I struggled to adapt to my new environment and I struggled to make a decent enough living, in spite of the relatively soft landing provided by my cousin. By this point, there can be only one thought in most readers’ minds – a young girl from Benin coming to Lagos to hustle, having a hard time adapting, and struggling financially? – yet I refused to be lured to the “other side” of Lagos or dark Europe for that matter.
This was one world I refused to enter. There were many temptations but for the grace of God and self-pride, I may have fallen victim. Or maybe I was just a coward, too afraid of the horrors that befell so many young women, some of whom I knew personally.
So how then did I make my break in Lagos? Trading. The reason for which I came to this town in the first place, but managed to get side tracked in the hustle and bustle.
This was my niche, my own thing. The one commercial activity I did as well as anyone, regardless of tribe, training or religion.
And so I started. It was a small side business at first, using the monies I had raised from working and what little I brought from Benin.
I must say, markets in Lagos are unbelievable. Lagos markets live, Lagos markets breath; they eat unsuspecting people, careless people, greedy people – now that’s a special delicacy for Lagos markets – and Lagos markets spit out bones on littered, muddy sidewalks, many times before breakfast!
This was yet another world, and I embraced it body and soul.
I quickly became a bona-fide Lagos hustler like the other South-South migrants I met along the way.
Little by little, by hard work, perseverance and pure good old fashioned luck, from one market to the other even with setbacks like my being robbed of shopping money, my business grew. I became a store owner with staff, first at Alpha Beach, then Lagos Island, Lekki, and onto Oniru.
Staff, or help as they are rightly called, meant having more time for myself. Now, I had always been fascinated by social media. Well, Facebook to be precise. And so, as soon as I was able to, I bought myself a smart phone: access – yet another world, this time, opened literally before my eyes. I had found a place where I could connect with people from different tribes, nationalities, beliefs, and all walks of life without being judged or made to think that I was not good enough or did not belong. This was my trading post in Iguiya all over again! Friendly interactions with people who wanted to be friendly for the sake of being friendly. Except this time, they didn’t just come from the town hall or the market square or from the farms, they came from just about every continent in the world.
I have come full circle, or at least, so it seems. I am a people person and that is the simple truth behind my “success” as a trader anywhere. But why have I finally told this story? It is because there are so many honest, hardworking, witty, clever good people in the markets of Lagos struggling unduly to earn a living. Nobody sees them – the small traders – because nobody ventures far enough into the markets to find them. And why would you? The super malls are taking over, the mega traders are pushing hard, and the latest phenomenon in Nigeria – online trading has the undertakers readying their parlours for the final farewell to the small traders.
Yet, I have a cunning plan – to share my life as a trader with my friends on Facebook. I want to take you on a journey through different Lagos markets, especially the ones I have worked and traded in for the past few years. My wish therefore is to open up these markets for the benefit of the small traders through social media.
I hope to change lives the way I know best and I pray you find this as interesting a journey as I know it will be…
My name is Sophie Osazua, welcome to my world, SOPHIE’S WORLD.