Iyaloja: The interest against the flow of play

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Jubal Kanayo considers all the sides, following the appointment of an ‘iyaloja’ for the Computer Village in Lagos.

On April 28, against popular opinion, the President-General, Association of Commodity Market Women and Men of Nigeria (aka ‘Iyaloja of Lagos’) Folashade Tinubu-Ojo installed Adeniyi Olasoji and Abisola Azeez as ‘Babaloja’ and ‘Iyaloja’, respectively, of the popular Computer Village in Lagos State.

Before then the traders had protested what they termed “plans to install” these people. True to what they heard, it came to pass.

In spite of these appointments, the waters have not settled and there is just some resentment simmering below the delicate quiet reigning in the village currently.

The operators within the ‘village’ insist that having ‘leaders’ is something relegated to other market associations and not one they want to be associated with. How can that be difficult to understand? In a place like that, everyone would love to be free. We have seen how seemingly self-help, harmless bodies like the NURTW, RTEAN and the CDAN and others like them started so innocently and crackled into wildfires, untamed and monstrous.

Imagine all the great tech places you know, have visited or can attest about their existence (begin with Wall Street and the Silicon Valley) having overlords. You get the picture.

Like most successful business spaces in Nigeria, the Computer Village has striven to survive and thrive, inspite of government neglect. Having become popular and made a name for themselves, as usual, it became one of the reference points for governments to about as proof of ease of doing business. These are enclaves without credit facilities or major investors; just determined people who set out to put food on their table and, mid-way, discover that an empire can be made of a meal ticket.

These are business people who have been left to their own. Even the banks have no passion about attracting them. When bank marketers move in there, it is to market products, get them to open new business accounts, offer unfriendly loans with high interests or to tell them about some hocus pocus scheme that will go up in flames in a few years.

Ask Nigerian commuters. All the overlords they know in bus stops and garages are just in-charge of daily tolls, without visible developments in these places. Worse, they do not pay tax to the government or, even, the local government. Forget about the state. Over time, they line their pockets and the rest become history. Go to us stops/garages in Abuja and visit hundred others in Lagos. You do not need to look too deep or trek too far.

Having seen that this imposition, as it is, has no economic gain, so far, could it be that this is an opportunity to enrich a few cronies? If there were a ‘reset’ button for Lagos, it would have been depressed and everything in Lagos anew, without the overlords we have in it today. So, why does the Iyaloja of Lagos want to make things worse by sustaining traditions rather forgotten?

For the supporters of this draconian move, it is on order. The resounding support for this ungodly reining in smacks of politics. When the ethnicity of the occupants of the ‘village’ are considered, it may not be far-fetched that this is a move by the ‘rulers’ of Lagos to ‘take control’ of the place, to prevent a ‘take-over’ – whatever that means. If this is true, then the road to banality, ineptitude, corruption, and debauchery could never have been well-paved.

For the ‘Iyaloja’ – a position and monicker yet to be recognised by the constitution – to insist that the move was made in conjunction with the “stakeholders” of the ‘village’, does this mean those pretesting against the instalments are not stakeholders? Truly, those who sweat and swot daily in that space are not considered stakeholders, as they can be wiped out any moment. The real stakeholders are the ‘ruling class’ of Lagos.

She should have tested the popularity of her move by putting it down to a vote or taking an opinion poll around the ‘village’. That decision would have been dead on arrival.

It is anybody’s guess what will become of this imposition in years to come; as if the people who make a living from doing their business there do not pay enough dues, complaints will pour forth shortly on how poorly things are conducted. Another kingdom has been carved out for feudal lords. We watch, hoping the destination we foresee is not where we end up.

True, there are different interests within the ‘village’ (what else could one expect?) but it does not take away the fact that imposing leaders on the place makes sense. What would it have cost to ask the traders what they want? The government has never thrown a dime their way and now, suddenly, there is interest in what they do and how they do it. The cart could never have been put before the horse more aptly.

Well, while we wait for the situation to have a happy ending or be upturned by the government, it is in order to congratulate the ‘Iyaloja’ for candid expression of dictatorial democracy.

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