‘Era bredi gbo na!’
She calls out every morning between the hours of 6 and 7am except on Sundays.
‘Buy freshly baked bread’ is what she is saying and as she calls out, her persuasions conjure melting butter in bread and a hot cup of tea in the minds of those who like bread.
‘Omo oni bread’ is the name residents call her; the one who sells bread; once called, she goes into the homes, the rooms, quite often, too, down the deep dark corridors of ram shackle buildings to sell bread to customers.
She’s young, say between 19 to 23 years or thereabout; wears colourful make up and equally colourful leggings. She plies my street and several others in the area, hawking bread on a wooden board with some margarine for those who care for it.
Her loaves are always arranged in a tall pyramid and secured with transparent nylon so we see her goods on display. But don’t be deceived; that isn’t all she is selling o. I have also come to discover that the Bread seller is also hawking something else.
Omo oni bread is not alone here; same goes for the lady who hawks ‘agbo’, the one who hawks groundnuts and many of such female hawkers on our streets; many are hawking other things as well.
The fear of going hungry has given birth to a new desperation; they sell sex to augment their daily incomes. These ones aren’t the types that line the streets and dark corners at night, no. They trade in the glare of the sun, right under our flaring noses.
They think to themselves, why parade all the streets of Lagos trying to sell just a few loaves the whole day when a certain group of boys can buy off the entire tray in less than an hour for several rounds of sex? ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’ is their mantra.
Makes sense, right?
For the al’agbo; the mechanic workshops, garages for vehicles and okada points are their mating grounds. My mechanic, a constantly lying but hardworking young man said that many of these girls come for ‘something else,’ when they bring their wares to the workshop.
‘Those who have come to trade will usually come in the morning but those who come in the evening have come to do nonsense,’ he says.
As for the bread seller, her ‘nonsense’ is mostly around midday; after trying to sell off her bread to usual customers, who by the way don’t eat bread every day, she retires to the men who will buy off the rest of her wares…for a negotiated number of rounds.
Now, this is no Olajumoke, her bread hasn’t yet been buttered as she hasn’t had the good fortune of photo-bombing a celebrity photographer’s shoot, so if she doesn’t do what she must, her daily bread will be cut off!
Many times, the hawkers who have been hired by a madam to sell must deliver a certain amount to this madam every day. So they get desperate and will negotiate sex for any amount just to cover the rest of their losses. The option of not getting another consignment of goods the following day is out.
On the average, these girls make between N5,000 to N10,000 daily; they then do a quick rollover by ensuring they pay at least half of the items they intend to hawk the following day or they will find themselves out in the cold. So at the end of each day, when they remove the capital; which is about N4 -N5000 depending on the volume of items they have, they pocket the remaining which more often than not is a measly N2-3000, daily.
How does this help a growing young woman who wants to wear new clothes, apply clean makeup, have a few to send home to aged parents and survive Lagos?
This is why sex seems to sell better than the items they display on their trays but for how long?
Well, that will depend on how long her bread is being buttered.