Twelve years ago, I went in search for my mother. I still recall eight years earlier on before the search, during our quarrel, she had vowed never to visit me again because I had refused to let go of the woman I loved. I ignored her advice and eventually got married. These memories surged like a powerful tsunami as I strolled along Alaba Rago bus stop at the Badagry expressway in Lagos State. Alaba Rago is just a stone throw from the Lagos State University, Ojo.
A lot has changed with this area of Lagos. Ojo Local Government Area, where Alaba Rago is located, is generally regarded as ‘Lagos Village’ which is meant for the very poor.
Alaba Rago is a metaphor for chaos and ruggedness because the lifestyle of the inhabitants of this ghetto area, who are mostly from the Northern part of Nigeria, can bear living in the most deplorable conditions. Presently, with the construction of the ten-lane International expressway that traverses through several ECOWAS countries, Alaba Rago has been transformed into a disaster zone and an eyesore for its inhabitants. The reconstruction of the Badagry expressway has consumed a chunk of its market space creating a crampy outlook. The closest comparison of this part of Lagos is the aftermath of a war zone. This area is a beehive for the sale of rams and goats. It is also a beehive for criminals and prostitutes.
My stroll along the expressway took place during the #ENDSARS protest. I found myself gingerly walking along the yet to be completed but busy expressway. I strolled without a care in the world after hopping from one bank to another in order to withdraw money. Banks did not open because it was the beginning of the #ENDSARS riots.
I happened to pass by the area where I encountered my mother, more than a decade ago. This particular area is littered with shanty houses made of wood and corrugated zinc roof. The memory again, quite painful, felt like a jolting sledgehammer.
You see, after my mother and I became separated, I searched in vain for her for eight years. Luckily, I was tipped off of her whereabouts by a family relative who hinted that she was seen within the slums of Alaba Rago. Mind you, those shanty buildings were used by prostitutes who paid a daily rent. I summoned courage and followed the trail. To my utmost amazement, I couldn’t believe that I had located her. But the reunion suddenly took on a weird and sour feeling. She actually lived in one of those dingy, dilapidated shanties used by prostitutes. My worst nightmare had come to life. I then came to the surreal realisation that mother was a prostitute in Alaba Rago! She had finished ‘servicing’ a man from the north who immediately took his leave. I was broken. I was shattered. I then broke down in tears and felt a wave of shame, remorse, and anger teeth through my innermost being.
I kept on asking how she ended up in this condition? I told her to pack her things immediately and move in with me. Mother refused. I couldn’t understand why she refused. I could only guess that she had imbibed so much of the street in her that she could no longer feel comfortable living in a normal family setting.
She eventually passed away. Mother finally left this harsh and wicked world to rest from all the fickle struggles of the living. What a memory rush.
Along the sides of the roads, you could see all manner of goods stacked on top of one another: furniture, electronics, second-hand items, traditional herbal drugs. Sturdy muscular young dark-skinned men ever-busy pushing goods in their wheelbarrows with sweat pouring profusely all over their lean bodies. One thing very characteristic about Alaba Rago is the countless beggars who line up along the sides and middle of the expressway. I simply waltz by through them with memories trailing like smoke.