The value of labour cannot be defined in financial terms or output only. There has to be more to life than making money, which seems to be the only focus in today’s Nigeria. Yet everyday, we see and often meet people whose work clearly cannot be financially rewarding and yet they have bigger smiles on their faces than most typical Lagos hustlers can manage. Some even go as far as saying, ‘more money, more problems’, so they live in blissful ignorance of what big money worries are about.
Dignity in labour…
…is a project on ekoconnect to “connect” with the lower class entrepreneurs and freelancers in Lagos to see how the other half live and even flourish despite the odds. There is no doubt at all, those odds are stacked high against small players in Big Lagos!
But, let us meet our first small timer with a big heart and an even bigger smile, Mr Elijah Ogazi. Elijah sells books at New Market junction Oniru, and Elijah the book seller makes money doing what he loves no matter how small that might be.
From his business, Elijah pays rent for his shop and pays rent on his accommodation at Lekki Phase 1. He is also able to save up money for his school fees as he is planning to attend university soon. According to him, reading has always been his hobby and by buying and selling books, he has the opportunity to read as many books as he can get his hands on. Elijah clearly has it all figured out.
Elijah wants to make people happy. He draws his happiness from other people’s happiness. He meets new people everyday and looks forward to discussing books with them. Not for him a covered shop where nobody sees him and where he can’t exchange pleasantries with passers by on a daily basis. ELijah actually looks forward to the streets.
Yet, there is another reality which cannot be denied. Books are going increasingly electronic and it is fearsome just how much longer Elijah can continue. There are thousands of people with smart phones in Lagos, and each of those devices are potential e-readers, capable of storing hundreds of books at a time. It is not a good sign for the likes of Elijah whose source of income may soon be eroded by technology.
With a lot of luck and commitment on his part (ie, God), Elijah will make it to university and go on to study a program which allows his love for reading to really come to the fore. He could study law, or history, or english. Or journalism.
It is extremely rare in today’s Lagos to meet a young person with a passion for books. Reading is a dying pursuit in the fast city and the consequences are glaring – graduates who can hardly speak english properly, and many of whom simply don’t read and won’t read either; after all, there are faster ways to make money in Lagos.
We wish Elijah well.