At one end of the 3rd mainland bridge is Adeniji Adele and the other end linking to the mainland is Bariga/Oworo. I lived part of my childhood in Bariga; this is a community where sin is a way of life. This is a community where teenagers smoke readily available weed, where you won’t be surprised to find a small chemist shop/hospital where fetuses are being removed from underage girls like plucking feathers off a chicken. You’re either awoken in the morning by the cries of a neighbor beating his wife over daily feeding stipend or the curses and banters of gossiping housewives over topics such as who was supposed to wash the toilet and didn’t. If you’re lucky such topics lead to fights and the sight of luscious women fighting and stripping each other to reveal old, torn under-wears with holes plenty enough to pass as a sieve is a sight to behold. The men engage themselves talking and arguing over topics in the newspapers, gesticulating with one hand holding the helms of their wrapper and the other hand a chewing stick. This I call ‘’chewing stick politics’'
Feeding here depends on your pocket, Ewa Agoyin with the legendary Agege bread with its inside as soft as a baby’s butt, lunch could range from a huge head of fish with garri Ijebu or on glory days, that can be replaced with kuli kuli hard enough to knock Goliath out. One cube of St Louis sugar in your garri or ogi (pap) is sane, two cubes is luxury while three cubes is extravagance or your father probably drives a Volvo or ladybird. Dinner served by the woman who sells Eko and Moin Moin above the canal where prostitutes and teenagers with unwanted pregnancies drop dead or sometimes alive babies.
At night the community comes alive, the darkness seems to cloud the unhappiness for the moment being and everyone tries to wind down in different ways. The sight of drivers and their conductors counting the day’s earnings over bottles of adulterated alcohol, women grinding pepper to prepare different of concoction to go with the ever ready and palatable amala. A stomach full of amala makes the worries go away. By the end of the night, the sight of drunk men drowning in the pool of their own vomit, used condoms and heaps of cigarette and marijuana butts are a few feet from each other.
Don’t get me wrong; every city has its own fair share of slums and gory sights. At the bottom of every skyscraper there is a slum. Bariga in all its glory is an ongoing story, every corner tells the tale of the misery and neglect that has embedded itself on the face of people living there. The stench of vomit coupled with urine and the aura of poverty saturates the air. At the end of the bridge is a faint glimmer of hope, hope that there is a better day, somewhere, somehow.
Written by Femi Shine