Photo by Olanma Etigwe-uwa from Pexels
Someone’s garbage is someone’s treasure.Makoko, a slum in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria. Situated amidst the financially and blooming city of Lagos, this dejected slum is a curse to the urban dwellers which is considered to be destroying the city’s fame and beauty. How can a passerby acknowledge the importance of mud since he is unaware that its absence leads a lotus to death? That dejected slum is like the very mud which has helped to bloom the lives of hundred thousands of people for whom it was everything. Because it’s a floating slum, it’s nicknamed as the ‘Venice of Africa.’ One can find the most amazing floating market in which people can purchase many things and it is the supermarket of that slum. Fishing, building canoes, running a floating shop are the common economic activities there.
Emmanuel Maikori,one of the slum dwellers was in his hut. “What’s the provision for today? Let me see.”He checked the plastic jars where he kept his foods, but the stock was gone. Another bad day. Nearby was a pitcher and he drank three glasses of water to quench his hunger and then came out to find the means to manage food for the day. The slum was an abode of the people like him whose daily routine was almost the same. Every new day they had to worry about joining hands to mouth twice a day.
“Hey,Emmanuel.Where are you heading to?” He heard a voice and saw that it was Joseph Udoko.
“Hey,Joseph. Just going out to see if I can find a job for today’s dose.”
“Same pinch. Let’s go together then,” replied Joseph.
The slum had started swarming with people like Emmanuel and Joseph in search of job. They reached to one point where canoes were being made.Md Abdullah, the owner was standing there.
“Sir, can we get some job here?” asked Emmanuel.
Abdullah looked at them. He was from the same slum and was a bit rich in comparison to other people of the slum. With his hard earned money he had started his business which was able to employ a few locals.
“What can you do?”
“We can help you do the things related to boat making. Though we are not so experienced, we won’t let you be upset,” said Emmanuel.
“All we need is a chance. Just trust us,” added Joseph.
Emmanuel and Joseph had done the same work previously,but that was a long time ago. Like a parched throat dying to get a drop of water, they showed an interest hoping to get the dose of food for that day. Seeing them talking in such a confident way, he let them a chance.
“Then fix this boat which has a problem. I won’t reveal what the problem is. This is your trial and it will decide whether you are in or out.”
Without delay they got started. Soon they found out that the problem was with the motor and got that fixed. Abdullah was happy and he kept them for the job. A consistent job had come to them and they didn’t have to worry about everyday’s struggle for food. Working for some hours, they got their payment and rushed for some foods. A food boat came sailing and they bought their portion and had it. In the late noon, they were having their food and needless to say anything about the expression of happiness reflected in their face in every gulp. As evening was falling, the weather was changing its mood from clear sunny day to an overcast one.
“Why does this sky have to pour down? I just hate monsoon,” said Emmanuel.
“So do I,” consented Joseph.
What? What did Emmanuel and Joseph say just now? They hate monsoon? It’s the season of rejuvenation as it spreads beauty in nature with green surroundings. How can they hate it? But if someone’s garbage can be someone’s treasure,then someone’s treasure can be someone’s garbage, too. Not only Emmanuel and Joseph,but all the slum dwellers in Makoko hated monsoon. It used to convert the surface of Makoko into a muddy pool and the drainage overflow would cross the limit by entering inside people’s houses.
Emmanuel said, “Let’s hurry up. Otherwise we have to cross the muddy pool.”
Both of them got separated committing to meet at work the next day. As Emmanuel reached his hut, the rain started but in no time it stopped. Thank God that the trouble was postponed for a time being.Emamnuel was the lonely dweller in his hut. He had lost his parents and a sister several years before when they had just come to the slum. The family originally belonged to a rural area. Like every bird that dreams of soaring high in the sky, he had dreamed of living a happy life with his family in the city of Lagos. Keeping this thought in mind, the family had shifted to Lagos. However, Lagos was not ready to welcome people like them. In the mob of high paced life, a simple rural life can be easily strangulated and the same thing had happened with his family, too. The high expectations and high living standard of the town wasn’t as easy to fulfill as thought by him. He had thought that he would settle in the slum for a time being until he got something sustainable of in the blooming city of Lagos. But who can change the destiny? The slum became his ultimate home. Nevertheless, the slum also didn’t prove to be suitable for him and his family. There was a high and an unhealthy competition for gaining control over the land in the slum and because of that many people had lost their lives. That competition had led to feudality due to which he had lost his father, mother and sister. They were murdered brutally and that was acceptable there. People in the slum lived by the principle of ‘Might is right.’ Those who couldn’t struggle would be wiped out from the slum like Emmanuel’s parents and sister.
“Life hits you so hard all the time but what’s there to do except facing them and moving ahead.” He took a long sigh as this thought passed through his mind and then lay down on his worn out bed. After a while, his stomach started making noise. All that he had got was that little food which he had purchased in the noon. “What shall I have in the morning? I need to keep myself energized for going to work. Let me preserve this for tomorrow as no money can be earned without energy.”As before, he drank water and lay back on his bed. At midnight he was woken up by the rattling sound on the roof. It was down pouring badly and he could also hear the voice of other people in the community. Most of them came outside as water had entered inside their houses. He came outside and saw the rush of people. His own room was about to be flooded.
“Help me! Help me!”
A yelling voice was heard. One of the neighbor’s daughters was trapped inside due to the collapsing of house. Luckily she was saved.
“Terrible condition. Outside it’s raining and inside it’s flooding,” Emmanuel thought of this looking at the surrounding.
It was a common thing every year. However, the concerned authorities were deaf and dumb towards the problems of the slum as they wanted to get rid of it. If rain destroyed the slum, it would be good news for them since without any effort their intention would be accomplished. Emmanuel came back to his room and saw that water had already entered up to the legs of his worn out bed. Moreover, the roof had also started leaking in one of the places. He looked up towards the roof and said, “God, if there is more stock of sorrow in your inventory then please do me a favor. Pour down upon me and the folks in the slum. We would be happy to receive it.”
He went to his bed and leaned on the wall but couldn’t do even so as it was oozing. He stayed awake in his bed until morning. When the havoc stopped in the morning, he came out and by that time water had come out from his room converting the room into another dirty pool. Same was the case outside too. People were busy throwing the remaining water out of their rooms. Some of them were busy collecting the floating woods while some were rescuing their things and food stuffs drowned in water. The good thing was that no any human casualty was caused.
“At least I am not the only victim of this havoc. And thank God that my food is safe,” a smile came to Emmanuel’s face. Seeing other people as happy as we’re may not be so pleasing, but seeing other people going through the same suffering that we are facing provides a sort of relief. The same was true in case of Emmanuel, too. He returned back and at first consumed his food.
“What’s the need to clean out this mud for it might rain for some more days. The roof is leaking and I must get it fixed first.”
He took some plastics and climbed on his roof. He burned them and pasted them on the leaking part. Thereafter he poured down water to make sure it wouldn’t leak and he got it done.
“Now I don’t have to worry about the leakage.” Also he repaired the oozing part of the wall. The greatest moment of relief came to his face. He decided to have a look in the surrounding. With this intention he went to Joseph’s house and he, too, was busy doing the cleaning up. Everything of his house was also gone under the water. He accompanied Joseph in cleaning up the debris.
“Joseph, how will you quench your hunger?”
“Don’t worry. I still have the easiest food available. See this.” There was a big bottle of water and he drank that fully. “It will keep my stomach full for at least some hours.” Joseph finished cleaning up.
“Will you join me to have a look around?” asked Emmanuel.
“Sure. Let’s see the condition of other people and give them some help if required.”
They came out and witnessed a very pitiful condition of the people of the slum. They helped in some places by being involved in rescue mission. Then they went to their work place. Needless to say it was also destroyed and Abdullah was standing in distress.
“Nothing is left now. I’m totally wretched,” said Abdullah pointing at his workshop. This troubled Joseph and Emmanuel as well since their source of food was gone. “I had invested the whole money I had but now everything lies under water,” he began to sob. All of a sudden, Bang!Bang!Bang! Abdullah lay on the ground bleeding. What the hell was that? They saw that police officers had come being fully armed. Like an emotionless robot, they were firing randomly at the people. Joseph and Emmanuel hid in a nearby safe place but the shooting continued. A while later an announcement was made by one of the police officers by making ceasefire.
“We’re here to carry out the order of the Government. You need to evacuate this place fully right now. This slum is adding shit to the beauty and progress of this city. So you have only two options. Either leave this place right now or take a shot. The decision is yours. These poor ghettos are curse for a city like Lagos and it’s Government determination to remove such places for a bright future of the country.”
“Steps are taken to remove poverty but the Government is determined to remove the poor without any proper plan by implementing force. What kind of decision is this?”Emmanuel thought. Once again the ceasefire was broken and a number of people fell on the ground. A much tensed atmosphere was created like the one seen in the movies.
“How can you do this to us? We’ve been living here for generations. Where shall we go to survive? We will give up our life but we will never go away,” shouted one of the dwellers.
“Let’s save our habitat with all our power,” another voice was heard.
“Yes, let’s move ahead and kill these monsters.”
Voices began to grow and so did the tension. The brutal officers had to face the whole community of the slum. A deadly clash sprouted. Soon the police officers were outnumbered. The remaining one fled away saving their life somehow. The scene thereafter was really heart rendering. That busy market slum was covered in wilderness and the water and the soil were changed into red. There was outburst of the cry of people looking at the dead bodies fallen on the ground. The cruel strike of nature had just started when they had to face another cruel strike of the heartless Government. It was thought that the police officers would be able to get rid of the slum dwellers, but after a number of deaths, the Government had to back off.
Time heals every wound. Once again the people returned back to normal life, forgetting that monstrous event that had taken place a few months back. Though Abdullah was dead, the business of making boats wasn’t halted. Another new investor from Abuja called Enoch Roger started it once again. He had seen the craftsmanship of Emmanuel and Joseph because of which he employed them along with the same workers who worked there previously. As Enoch was a typical city dweller from the capital city, Abuja, he loved comfortable and luxurious way of living. Due this very reason, he had built a three storied wooden tower amidst the slum. It was a unique thing for the slum dwellers since they had never seen such a grand tower. Although it looked like a simple design from outside, it had a luxurious design from inside. The topmost part was a complete package of entertainment and relaxation, equipped with liquors with interiors like that of a night club. The mid part was his room while the ground floor was his office. The best part was that it was flood proof. When Joseph and Emmanuel were engaged in work as usual, Enoch went near them.
“So guys, how’s the work going?”
“It’s going on good,” answered Emmanuel.
“In case of any issue, don’t hesitate to talk to me. We’re like a family and we need to care for each other.”
“Sure sir. We will,” said Emmanuel and Joseph in the same voice.
He told the same thing to the other workers as well. There was something good about Enoch. He was very concerned about his workers. Unlike the other urban dwellers, he didn’t have any ill feelings for the slum dwellers. He was a millionaire but his kindness was trillion times the amount of his property. What if everyone in the town had the same feeling like him? This was the very reason that he was liked not only by the workers but by the whole slum dwellers as he kept on showering grace upon everyone in the slum.
“I’ve some more things to say to you all. Please, come to my office after work,” Enoch announced.
Everyone was filled with anxiousness for it was the first time that he had summoned them like that. After the work was over, everyone went to his office on the ground floor.
“I guess everyone is here. Now let me get to the point,” Enoch began. “It has been only a few months we’ve been here and we hardly know each other. Hence, to have some familiarity and feeling of friendliness, I’ve kept a get together program at the end of this month on Friday on the top floor. You all are cordially invited to attend it.”
They all were so happy as it was the first time that they had been given the true value as a human being, specially by someone from town. And how could they reject such an opportunity? There was no chance about it. Saying this much the meeting was ended. But before going home, Emmanuel asked for some advance payment as he was having some hard times. Without any delay Enoch gave it to him from his pocket on the spot. Emmanuel got some relief after getting money. Then the countdown started for the day of entertainment which created an atmosphere of excitement. The get together program was just a week away. Days went on and some sort of excitement could be sensed among the workers in the work place.
“Joseph, what would the party be like?” asked Emmanuel being inquisitive.
“Well, I can say only one thing about it. It’s going to be mind blowing. That’s it.”
Emmanuel was satisfied to hear it. However, the weather was much more excited than they were. The day before the gathering, on Thursday, it started raining once again along with thunder storm. It was then worsened by hail stones. Though the rainfall didn’t last for long hours, the hailstones had created enough damage. Emmanuel’s hut was particularly on a mess as it hit his roof creating almost half dozen of holes. This time they were big and couldn’t be repaired properly. Light entered through them easily making the room bright. He had some money and thought of replacing the roof with new one. However, he was at his wits end as he could not decide whether he should repair the roof or not. It was because if he spent them on roof, he would have to stay hungry. The week of excitement was overcast by the holes on the roof.
“How can I overcome this situation? I’m stuck in such a situation when someone threatens to kill by shooting if I don’t drink poison. May be I need to ask some more money in advance.”
Although he made this thought, he deserted it later on as he calculated out that it would take pretty much amount of money for the repair. He had already taken the advance and according to his calculation, he would have to take the advance of six months to repair it. This would further lead him to be foodless for several months which he dared not do. Also, only a few more weeks was left for monsoon to end.
“There must be some in between way out. Let me exercise my mind. What can that be?”At once his overcast face brightened up. “Yes, there’s a way out.” He stood up in a jovial mood. He decided to go to the market to purchase buckets so that they could be placed in the leaking spots. Though this was neither a permanent nor an effective solution, it was going to give him relief in the present scenario. Something is better than nothing. But before going to market once again he made sure there were only six leaking points and it was so. “That means I require half dozen of buckets.”
He counted money that he had and was happy to find out that even after purchasing half dozen of buckets, he could keep the remaining money for the expenses of the whole month. From there he went to the floating market and purchased half dozen of buckets. His happiness knew no boundary for he was able to take out a temporary solution for the leakage along with being able to manage money for the month’s expenses. Then came the most expected day, Friday, the special day. It was an unprecedented occasion for them as they could never organize it on their own effort. Every day of their life was lost on the hustle and bustle of joining hands to mouth twice a day. Organizing such parties was out of their caliber. Joseph and Emmanuel went to the market to purchase new pants for that special occasion. They couldn’t remember when was the last time that they had purchased a new cloth but were delighted that they could afford it finally. The only thing that everyone was worried about was the mood of weather. Though the sun was shining, none could exactly understand the mood of nature. Regardless of the weather’s mood, Emmanuel was somewhat relaxed now because he had devised a temporary solution.
Emmanuel was preparing to leave early as they had been told to arrive earlier than the specified time and then suddenly the sky was overcast.
“Oh no.Mother Nature has changed her mood. Please Mother Nature, do not trouble us now. Today is the most awaited day of our life. Please, do not wash it away.”Emmanuel looked at the sky and prayed.
But who can change the mood of nature? If praying was the solution to all the problems, none in the world would suffer. The dark clouds began to shed tears. Very soon it changed into downpour. The life in the slum was once again disrupted. Everybody hustled and bustled to keep their habitat and themselves safe. For some people their own house became the most dangerous place because it could not bear the powerful downpour. Such people rushed to their neighbors’ houses. Enoch, the ship builder was in his tower waiting for the workers to arrive so that the party could be started. Waiting for them, he had already emptied more than half dozen of canned beer. On the other hand, Emmanuel was in his house keeping those buckets in the leaking spots. In every half hour, he kept on emptying those half dozen of buckets filled with water and placed them back to the leaking spots. This process continued for several hours until the rain stopped. By the time rain stopped, it was already 8pm .Thank God that the rain didn’t over flood inside from the surface as before though it was down pouring. Otherwise, the purchase of those buckets would have been useless.
When the final round of emptying half dozen of buckets was completed after the rain had stopped, Emmanuel took out a packet of biscuits. He had it and drank a glass of water. Then he fell asleep putting on his newly purchased pants.