The hustle is real. It was a statement I’d heard time and time again, but it had no significance to me up until this moment. The hustle was really real, I didn’t realise how real until now.
I was born with a silver, gold and bronze spoon in my mouth, and saying that would be understating it. My dad ranged the top fifty richest men in Nigeria.
I spent my whole life abroad, my parents said they were shielding me from the harsh realities that lay in Nigeria.
I was so anxious to see Nigerian, to see how “my people” lived and familiarise myself with their customs.
Finally I was able to convince my parents not only to bring me here but to allow me see the places with the worst living conditions.
Early this morning, my parents allocated four body guards to take me to a place called Ojuelegba, in the deep parts of Lagos. I was instructed to stay in the car and just look around then I would be brought back to the island, but I had other plans in mind.
It was not hard to convince my driver to stop the car, then I quickly jumped out leaving both him and the guards in a frenzy.
Two minutes. That was all it took. I was trying to catch my breath after escaping and sat under the closest shade. I was laughing and looking round when someone approached me
“Aunty, who talk say make you seat here?”
I looked at him, not quite understanding the Pidgin which he spoke, but I got the sense that I was seating were I wasn’t supposed to.
“I’m sorry” I said quickly getting up to move elsewhere. I hadn’t even moved an inch when he grabbed my elbow
“Where you dey go?”
As much as I hated the way he was holding me so disrespectfully, staring at me, assessing me up and down, I hated the attention he was drawing more
“What do you want? Money?”
My parents always told me that all the people in this area needed was money and they would be fine. I searched through my purse, his eyes following my hand as it counted through the money in my purse. I counted three thousand and handed to him, forcefully removing my elbow from his hand and walking away.
Then came the children. Obviously malnourished, scrawny looking children surrounded me with plastic plates. I could count almost twenty
“Aunty please… My mama drop me for road… I’m deaf and dumb… I’m blind… My sister dey sick…”
Tears stung my eyes as I tried to move back. I wasn’t sure if it was out of pity or the pungent odor that emanated from them. I started handing out one thousand naira notes to each of them when someone grabbed my hand.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He was the first person that had spoken real English to me and also the first person who didn’t stink.
“Oya, commot for here” he said, shooing the children away. He quickly turned back to the meat he was buying
“Thank you” I said offering him a smile, one which he did not return
“Go home. People like you don’t belong here”
“And what would you know about people like me” I snapped at him. I hated when I was judged because of my money and looks
“Do me a favour madam, look around you”
And I did just that. That’s when I noticed, almost everyone was staring at me.
“If you want to survive another five minutes here, I suggest you do away with the designer outfit and wear something that doesn’t scream money”
“No” he said walking away.
So rude. I was just about to follow after him when I saw a young boy, not more the three years, loading cement into a truck while two able bodied men with bloodshot eyes stood and watched. I reached for my phone to take a video when I discovered that my phone was no longer in my back pocket. I probably left it in the car. I walked towards the place.
“What do you guys think you’re doing? Letting this young boy do this? It’s child abuse and child labour. He should be —“
I didn’t see the slap but I sure as hell felt it. There was a ringing sound in my head and everything was black for a second. I looked up, expecting to hear people jump to my defense, but everyone continued with their normal business, and the young boy kept loading.
Involuntary tears were spilling down my cheeks and I’m pretty sure some of my teeth fell out. I couldn’t let this go.
“Abeg fogive am. The girl head no correct. Abeg brother. Just leave am. Na my small sister. She no dey ever hear word”
The handsome guy from before said dragging me away from the brooding disaster.
After thirty minutes of crying my eyes out on a stranger’s lap, with iceblock stuck to my face, my bodyguards found me and carried me to the car with the handsome young man following behind
“Make sure she never comes back here” he said, turning and quickly disappearing in the crowd, something pink and oddly familiar in his hand. My purse. He had stolen it. My phone was not in the car either.
On the drive home, all I could think about was I could have been any of those children,what I could do when I got a little older to ease the suffering of “my people”, because no matter how terrible my experience was, I was a Nigerian, a proud one and the hustle was real