“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject for today is Chizzy. A trader in Yaba in his twenties. He walks us through life in Yaba market, his doubts on Coronavirus in Nigeria, and his struggles with weight gain.
I wake up by 7 am today. The first thing I do is morning devotion, followed by press-ups. I have to keep fit both spiritually and physically. I wake up early because if I don’t get to Yaba market on time, sales may have finished for the day. Since the lockdown was lifted, we have new rules in the market. We open by 9 am and close by 4 pm. If I don’t leave my house early, I may not get a bus. Missing the bus can ruin my sales for the day.
I quickly have a bath, brush and set off for the day. I make sure I always leave my house latest by 8:30 am. It takes 30 minutes to go from my house to the market – it’s two buses and one pedestrian bridge away.
The first thing I do when I get to the market is to find food. I don’t play with morning food because without it, I can’t concentrate when you’re talking to me. Especially if I didn’t eat the night before. Also, I can’t eat the same food I ate last night the next day. For example, I ate rice last night so I’m eating swallow today. I no dey like to chop the same food twice.
The sad part is that with the way I eat, I’m still not fat. The thing annoys me. I want to drink fat medicine because I am tired. Sometimes, I’ll do press-ups to see if I can even get muscle. I think I am cursed to not have body.
After eating, I greet my neighbours for them to know that I am around. I like to be jovial in the market. I always announce my presence so that the day I don’t come, they will feel my absence.
I work under someone but I still run my own packages. My oga gives me goods to sell, and my job is to record the sales. I can sell it at any price as long as I record my oga’s profit and cost price. Other people even bring goods for us to sell and I have my own percentage from whatever I sell. It’s funny because the people that bring goods for us to sell have money to buy plenty but they don’t have the connection to move them. I have the connection to move it, but no money to buy plenty goods. Sometimes, if I see someone going to China, I give them small money to help me buy things. For them to just arrange the reigning fashion wears for me. Then I resell here as my own and keep all the profit.
Sadly, the last stock I bought from China has finished and I haven’t been able to get more because of the lockdown. Some people have dropped their goods with me and we have agreed on my own percentage. My plan for today is to sell as many as I can so that I can earn it.
I go to the market 4- 5 days a week. I go on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Sometimes, depending on the sales for the week, I don’t go on Thursday. However, no matter what happens, I don’t go on Tuesday and Sunday at all.
Tuesday is for sex.
At least it used to be. In the past when I was still a game boy, my Tuesdays were for that. I used to call myself a game boy because I was a multi-player. I had different partners. But now I am in a serious relationship and things have changed. In the past, Monday nights were exciting in anticipation of Tuesday. These days, things are no longer the same.
My routine in the past was like this: if it’s a first time visitor, I’ll change the bedsheet. I’ll clean the house and also make sure the curtain is not dirty. I’ll even mop the house. Then I’ll spray perfume, have a bath, scrub my teeth, and wait for the babe.
However, if it’s a regular person that’s coming over and we are already sexing, I don’t need to change the bedsheet. It’s not that the bedsheet won’t be clean but it’s not going to be a special affair or I’ll overdo the cleaning. Also, I always make sure my mouth doesn’t smell because I hate bad breath. I enjoy being able to talk to women with confidence. The babe has to enjoy a cool scent when I am talking to her. It also makes kissing easier. If my mouth is smelling when I’m talking, the girl will just be running away.
Anyhow sha, I no longer have sex on Tuesdays. My girlfriend isn’t available like that. She’s at home and she can’t leave the house without her parents’ permission. Even when she leaves, we have to plan the lie she’ll tell her parents ahead. Coupled with lockdown, everything is just somehow.
It hasn’t been easy, but I feel that this relationship is meaningful and heading somewhere. Based on that, I decided to stop being a player.
Nowadays, I sleep on Tuesdays because the rest is also as important. And that’s exactly what I will do today.
Corona no reach Yaba market.
Today, I shook one guy, and he said that he didn’t know why he shook me. I told him that since Corona started, plenty of people have died, and as long as we haven’t died, we will keep shaking ourselves.
The only reason I wear a mask is to avoid Nigerian police. They are arresting people without masks and using it to make money.
In the market, we shake, we hug because nothing dey happen. In fact, there’s nothing like sanitizer. If you come to the market every day for one week, you’ll forget about this virus issue. It’s people who don’t go to crowded places that still talk about the virus. If you go to a crowded place regularly, you’ll get used to it. I am tired of wearing face masks because the sun is beating me and I can’t breathe well in the market. Everywhere is choked. It’s just unnecessary punishment.
Yaba market has its own culture. And our culture is full of werey werey people and we have all agreed that nothing dey happen.
In the first week after we resumed, we all used to tie nose masks. After one week, people got tired and stopped wearing it.
I believe that this Corona thing in Nigeria is a business. I think so because I don’t personally know anyone that Corona has killed. If it’s really in Nigeria the way it is in other countries, why have 5 million Nigerians not died by now? The way it’s potent in other countries, why is it not that potent in Nigeria? And why is it mostly Lagos state that they say people are dying? Don’t they die in other states?
Abroad people are even more civilised than we are, yet they got the virus. In Nigeria, we go to ATMs all the time, we press the keys without wearing gloves. In a public house like face me I face you, people share the same toilet and bathroom. If it’s real, how will they survive it?
The bus I sit in every day, it’s 3 per seat. They say Corona lasts for a long time on the surface and yet we are still surviving it. Why aren’t we dead? Are you telling me that God is saving Nigerians?
We keep saying no church yet some people keep going to church secretly and we don’t know. Police who are supposed to follow the rules will grab you and put you in their motor when you are not supposed to touch anyone. Police will arrest you for not using face masks but they too aren’t wearing it. Can I say that God is protecting us or what’s the explanation?
As I am like this, anything that has made me survive in Yaba market since we reopened, I can never die! I can’t contract Coronavirus. (See disclaimer below)
I have survived two months now since they opened the markets. I believe the politicians are using it for business, but that’s politics for you.
Nothing like Coronavirus at my side. I shake people every blessed day and I never die.
I am not going to the market today. Thursdays are usually dull around the middle of the month because people have finished spending their salaries. People come to shop well around that end of the month time. I am using today to rest.
I plan to do laundry and just balance. I am going to watch plenty Korean films and just enjoy myself. The very first Korean film that captured my heart was Ju Mong. It’s even the only movie title I remember. I don’t remember titles, I only remember how the film made me feel. I fell in love with Ju Mong because of their culture and tradition. I like the way they practise their government in Korea. They have a monarchy and normal government, so sometimes they clash against each other. It’s nice to see a different culture from what I am used to.
Another reason I enjoy Korean movies is because it’s real to some extent. At least better than American films. In American films, they’ll shoot someone and the person will hide inside the river for 10 days. Afterwards, they will come out and treat themselves. I don’t like that kind of movie.
Coronavirus taught us a lot of lessons in Nigeria. Firstly, overwork kills. You need time to relax. If you watch this lockdown time, people came out fresh. It’s just the hunger that spoiled everything. If people had money to eat well, maybe they would have come out fresher.
I was discussing with my boys the other day. In the past, we used to come to the market from 8 am – 8 pm every day. However, these days, because of government rules, we open from 9 am – 4 pm. If you check it, we are making the same money we used to make from working morning till night. Because everything now has time, we can plan ourselves well.
We overstress ourselves in Nigeria. We are supposed to have time to rest. Work for some time and rest for the other. In this Yaba, plenty of people pray for KAI to lock their shops so they can at least use that day to rest. You know there’s no public holiday for market people. No New Year, no Christmas. You rest when they lock your shop or Corona comes.
Lockdown has been a blessing because slim people have added weight. Somehow, instead of adding weight, I have gotten slimmer,even though I eat. They should count me as people that hunger is killing because I didn’t add weight.
Today, before I go to the market, I plan to drink tea. Maybe it’ll help my condition.
I made a mistake at work earlier today. I forgot to remove money for one of the goods I supplied. When I realized it, I went to tell the person I supplied.
The guy denied the mistake with his life.
He was shouting that I removed the complete money. I wanted to rush the guy but I realized that if I fight the guy, I’ll lose. Last last, I’m the one that made the mistake. I just told the guy that the money will not change his life and I freed it. It’s street hustle and e don guy me be that.
I’ve been thinking about the incident throughout the day. How could they run me street? A whole me. This thing is scattering my day.
Abeg, I am going home to sleep.
Sundays are for domestic work and sleep. I usually clean and cook. After what happened yesterday, I find myself thinking about my future today.
Yaba is too rough. I don’t even like Yaba business like that. It’s just that I have spent a long time and people know me here already. If I had better money, I wouldn’t be in Yaba. I don’t really gbadun their lifestyle here. But I also catch fun too so it balances.
I met all the girls I’ve dated in Yaba. I have also made all my money from Yaba. In addition, on the days where sales are bad, I have friends that make me laugh and happy. These are people I play with, laugh with, cry with, fight with. My life revolves around Yaba because that’s where I spend all my time. I go to work during the day and I return home at night.
The fact that too many people know me here also bothers me. If I start my own business now, people will start replaying my history. They will start saying I started from here to here. If I don’t play with them, they’ll say I am now proud. That they know where I am coming from. The eye service is too much, but this is the only place I have known.
This is my life. If I leave Yaba today, my plan is to jaapa.
I’d like a fresh start – a chance to meet new people – a chance to become a new person.
Jaapa – To relocate from Nigeria.
Werey Werey – A crazy or mad person (derogatory)
E don guy me – He has cheated me.
Gbadun – To enjoy something.