Several tales have been told about Ijora Badia – a relatively unknown slum not very far from the seaport town of Apapa.
For example, it is said that most of the men in the village have two or more wives, and that they all live in one-room apartments with their numerous children. According to another story, one of the most thriving businesses in the area is prostitution.
When Saturday Tribune visited the community this week in search of the brothels and the polygamous men, not many residents appeared ready to talk about them.
“Yes, some people here have two or three wives, but that is their business,” said Prince Mike Nana, the chairman of Badia Central Community Development Association (CDA). “When you talk of marriage, not everybody knows the importance of marriage; unlike the case here where somebody would see a woman and impregnate her, and he sees another girl, he impregnates her, and he calls them wives, like many of the agbero and danfo drivers here. They don’t attach seriousness to any marriage; their wives and children are scattered everywhere. In my own case, I am married to just one woman.”
On prostitution, he said: “Formerly, It happened around Badia East… around the rail way. There used to be brothels there. But since Oba Ojora demolished the structures in the area due to land dispute, the brothels were destroyed.”
Living with refuse
Ijora Badia sits on a massive heap of swampy refuse collected over a long period of time. Every form of drainage around the slum had been blocked and overgrown with wild bush, so that many of the homes were almost submerged by flood following the recent heavy rains.
Ayobami Olabamiji is a student at Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) who is in Lagos for his Student industrial Work Experience (SIWES). But he grew up in this community. When Saturday Tribune visited the community on Wednesday, Olabamiji sat in a shop overlooking the flooded road.
“I grew up here,” he said. “Life at Ijora Badia is terrible…very terrible. There are many harmful substances around. As you can see, the pathway that leads to my house is messed up, and the reason we haven’t left is because we want to be here. It’s just that we don’t have a choice. Growing up, we were exposed to the bad life, and we were exposed to the good life. So we were forced to choose one.
“This community has produced a number of touts. This place is about the environment; the kind of people you meet, and the kind of people you played with. For me, growing up in Ijora Badia has been one of the worst experiences I have ever had. But I believe very soon, we will get a better place.”
Ayobami’s home, like many others around, was made of wood. It stands only a few inches above the refuse. To move swiftly around the neighbourhood, Ayobami wore long, heavy rain boots. A lot of care nonetheless is required as some parts tend to be very slippery.
Without the heavy boots, a visitor would have a lot more to contend with. For example, since there are hardly any trails on the ground, so that it is difficult to tell what parts of the filth are safe to step on. Human faeces, meanwhile, litter the corners.
Ayobami’s father, Prince Mike Nana (quoted earlier), was in his home – an extensive house that seemed to have many doors and rooms. A long, narrow, corridor in the centre divides the building into two. Through the cracks on the wooden floor, the refuse beneath could be seen. Only a couple of days ago, according to Nana, a heavy rain left a substantial part of the house flooded. As he spoke, his wife arranged household items around the kitchen. She is a retired civil servant, Nana said, proudly.
Four of Nana’s children are university graduates, while the youngest (Ayobami) is a student. He explained that he used to have a good job, and had, in fact, begun to build a house somewhere outside the community; but when a problem at work forced him to retire early, he sold the house and used the money to train his children at school. He, however, expressed the hope that his children would, when they become gainfully employed, buy him a house and and other things.
“I don’t regret it at all,” he said. “What is the use of a house if your children don’t go to school? I have lived in this community for nearly forty years. I have lived in three different places in this community before I built my own shelter here. I know many of my friends who have gone out of this place to build their own houses. I know some at Ikorodu; some at Mushin, Agege, and even at Ikeja. They were once in these plank houses. Nobody prays to stay here this long.”
A non-profit organisation, “Slum Achievers Foundation”, is currently leading a campaign to encourage members of the community to embrace education. The President of the Foundation, Mr Abiodun Oni, who was at Ijora Badia on Wednesday, told Saturday Tribune about the Foundation’s work.
“Ijora Badia is not as popular as other slums in Lagos, yet the residents live under one of the worst conditions,” he said. ‘I grew up in a slum, but today I have an MBA. What we want to achieve here is to enlighten the parents, to talk to them about the importance of education. That is the only way we can eradicate illiteracy from our land.”
Curiously, two enormous buildings in a large compound levelled with concrete floors serve as the community primary school. Residents and visitors have continued to wonder why the government which established the school has not returned to make its presence felt in many other areas. According to Nana, however, even this school has been going through a rough patch.
“The borehole donated by Guinness has stopped working, and the roof of the second building has been blown off by heavy wind,” he said.
Prince Kayode Obadia is generally seen as the leader of the entire community. Indeed the community takes its name from his father who is believed to be the first settler in the area in 1959. Obadia described the state of affairs at Ijora-Badia (particularly the roads) as an eyesore, and called on the government to quickly come to their rescue.
“The government has not contributed much to the development of this area,” he said. “What you see today is mainly as a result of the Oba’s efforts and the help of some NGOs. The roads are bad. This particular road (Ireti-Giwa) was awarded to contractors three times, and yet it was never completed. Roads are very important. Without good roads, movement will be difficult; and without movement, business will be stalled, and there can be no development in that kind of situation.”
Outside the slum, along the road that led to Orile, many young people could be seen playing football on the road. There were several groups, several matches, each with its own set of spectators. A construction project was on, and so vehicles were not allowed on either side of the road. Meanwhile, shops and offices on both sides were open, as people moved in and out, and up and down. It seemed difficult to believe that Ijora Badia was only a few minutes’ walk away.