But as time went by, I realised there was more to life than fashion and Style. Much more! So I decided to include human interest stories to give the mag more depth.
Looking for more depth, I came up with something that has always held a fascination for me...STREETLIFE. And for our maiden Streetlife page, I decided to deal with the issue of area boys in Lagos.
See, I've had a few unpleasant encounters with area boys. I've been harrassed a few times by these guys while driving in the Lagos Metropolitan. If your window is down and you're in traffic, you're bound to get 'nicely' and 'politely' robbed.
I used to be so scared of them but after a few encounters, my fear turned to curiosity. Why are these guys this way? What happpened to them? Can they be rehabilitated?
I told my editors that I wanted to interview area boys. Initially they thought I was crazy but after much consideration, they agreed it was a good idea. So about two weeks ago we went to one of the most notorious places in Lagos...
The picture above is the Obalende bridge. If you live in Lagos, then I don't need to tell you anymore about the place. If you don't live in Nigeria, well, this is one of the most notorious places in Lagos. When you're walking around here, you're advised to hold tightly to your belongings. If your car stops there at night, you're advised to leave the car and find your way out of there. It's that notorious 'cos it's the home of several 'hooligans'.
They live under the bridge pictured above.
When we went there the first time to survey and make enquiries, I was advised not to go. Somebody told me that the guys were always 'high', and very unpredictable, so couldn't guarantee my safety. But I insisted on going with my guys, so instead of going there looking all pretty, I took my hair weave out, no make up, wore an oversized shirt and went into the lion's den with my General Editor, Odega Shawa, my Special Events Editor, Oteri Agboro and a photographer.
Now we actually went there to interview the area boys. We wanted to hear their story. We wanted to know about their family, what they want from the govt, what they can do for their country, are they as dangerous as people say/feel they are? Why are they living under the bridge, are they interested in decent jobs...? etc.
Thankfully for us, they were very accomodating. They answered all our questions but refused to have their pictures taken. Some of them were a little suspicious of our motives and they also were 'smoking' you know what...and didn't want to be exposed that way.
Anyway, as we were interviewing these area boys I noticed little children playing football in the open field under the bridge...(the boys you see in this picture). In my head I wondered what these kids were doing in such a place, surrounded by such craziness. After asking around I found that they all lived under the bridge. Some of them are runaways, some are abandoned, some live there with a parent. Different stories. Sad situation!
The kids are pictured here with their football coach and asst coach.
Every child you see in this picture lives under the Obalende bridge. But the comforting part is that the members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Obalende branch, are playing their part by trying to discover talent amongst these children (through football). They brought these children together and started a football academy, under the bridge. Hoping it will keep them busy and focused on the positive, so they don't end up like the older ones they are surrounded by, considering they have no education whatsoever.
That's me talking to some area boys and a woman who lives and sells under the bridge with her infant child. On your right is where they cook, eat...
Here I am with two of my editors and the Obalende children...
These children are so young and innocent and exposed to a life so unfair. I was under the bridge for about three hours and I left there feeling dizzy and 'high' from all the 'smoke' inhalation. And these children have to live with this for a long time until something can be done for them.
Talking to them I found that some of them were actually ambitious and didn't want to end up armed robbers, jailed, or even killed. One particular child told me he wanted to be a lawyer.
You will get the full story when the magazine hit the stands.
I left the place feeling a little dejected. These children deserve a better life. Then I asked myself, is it enough to just report these stories? What can I do as a citizen of this country for these children? What can you do? Or maybe a better question is; what can be done for these children?