If you have ever been in those very rowdy markets in some Eastern parts of Nigeria then you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t mean the Ariaria Int.market’s kind of busyness, I mean the Ahia Ohuru-on-a-Monday kind of busyness.
Ladies who buy and sell in this particular market in Aba can attest to the many bumbum gropes and breast presses they’ve had to suffer and endure from those boys(grown men and young men) who perambulate the market amongst genuine sellers in the pretense of selling and using the opportunity to perpetrate this sinful, cursed, wicked, mean acts.
They stand by the road, together with sellers holding clothes and dressed mannequins, jammed up and hold you back, calling you to buy shirts or tops or jean trousers.
I am the endure-it-and-get-out-of-here type. I’ve experienced it few times, heard about other people’s experiences to know that the best approach is to be respectful in spite of the abuse.
One time, I saw a woman whose bumbum they touched, stop to ask who touched her. She stood in the market in their midst speaking and cursing in pidgin, preparing to fight as if the guilty person would show up to say “yes. I’m the one who touched your bumbum. Let’s fight.” The rest closed in on her, took advantage of the situation and pressed her even more. In the end, I heard her crying and attempting to run. If only she knew…
These people are vagabonds, scallywags, buffoons, potential rapists, dunderheads, imbeciles, psychopaths—add your adjectives at this point.
Last Sunday, my mom begged me to go early to the market the next day to get things for her. I begged her to hold on till Tuesday but she wouldn’t. Mondays are the days people from other surrounding states travel to buy and sell in these markets and so the day is packed with people.
She wanted the things by Monday as she had a program to attend the next Sunday and needed to make her hair. I couldn’t refuse anymore.
When I bathed that morning, I prayed silently to God to give me the strength and courage to endure anything as usual. I scanned the market in my mind’s eye and thought about freer routes I could take. Ihe nwanyi na-ahụ adịghị easy.
I decided that morning to wear Mary Amaka skirt, and my mother’s bra which was 5times biggers than my own bra size. I looked ridiculous, but I hoped maybe it would deter them from being funny and also protect my body as they would only get to touch the foam in attempt to touch my private. I realized soon enough that nothing detered the daredevils.
When the tricycle stopped me, my heart jumped. I held onto my money tighter and braced myself to push and be pushed along. I was not going to use the main route where they always were. I would try to squeeze myself through another route.
After walking round the market, it dawned on me that what I was looking for was by the roadside. I made another turn for the road and walked courageously on.
🎶Onward Christian soldiers marching onto war,
With the blood of Jesus we shall oercome.🎶
I forced my way with the throng of people. I passed the first group of people yelling, “buy your skirt, buy your gown. Buy your fine tops. Nne lee anya. Three, three hundred. My guy, see nah. Your fine skirt, two two hundred. Aboy, buy this one for your babe.”
I had a sweet smile for all of them and gently squeezed out my hand when one held me back in the crowd.
I reached the second group, those enquiring ones of, “asa, shifon tops, jeans, polo. Kee nke ịchọrọ? Nne, slimfit, pinopino, my colour, nne bia nụ. Bia now! Na me dey call you. See, I have fine tops for you. E nwere m your size. I even get your boyfriend size. Nne, bia. You dey do guy for me? Monkey.” I smiled at them, politely declining the offer to follow anybody anywhere.
I felt a hand poke my bumbum! In all my fragileness!! With all my politeness!!! I turned sharply to look at the unrepentant poker who said loudly to the hearing of everyone around, “omalicha, ike gị dị soft.” I thought I would die. I looked pleadingly at the one advertising jeans to let me go, explaining profusely that I was there to buy hair stuff. He let me go and I walked on, tears in my eyes to the next crowd ahead.
I will never go to Ahia Ọhụrụ on bale days anymore😭 Chineke amarakwala.
Further up, just close to hair people, another held me in a fit of utterances about trousers and tops and gowns. While I tried to free myself, someone touched my breasts(more like my bra but it was still painful). I had lost my temper already and cursed the hands that were touching me from the crowd. They didn’t pity me. Small girl like me. They instead laughed at me.
I did not attempt to leave the market that morning even though I got everything I wanted. I waited till afternoon when most people had left and sellers were packing up before I made my sorrowful way home.