For Ayeni, Lagos is a jungle, where, to quote a line from a popular hip-hop song, “life is short like knicker.” In the city of wits and hustle, Ayeni has passed through several baptisms of fire––from surviving an assassin’s bullets to being a victim of the ‘One-Chance’ moving bus robbery to spending a week inside the notorious Kirikiri Prisons for being suspected in a case of a missing consignment of newspapers which later turned out to be misplaced. His memorable experience of Lagos is a grim portrayal of the underbelly of a city where life is good, ugly and brutal at the same time.
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I will never forget January 27, 2007. At the time, I was working at the airport as a salesman for Eddy King Burger, and on days I was on morning duty, I’d resume by 7 a.m., and therefore, had to leave my house in Oyingbo as early as 5 am to get to Ikeja on time. On this fateful day, I got to the bus stop at 5 am. Incidentally, there was nobody but myself. I was alone. Then out of the gloom emerged a man. He was tall.
He wore a long black coat. He was coming straight at me. I thought he was coming to wait for the bus, until he shouted at me: “My friend, lie down on the ground!” I thought he was joking. Suddenly, he brought out a gun out of his coat. I had a small bag where I kept my stuffs. I thought that was what attracted him. I removed the bag and threw it at him and turned in panic just as he pulled the trigger. I felt the pellets punctured my skin and peppered my ribs. The loud report shook the neighbourhood, even as he fired another shot that caught me on my chest. This time, the whole street was awoke.
I was scared as a rabbit, but I did not fall. I kept on running wildly, while blood was pouring out of my wound and spattering on the ground. People came out and saw me. The gunman had disappeared with my bag. I was carried back to my house, and my wife and neighbours carried me to the hospital. The first three hospitals we went to shut their doors on me. They wouldn’t want to treat bullet wounds. Eventually, I was taken to the Federal Medical Center. When the doctor saw me, he asked: “Are you a Christian?” I said yes. Then he told me the cold truth. The pellets were embedded in my breast and ribs; if they were to be removed, the job has to be done by a native medicine man. He then referred me to one man in Ejigbo. I was almost lifeless when I was taken into his sanctuary. The ritual he performed was beyond my imagination. He used leaves, one in my mouth, and another dipped in water inside a bowl to rub the wound. Before my very eyes, 17 pellets dropped out of the wound in my chest into the bowl. Of the remaining five, two were removed at the hospital later, but the doctor said I would have to live with the other three embedded in my breast.
Doctors told me those pellets can be removed––but doing so is at the risk of losing my functioning as a “man”. Till today, I can feel the pellets, but they don’t cause me any pain when I touch them. Out of that near-death experience, I learnt a lesson about the danger of going out early in the morning in Lagos.
Even the evening is not safe in this city. In 2010, I was on my way home in the evening when I boarded a bus operated by robbers. The bus was Ikeja bound, from Oyingbo. When we got to Palmgrove, the conductor shouted Ikeja again and more passengers entered the vehicle. To my surprise, the bus driver veered unto the express lane instead of turning right when we got to Anthony. He faced Ketu direct. When the passengers protested, four members of the gang who had hitherto pretended to be passengers brought out dangerous weapons, including a pistol. It was past 8 pm. It was dark. They parked the bus under the Maryland bridge.
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One after the other, we were searched down to our inner clothings and they robbed us of our valuables.
That day I was not having any phone with me. As we were coming down from the bus, they collected all our properties. After that, they zoomed off. And we were stranded in the night. Luckily, one of us was smart enough to hide his money in his socks. He gave us all some small amount of money to get us to the next bus stop.
Even when you think you are out of harm’s way, trouble will come looking for you in Lagos.