funmilola Ogunseye: Why Do Traders in Yaba Market Have To Touch Women?

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There are things I do because I enjoy doing them. Passing through Yaba is not one of those things.

I understand that without certain privileges in life, surviving or even thriving can be hard. I understand that we have to work, or maybe you call it ‘hustle’. I understand that different means are invented to get goods or services to their target audience. I understand the economic hardship in Nigeria. I understand that you might have to do extra to even feed in Nigeria. But I do not understand why you have to harass, catcall, touch or insult me to buy something from you.

I was new in the university, eager to start wearing trendy clothes. I went to Yaba Night Market. I was told that I could get clothes for as low as ₦500. I went to the stall of a man who sold vintage clothes. Vintage was a fad that year. I inquired about the price and it was around ₦2500. I told him I would pay ₦500. That was a dangerous mistake. I understand I was naive, but tell me you have not made that bargain before? He thoroughly insulted me. I was dumbfounded. What did I do to deserve that? The person I went with tried to be the hard girl to the man in order to salvage my ego, but there was nothing left. It was one of those things but it is funny how I still remember. I also remember that one seller insulted my friend from stall to stall till she boarded a bus. He was livid she did not buy from him. He turned to insults for succor. Maybe I am being sensitive, but Yaba Market Boys make life exhausting. I do not know what they are called but that is the easiest tag to classify them.

There was no justification for the insult but someone might blame me for approaching him in the first place. But have you been harassed for just existing and choosing to pass somewhere in your country? The only crime committed here is passing through Yaba or Tejuosho.

There is somewhere you get to at Yaba and you can no longer be your nice or happy self. You have to avoid being touched, dragged, insulted and stalked. I have to pretend to be firm, harsh, because I want to pass through a place. I get pulled by strangers because I unfortunately passed their kingdom and I have to pay tributes by patronizing them. I do not enjoy this attention. I find it psychologically draining.

The clumsiness of the market makes me feel unsafe passing through there. You do not have breathing space for anything. Your personal space is non-existent. You are insulted if you refuse to patronize them, and it is horrifying.

This is how the cycle goes: I leave the house happy, get to Yaba, try to be polite and warn sellers that I am not interested in patronizing anyone but they do not listen. I feign anger and become rude until I leave the market. How long will I continue this in life? I am still quite young and I know that as long as I am in Nigeria, I will have to deal with this when I go to the market.

I have been to other markets and the highest anyone does is to call you sweet names to attract you, but no one pulls you. It is supernatural to pass through Yaba market without a stranger intentionally touching you. I can only speak from experience and I know that it might be worse in other places, but the fact that I am dealing with it does not justify it or make it normal.

I have tried to understand the psychology behind all this, I know their ultimate goal is to get customers, but my body should not have to pay the price. The economy of Nigeria calls for desperate or innovative ways to be successful but things are already hard enough, why make it harder for me by constantly pulling me? I know that Yaba Market Boys might never come across this article, but I understand the power in sharing my experience because people go through these things. Nobody is just talking about it, and we invalidate their pain because there are bigger problems. Thing is, this is a problem too.

I avoid passing through Yaba or Tejuosho market because I do not always have the energy to be firm or warn these people off, but I know there are individuals, especially girls, who have to go through this every single day of their life. I guess it becomes one of those things (unnecessary stress) about Lagos. People will say Get used to it, there is nothing you can do. It bothers me that we easily get used to toxicity in Nigeria but the truth is what can we do about it?

Photo Credit: Fotos.com.ng

Ogunseye Funmilola (dasience) is a professional reader, budding writer, blogger and a psychology student. One day, she hopes to visit places she has been to through books. You can catch her on http://dasience.com

30 Comments

  1. Ebere

    October 23, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    You are right, it is really a problem. It also extends to Jibowu when you have to travel outside Lagos once they see you with a travelling bag, you’re done. They’ll be fighting over who is to carry your bag. Thank God the Lagos State Government has dislodged them from Jibowu. But that Yaba case is terrible, I once bought a shoe (aba made) and someone offered to put a nail as sample, so I told him to put on the pair of shoe. That was the biggest mistake of my life, I almost left the pair of shoes with him, the money I used to put nails on shoe was more than the money I used to buy shoe. When I am passing through I don’t even bother looking at the things they sell.

    • Uberhaute Looks

      October 25, 2018 at 12:43 am

      Super Market is the worst! Yaba still has space but Super bend down market after Oja Oba before Iyana Ipaja is terrible!

      My friend had a terrible experience in Yaba. One of the boys in fact tore her cloth and punched her face. Unfortunately for him, she has Naval friends. From their hands back to the East straight because the boss didn’t want “wahala”

  2. Beht why

    October 23, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    I am so glad women are speaking up. I hated going to the market as a little girl just because of this.

  3. Busolami Alli

    October 23, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    My dear sister, no one is exempted from these so called Yaba guys including those Hausa guys.Not even Muslim sisters that cover their body and does not like to be touched unnecessarily by the opposite sex. It’s so bad that as one pass through Yaba market, those Yaba boys will pull your hand, Alhaja, my color, Oyinbo, I have nice chiffon tops, tight jeans anything you want,come and buy from me na, its so annoying to start explaining to them that you’re not buying anything,you’re passing through. That type of persuasive advertising is so uncalled for.

    1
  4. sissy

    October 23, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Yaba market and their wahala. dem no try that rubbish with me first first i no dey smile and add to the fact say i be ibo girl if them talk one i give them 20

  5. Somto

    October 23, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Wonderful article funmi, I actually went there on Saturday and man it was not funny.

  6. Ola

    October 23, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Very funny article. But to go from 2,500.00 to 500 was looking for trouble. Those guys are really troublesome. Maybe you just avoid going there so you can live long. I will advise you not to go alone. Go with with your brothers if you have them or 2 trusted men. You will be so surprised. That is still their mentality. You’ll buy your stuff in peace.

  7. Joy E. Ojo

    October 23, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    They start with the popular slogan ” My Colour”. Its so annoying and irritating.

    • PINKIE

      October 24, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      or ‘my size’

  8. zzzzzzzzzzz

    October 23, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    It’s not just Yaba but most markets have this problem and unfortunately not to sound tribalistic the Ibo traders are the worst culprit. I don’t know if they have unions that can talk to them. An incident happened a long time ago where one of the traders was touching a lady unnecessarily not knowing that she was a married woman. Of course the woman slapped him and he retaliated. unknown to him she was the wife of a millitary officer who later on came and whisked the boy away. after that incidence they all respected themselves.

    • Dayo

      October 23, 2018 at 10:49 pm

      @zzzzzzzzzzzz, it’s not an “Ibo traders” thing (nor a Yaba or Lagos thing). I have not been to markets in the Far North, but everywhere else it’s virtually the same thing.

    • No

      October 24, 2018 at 8:13 am

      Dayo, I strongly disagree. Name one market in the north where this happens.

    • Dayo

      October 26, 2018 at 9:52 am

      @NO (and ABI?), exactly what part of “I have NOT been to markets in the Far North” was too difficult to comprehend?! Smdh

    • abby

      October 24, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      Stop telling lies please..

  9. Nneoma

    October 23, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Onitsha main market comes to mind with this article. All through my stay in Lagos, I never went to Yaba though.

  10. Maju

    October 23, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Beware, those people you see on the streets of yaba dragging ladies neither own shops, nor are they traders. They won’t think twice to pick your pocket. Basically their “business” is taking prospective customers to someone else’s shop and pretend to be the owners or sales people. If you end up buying from them, just know that you’ve bought the ware almost twice the original price, cause they will take their own commission before giving the owners of the shop the original cost of their wares. Sometimes, they even pay owners of the shop who are unaware of the transactions less than their selling price. Not to take away from this article, but they not only constitute nuisance to people walking by, but also the real traders and owners of shops. I have a customer in yaba who supplies me wares, so I know this. The thing that annoys me is when you’re complaining about it, you’ll hear fellow Nigerians telling you, “ahnahn madam, na wetin them dey take feed their families”. I remember Fashola attempted curtailing it, and some people from a certain tribe tagged it as tribalism, at the end of the day, they’re still the ones that lose, cause they’re usually the legit business owners in yaba.

  11. Ene

    October 23, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Thank you for this write up. I went to yaba market when I was 16. Those traders kept dragging me to come to their stores. I refused and one of them said, “ this one is acting like she no sabi man, but for room na tiger she be”. They’re so disrespectful

  12. Cozygal

    October 23, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Yaba is bad, but I rate Aleshinloye in Ibadan worse.

  13. Sherri

    October 23, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    WOW!
    No one is going to suggest solutions/actions?

    • Mawi

      October 24, 2018 at 3:47 pm

      You nko?

  14. Ocean Beauty

    October 23, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    This just reminded me of what happened to my friend in New Benin market. If you live or have lived in benin, you know pinching is the same as fingering. So this guy in the market tried holding my friend’s hand to come to his shop. She got tired of him am blurted out, “leave me na, you just dey finger me, dey finger me”. My guy hala I no dey finger you oh. That was how he let her be. From yaba to ikeja under bridge, these hustlers are the same. And most of them don’t own shops, they hustle customers for shop owners for a stipend

  15. 9ja

    October 23, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    Just another example how so many Nigerians across the board have little concept of personal space.

  16. Vivian

    October 23, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    I used to feel so sad when guys drag me like, it’s not only abt yaba but every where in Lagos fun enough even Hausa guys does it most now, for deir land dey no fit even try am. I wish there is something dat can be done to address dis issue urgently.

  17. Omi

    October 24, 2018 at 8:11 am

    After my first visit to Yaba as a teen, I went back home and scrubbed my body real hard. I felt violated and dirty! These days, I slap hands off me whenever I go to the market.

  18. b

    October 24, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Yaba market is truly the worst, I can never forget the day one of those ibo boys told me, “look at your mouth, you be like person wey go sabi suck”..

  19. lollly

    October 24, 2018 at 10:37 am

    That is yaba market for you. Unfortunately i do not think anyone can prevent such things from happening. my advise is wear a long sleeve when you intend to visit the market.
    That way, you avoid skin to skin contact

  20. Sarah

    October 24, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I can relate to your anno

  21. Sarah

    October 24, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    I can relate to your annoyance. it’s constant harassment everyday. Just last week, one of the boys was advertising his ware. I did as if I wasn’t seeing or hearing him but then I wasn’t interested. The next thing I heard was, “see as she be”, “see her head”, “idiot”. Can you beat that! All that insult because I didn’t look at your wares.
    Something, I feel I’m capable of murder when I pass through Yaba as it is an unavoidable route to & fro work for me.

  22. That Lagos Girl

    October 24, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    You are absolutely right. The catcalling and insults is really annoying. You don’t even have to be buying anything, just pass through their stalls and boom, they unleash the insults.

  23. Mak

    December 21, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    I just heard about the #YabaMarketMarch today after I watched this video https://youtu.be/H3porM1n_nI

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