lagos story

“Whatever you do, stay away from crime” – A shoemaker’s Lagos story

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 speak to Tade, a successful shoemaker who ran to Lagos when he was twelve, started roughly but is now glad he made the choice to come to Lagos.

Note: This was done purely in pidgin, and edited to fit the tone of Lagos Laif

What made you come to Lagos?

My father died when I was two. Since then, my mother has been the only one taking care of me. She refused to remarry because she didn’t want anything to go wrong with me. She worked so hard to make sure I get everything I wanted but it was just the menial jobs she could do because she wasn’t educated. Most times she washes clothes for people, works on people’s farms and all those kinds of jobs. But when I was 12, she passed away too and the realization that I was alone in this world dawned on me.

I had to go live with my mom’s sister in Ibadan but life was miserable there. She turned me to her house help, made me do all the chores, and didn’t even bother enrolling me in any school because according to her, I didn’t deserve it.

One day, I mistakenly broke her ceramic plate, and knowing what she would do to me when she came back, I just made up my mind to go out there and make it on my own. I ran away from home, hid in the boot of a bus going to Lagos, and that was how I got here.

I didn’t know anyone in Lagos, but I had heard a lot about Lagos and how you can always find a job to do.

What was the first mistake you made while you arrived?

I don’t even know where to start listing the mistakes. When the driver found me, he wanted to return me but somehow, I was able to run. For someone who had never been to Lagos before, it was a very bold move from me. 

I could have looked for a church or mosque and beg them to allow me to sleep but I kept roaming the street of Lagos till it was late in the night. Oshodi was a notorious area back then but it was also a place that never sleeps. I saw some boys my age and some slightly older who was sleeping under the bridge so I felt I could do the same.

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That night, I was attacked, forced to smoke Indian hemp, and made to commit to paying them for the space I slept. Apparently, the space under the bridge was not free. It was for rent and I had slept without paying or seeking permission.

I worked as a bus conductor for four days to pay the debt back, and till today, that has to be the worst mistake of my life.

Do you still think coming to Lagos was a wise decision?

The first few months I came to Lagos, I regretted my action. I was losing my mind and was close to giving it all up, but now, twenty years later, I have to say running to Lagos wasn’t so much of a bad idea.

I had the privilege to learn shoemaking, became really good at it, and now, I make shoes in large numbers and produce for a couple of markets in Lagos.

I have six shops all over Lagos with more than thirty apprentices. I have to say I’m doing well here, and I still look forward to more opportunities, which I know I will get if I keep working hard, making myself better, and have my eyes fixed on where I’m headed.

How often do you go back home?

This is home.

I’ve not gone back since I left home and no one has looked for me. I have my own house in Ikorordu, have a wife who is a Lagosian, and have two kids, so I don’t think I have anything back there to return to.

Final take away

Don’t come to Lagos without a plan. It is never a wise decision, and you will regret it.

Some do it, and turn out alright – like me – but not everybody will have the kind of luck I had. Also, I didn’t mention all the various ways I suffered before I made a breakthrough, and that’s because no one will tell you fully what they face in Lagos.

It’s not all rosy here. You need to have a plan and be ready to work your head off for every kobo you make unless you want to walk the lane of crime, which never lasts.

Whatever you do, stay away from crime.

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