Lagos Story is a weekly series that features a quick story of an individual who lives in Lagos, detailing why they came to Lagos and how the struggle has been.
This week, we spoke to Mallam Ibrahim, a 35-year-old man who came to Lagos when he was 11. He talks about family, life in Lagos, and how his Lagos Story is going so far.
Note: This was done fully in pidgin. Every word here is a restructured part of the conversation with our subject.
What made you come to Lagos?
I was the second child out of fourteen. My father married six wives, and we all lived in our mud house in Maiduguri. It was back then when eyes were still dark. When marrying many wives was a way to show how much of a man you are. The problem with this way of life is that you end up unable to take care of the many kids you have from the many wives.
With how it was with my elder brother, I already knew there was no chance to further my education after Primary school, so I was given the chance to pick what I wanted to do after school.
At 11, I started making decisions about my own life and future. And that was when I choose to come to Lagos to start trading like my father’s brother Yaro was doing.
What was the first mistake you made while you arrived?
Every time I remember this, I always feel like slapping myself. The first week I came to Lagos, it was hell for me because I found it hard to adjust to the lifestyle. Everything seemed to be moving fast in Lagos, even the people. But I wasn’t really surprised. My people had already told me about the place and how to manage, and although it wasn’t going that well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Then I made the mistake of trying to make quick money.
My uncle, Yaro, had sent me to buy a biscuit cartoon from his customer in Idumagbo Market, and on my way there, I saw some boys playing a card game in Onala. One of them called me and told me I could make money if I played with them. He was convincing so I felt there is no harm in trying.
In the blink of an eye, the two thousand Naira Uncle Yaro gave me was gone. They had shown me Lagos, even with all the warnings and orientation I got. They still showed me Lagos.
Do you still think coming to Lagos was a wise decision?
24 years later, three shops in the busy side of Lagos Island and several other young boys from where I come from looking up to me, I know that coming to Lagos was a wise decision. I might not be living the life I want, but I am not doing bad at all.
Lagos is the land of opportunities if you know what you’re doing and face it well. That’s not to say the distraction is not there but with discipline and determination, and handwork, of course, you’ll get that dream or atlas something close to it.
As I can beat my chest 10 years ago that coming to Lagos was a wise decision, I can still beat it now because I haven’t regretted the decision.
How often do you go back home?
You know ‘home’ is not a stone throw away so I have to plan things before I go home. I try my best to go at least twice every year. Mostly, around April. I just go for two weeks, and then August. I never miss that because it is when I get to see all my family together. They all come back home too. Those that are married and those that are working, we all come together for Sallah, and it’s always fun.
Most of us have children now so it’s even a good way to keep the family together and have them know each other.
What advice do you have for youths who want your kind of life?
Don’t want my kind of life. Create your own dream and chase it. While at it, understand that it won’t be easy. Nothing good comes easy, so you have to be tough to weather the storm because there will always be a storm and you can’t let it drown you if truly you dream of greatness.