The Gladiators Of Lagos — And The Ever Cheering Audience.
A gladiator is a professional combatant or a captive who entertains the public or an audience by engaging in mortal combat.
I watched Spartacus some years back and it made me realize how savage humans can be. It is one thing to engage in a bout at the expense of losing one’s life — intending to eliminate an opponent in a bid to live to see another day — and it is entirely another thing to jolly while watching two or more people viciously attack one another.
Humans are innately savage and it is quite disturbing that watching an act of violence can actually evoke the feeling of pleasure. Like violence itself is not savage enough.
Abeg leave them make them fight.
After all, we are animals. Although, we are thinking animals — but when violence is involved, our bestial nature is completely revealed.
In the Tv series, Spartacus, the men who fought in the arena as gladiators were men captured during war. They fought merely for the entertainment of the audience. The life of any gladiator — who lost a battle in the arena — was sometimes dependent on the mood of the audience or the royalty. If the interest of the audience or the royalty have been so invested in the battle that they have become so frantic, the gladiator who triumphed was asked to kill the other.
“Kill, Kill, Kill”
The audience would chant.
Gladiators were mainly victims of circumstance. They had to fight — or kill — to survive.
This was the case of the gladiators in Rome and other ancient places. It is a whole different situation in Lagos. In Lagos, anyone can be a gladiator.
A gladiator as a result of geography. Or a gladiator as a result of social engagement. Or life status. Or because Duh.
Two men sat opposite one another in a restaurant in a remote area in Mushin. The sun had only appeared in that side of the world, but the future of the inhabitants remained gloomy. A shabbily dressed lady crouched outside the restaurant, washing plates in a colored water. She hummed a tune as she drowned the plates in the water.
“Iya, e fun mi ni rice. La ti igba ti mo ti de ibi e de ta ounje fun elomi” A voice shouted from inside the unaesthetic restaurant.
The restaurant was lacking in space yet there was a lot of people in it. The wood it was built with had begun to undergo decomposition. The people in it were all men and they shared a similar trait: a look of fury. One would presume that they belonged to a brotherhood, but it was not so. Them just dey vex because why not.
The two men who sat opposite one another looked ferocious. They stared scornfully at themselves from time to time — and a tension grew cancerously between them.
“E da mi lohun ah” A rough looking man with no hair on his head barked. He had no eyebrows and his eyes were very red like he soaked them in a pool of blood. He looked too young to be bald, but there is nothing to be done when you’ve been afflicted with the Papa Ajasco plague.
The woman who sold food was obese — with her neck sinking into her body that it seemed like she was born without a neck. She attended to customers so slowly like the day was declared World Codeine Day. A sloth, she was. And for every customer she attended to, there was a geometric increase in the number of customers. Every person stretching his or her plates vehemently.
“Igun, ni suru. Mo ma ta ounje leyin ti Akala” the woman said, addressing the bald man with red eyes. His name was Igun.
“Ehn?! Laye laye. Mi o siwaju Akala de ko”
Igun jumped to his feet as he screamed at the woman selling. He pointed his dry fingers at the man opposite him and whined.
The man was Akala.
Akala, unlike Igun, had hair on his head. He had enough eyebrows as well, and as Igun pointed fingers at him while blabbing, his eyebrows creased into a frown. He got up immediately. He was quite taller than Igun and looked wilder.
“E be like say you wan chop beating this morning. No be rice dey hungry you abi” Akala threatened.
Every person with a plate in his or her hand watched the two intently. No one attempted to interfere in the verbal exchange. In fact, they were like spectators hoping desperately for a quick turn of events.
Within the twinkle of an eye, Akala threw a jab at Igun and it quickly erupted into a fight. And then the fight began to spread and in no time, it became a scuffle.
O ti di Ija Igboro. It has become a street fight.
And the inhabitants of that remote area were overjoyed for it was a new day and a set of random Mushinites had become gladiators.
A buff guy stood desolate at a b/stop in Ilasamaja. Frequently, he mopped the sweat that shrouded his face with a moist handkerchief. It was about 8am in the morning, but the sweltering sun made the day look more mature. Every public transport vehicle that passed was full to the brim. Deolu was beyond frustrated. He had only gotten a job in Jumia as a sales representative last week — and did not want to lose the job to latecoming. He had left the house 2hrs ago and was yet to get close to his working place.
Although he had a calm look, he was fuming on the inside. Situations like this is the reason why a responsible looking man would get a scooter and scoot to the office, he thought. He checked the Uber app on his phone once again and shook his head. As much as he wanted a smooth ride, his financial status was like the wall of Jericho hindering him, All the money he had with him was the 500 naira note that he collected from Aunt Aduke last night.
Ah! Aiye ma le o.
Who ever imagined that graduating with a second class is not all the requirement needed to work in an oil company?
Man proposes, Nigeria disposes.
A napep skidded at the b/stop. The rider was of a brusque stature and he had short muscular arms that made him look like the hulk version of Peter Dinklage. He looked reckless and uncontrolled.
“Cele Express, hold your 50 naira change o”
Deolu rushed inside, not giving any attention to whatever the napep rider was shouting. Soon, the napep was full and the it headed towards Cele Express. Slight holdup here and there made the journey last longer than normal.
Everyone alighted from the napep and paid their fare duly. Deolu retrieved the 500 naira note from his pocket and stretched it to the napep rider.
All hell was let loose.
“Shay I no talk say make you no enter if you no get change?”
“Oh, I did not hear that. Abeg I have to rush to work”
“Wetin make I come do?”
There was an exchange of bitter words. One thing led to another and Deolu removed his blazer, rolled up his sleeves — and them start to dey knack themselves blow.
People at the bus park watched merrily and a couple of Oohs and Aahs were uttered from time to time.
Gladiators of Lagos — and the ever cheering audience.
Mama Joseph is a full housewife to Baba Joseph and they have a son named Joseph. They have 3 other children named Blessing, Matthew and Emmanuel. They live in an urban like rural area somewhere (that must not be mentioned) in Lagos. Baba Joseph leaves the house before the dawn of day and comes back late at night. In the morning, Mama Joseph prepares and takes her children to school — and when she comes back home there’s not much to do.
So Mama Joseph hunts snakes.
And when Mama Joseph isn’t hunting snakes, she either embarks on an evangelism mission or she gossips with other full housewives in the neighborhood.
“Chairman pikin don give person belle”
“Yekpa. And the boy go dey do gentle gentle”
This is how Mama Joseph lives her life.
Some weeks back, the landlord of the house — where Mama Joseph is a neighbor — fixed a borehole in front of the house for the benefit of the community. Mama Joseph was displeased. She could no longer have the privacy and quietness — which she did not value initially — that she deserved as a full housewife.
And she could no longer hunt snakes.
People flocked the taps at the front of the house all the darned time. This, in turn, made Mama Joseph petulant. She had to express her anger and irritation somehow.
That fateful morning, about 10am — when every person had left the house and it remained only Mama Joseph — she decided to act her malevolent intentions out. She locked the valve that controlled the flow of the water from the source to the taps.
Water, e no get enemy. But Mama Joseph had become the exception.
One of the many housewives in the neighborhood, Mama Tobi, was one of the people at the front of the house who came to fetch water that morning. She is small in stature, but what she lacks in stature she makes up for it in talking. And she had a bit of courage. She opened the tap and….nothing. She entered into the compound and tried to check for the source of the problem. It was when she was doing this that Mama Joseph dashed out of the house.
She confronted Mama Tobi in an unfriendly manner.
“Thief! Wetin you wan steal?”
“Me steal? No be water I wan fetch”
Harsh words were said. And then the two women began flapping their hands at one another.
The gladiator spirit was bestowed upon them and everyone in the neighborhood did accordingly; spectate, which is the Nigerian thing to do.