“Did you say Agbotikuyo, like to rejoice at the sound of death”
I had to ask again to confirm I heard him correctly.
Not that I was a stranger to such names, but this just took a different dimension to it. I had been to Aba elesu inside Wofun Olodo In Ibadan. One of my mother’s good friend lived at Ajangboju, also in Ibadan. Agbotikuyo just added a layer of weirdness to it, perhaps the name had a purpose, to put every new occupant on guard.
I had just left the University, got an internship role straight from school, and like every graduate’s dream, I was set to move to Lagos, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, only that for me, it was the second time.
The options for accommodation were not many, even if they were, Taiwo was going to be my main choice, we became friends during my first stint in Lagos- we worked at a factory together, and through the years, we had stayed in touch. Argh, you needed to see how happy he was that I had finally graduated.
Taiwo is the guy you want in your corner, he envies no one, well, that is the story for another day.
Like real Gees do, I did not need to take permission from him, it was just a phone call
“baba how far na, I don finish school o, na project I wan submit now, but I get one small job like that wey dem don say make I come start, it be like say na your place I go dey stay for now.”
Taiwo- “Baba, why you dey call to tell me that, abeg, dey come dey come, I don miss you die”
Well, that looked like what anyone would say then start fuming afterwards, but not Taiwo, he didn’t just say it, he meant it for every second we stayed together.
“Once you get to Agege, enter Iyana Ipaja, tell the driver say na agbotikuyo you dey go o, if u no tell am he fit take another side, Once u drop at Agbotikuyo, I go dey wait for you” Taiwo reeled out the description immediately.
If you have lived at Agbotikuyo, especially that house, you will know there is a point where your host must wait for you, no straight description can lead you there, not one!
I arrived on a sunny afternoon, and trust Taiwo, he was waiting as promised.
“Baba, bring your bag” he said
I had my popular school bag and a Ghana must go bag. Well this was an improvement over my first movement to Lagos. Then I had a cross bag plus a congo of garri. Well the very night I got in, rats ate the garri, a shirt, plus a part of the bag, so I had to move my clothes to a nylon
As we moved, there were gutters you could jump with swags, then later we got to gutters where you had to be deliberate, use swags at your own peril. In 15 minutes I had seen more people than I had ever seen in an environment, I kept putting the crowd and the buildings side by side, they just didn’t match.
Then we arrived at the house, a one storey building, but right outside, there were almost 20 boys. As we approached the entrance different people were hailing Taiwo “alfa ekasan, alfa se e wa….”. Oh I didn’t tell you my friend is a Muslim, and it was relieving to know he was liked my the multitude, I am always very quick at analyzing my situation every time
As we entered the room, there were two boys on the floor, one’s nick name was ‘Pilot’, he drives keke Marwa between agege and Ogba- I knew we must not fight, his bones were enough to pass the warning across to me.
The second guy called himself a rapper- he didn’t have a job; he could not even afford a book for his lyrics he lived off everybody in the room. He wrote everywhere, from calendars to toothpaste packs. Taiwo was quick to tell me that if I dropped my certificate on the floor, he would have used it to write lyrics by the time I returned at night. That was a timely warning I held dearly. The only time I forgot one of my jotters, it disappeared for three days, when it reappeared, it had become another book of lyrics
I once tried to read one of his lines, I had to give the book back to him as I could not pick a word. Well, he could read it while using anything to make beats- anyway, that was all that mattered.
“Argh, baba, na you be alfa’s friend, argh, eniyan ni yin o, alfa never talk about person like he talks about you before welcome welcome” the two of them echoed
Oh “good guys” I said to myself. Perhaps this won’t be as bad as it looks. I dropped my bag and made sure every coin I had was on me
It was at night that I had a good idea of the people in the house, there were rooms with almost 15 boys! They mostly had girlfriends and babymamas. Once the girl got pregnant, they sent her back to her mother, then they picked another girl, then the journey to poverty continued.
There was a certain guy named Balo. Balo rented one of the rooms, the best room in the house by far. He had a TV and a fridge, Balo would buy a crate of coke at the end of every month- but even if Balo was dying, he would not take a bottle, the drinks were for girls that would come in the course of the month.
Drink, Noodles and Eggs
10 minutes after if you moved close to the room, the lady would be moaning already- Balo once ran out of the room because he ran out of Condom, we were like 10 outside, needless to say he got more than he needed, the boys had theirs in their pockets
The girls with tribal marks, bread sellers, Agbo sellers, Akara hawkers, sex was so cheap, the boys could have two ladies in a day
Awawa boys were terrorizing the area, but none came to our house, they had robbed the house before, the one behind, the one after, but not our house. From my personal analysis, I felt they either knew the boys in our house as friends, or they knew they didn’t have the number to overpower the house, whichever it was, I was comfortable with it- on days other houses were robbed, our boys were the heroes that rushed out with sticks.
The boys were mostly Muslims, so during the last days of Ramadan, they had a particular programme they attended every year- one Waasi at Moricas. On this fateful day they left for the programme. I was probably the only young man in the house till 11pm when Pilot arrived. He said he was too tired and decided not to join the boys at Moricas again.
He opened the front door to smoke; I was probably chatting on my phone as well. Suddenly I heard wild movement of legs, it could only mean a thing, it was our turn
Pilot screamed from outside “egbon e gbe ja”
It was a split-second decision, I jumped out of the bed, followed him as he ran. I saw boys with machetes, probably gun, running after us as they had entered the house. Before I could say jack, Pilot had jumped over the fence behind the building, I knew I could not do that, if I tried it, they would catch me during the attempt. I knew i needed a better way out- a quick decision or be a victim.
Luckily for me, just at the spot where I stood, there was a rough patch of iron sheets which doubled as our rest room, I quickly entered it, bent, and hid inside
The robbers probably did not know two people ran since they pursued only pilot initially.
One of the robbers stood right by my side, I heard him say “God safe you say you fit jump fence, I for take this gun blow your head”,
I was just beside him, the difference was the iron sheet and darkness, I couldn’t breathe, I silently prayed not to sneeze, let alone cough. I was patiently waiting for him to open the sheet while also praying he didn’t at same time. He stayed for a minute more, maybe two, still fuming at the fact that Pilot escaped.
Then he entered the house to join the others. they beat those who struggled with them, collected phones and money, the objective of the robbery then was just to collect phone and money. Perhaps as the robbery was going on, someone from the other house called the boys at Moricas, Upon hearing, Taiwo said they ran, they came with sticks, but they didn’t meet the robbers. When they realized the robbers had left, they followed them in a chase, they eventually caught one but those with the phones escaped, they could not get the phones back.
While all these went on I was still behind the sheet, I was hearing noise, but I didn’t know who it was- Taiwo was looking for me, Pilot had returned, he was screaming my name everywhere, I waited till I was double sure it was him, then I came out.
I was just looking, I was trying to process what just happened, how I got the strength to run, how I didn’t react to the dust where I stayed. But I was still worried
I was worried about my laptop, but as I lifted my head, I saw Taiwo’s hands, he had my laptop, i could not believe it. I asked how he got it, he said every night since the robbery became too frequent in the area, he used to take my laptop from my bag every night and returned the following morning. He said he waited for me before going to Moricas that night just because of my laptop so he could hide it at the usual place.
I knew he used to take the laptop very night, but I always felt it was because he wanted to watch movies, I didn’t know he had other reasons
The following morning, I told Taiwo I was done, and that I was not just leaving, we were leaving together, I knew for his sanity, he needed to leave that house before he begins to rationalize poverty. And yes, my next salary was the rent for another one room inside Berger- And the Berger story, that is for another day
Agbotikuyo was an experience that makes me laugh till date, it was also the place where I had the most sleepless nights, the most nights of fear!