There are so many things I love about Nigeria, and one of them is the market. Growing up in Ibadan, my grandmother would always hold my hand, as we walk to Bodija Market, but those memories vanished, as my family traveled to the US for two years. When we arrived back home, my grandmother had passed away, and my mom would always ask us to follow her, but I made excuses, and refused to go. After church on Sunday, my mom decided to drive straight to the market, and forced us to tag along.
As we got down from the car, the harmonious sound of Yoruba language filled the air. Everyone was communicating, whether it was the sound of bargaining for a good price, or advertising, and hawking their products, they were all getting along. Those selling DVD’s were playing their latest Yinka Ayefele music to full volume, while some little children were dancing to it, the various provision sellers were gossiping with each other, and the beef sellers were making fun of, and discrediting themselves. The Fan Ice sellers were riding their bicycles around, while children were begging their parents for money to buy some. My mom would ask them, Mo fẹ lo ata rodo marun, ati tataṣe mejila, tomato mẹta ati alubọsa meji (I want to grind 5 hot peppers, 12 regular peppers, 3 tomatos, and 2 onions), and the seller will reply Gbogbo re laje beta life mewa(Everything will be 500 naira), and my mom will price it down, most of the time to at least half the price depending on what seems reasonable.
When I first got to the market, I thought it was extremely rowdy, until I later realized that it was extremely organized, and well thought out. The market was arranged in such a strategic way, as it had multiple entrances, was grouped by the produce they sell, and usually started from the most expensive goods to the least expensive goods, as one goes inside. The logic behind it is, those with more money buy the stores that is the most convenient for the customers to buy from. There is also loyalty in the market, in which once other sellers of the same produce know that their colleague has a regular customer, they don’t talk to them, or advertise their produce to them. People say that sellers in a market usually overprice their goods to foreigners, but the truth behind it is time moves so fast in the market, and once they catch up with the speed, their street-smartness will come out.
The roads were dusty, but the atmosphere was lively, when the sun went down, but their candles were on.
There was no such thing as status, irrespective of what other people sold, what kind of shop they had, their religion, or their hometown, the sachet water sellers, hawking all around the market, got along with the fabric sellers, advertising their fabric in their shops. It was not all a bed of roses, as the job of the child following their mom around the market is not just to observe, learn how to bargain, and buy goods at an affordable price, but to help out in carrying most of the goods for her. The market is a home to many, a gym to some, and a means of livelihood to others. Who would have ever thought that something many look down on, could mean so much to a lot of people.