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