The only way to become street smart

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I was once at Oshodi, late at night, and an Omoota (a ruffian that lives off the street) was trying to rob me. In the end, he gave me back my phone and said, "Sha take your phone. We be the same." I couldn't believe my ears. You could have taken us for two different human species -- me, in my professor-like specs and dressed like I work in a bank; and him, well he was just like the other men of his trade that live under the bridge at Oshodi. 


In September 2011, I went to Cotonou to practice my French for 1 month. I was robbed and had to come back just to use my ATM, and went back. I was constantly being swindled by the commercial motorists. In all my life the only loss I have made that almost equals the money I was robbed and swindled off in that one month stay at Cotonou was in the stock market. 

I remember while discussing how dangerous Lagos could be with my room mates, a friend who has lived almost all his life outside Lagos said, "If this Michael can live in Lagos, then I can't have any problem in Lagos." I had the looks of a weak buttie who grew up under strict parental control and couldn't survive the Lagos we were painting to him.

I have lived almost all my life in Lagos. I grew up in an area where street fights were common and bottles were the preferred weapon. I had fun rolling small wheels' rim and paint bucket covers using my dad's metal cloth hanger, up and down the streets. I would also throw rubber bands, winning more whenever I'm lucky. I played table tennis with all sorts of rackets and on all sorts of tables. I spent more Christmas nights doing inter-street banger challenge than I remember at church. I once schooled in a public school where a student came to school with a gun and tried to kill one of the teachers; the school scattered that day. But somehow, I turned out different -- both in look and attitude. Even my parents were surprised. I look and act like I grew up in a Seminary and has never witnessed any violent scene. And the most shocking part is I'm completely like that -- ice cold calm, truthful and extremely hard to annoy. 

So I was very surprised when the ruffian said I we are the same. And then I noticed an interesting trend. All throughout my childhood, I never got into single fight with any other kid on the street. I was always treated special. I got reserved slots at almost all games and I was everybody's friend. It was only at school that things were different, where I got bullied. Then at University, the only time I was cornered by some bad boys on my way home they gave me back my stuffs and even apologized. Then it occurred to me that despite my buttie look and attitude, I am street smart.

Street smart is being able to get around without a hitch in a city like Lagos. I have slept over at a filling station while travelling to Bayelsa from Lagos at 5:00pm.

After thinking hard about how it was that I could flourish in Lagos and get robbed almost everyday in Cotonou, I found out that it was because I lived most of my life in Lagos, and lived a very active life -- always here and there. And that's the only way to be street smart -- you've got to be on the streets and live a very active life.

Merry Christmas!


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