Classics, News, People

Life inside Ajegunle slum + How ghetto artists hussle to survive


AJEGUNLE, popularly known as AJ City, is arguably one of the pronounced high density slums not only known in Africa but across the world.  The city, in Ajeromi local government, is also known as crisis-prone axis in Lagos State.

Long ago, series of youth unrestiveness were recorded in the volatile area, giving security personnel a hell of work to restore normalcy to the densely populated area.

But today, Ajegunle has witnessed a significant change in youth unrestiveness as they engage themselves in so many productive ventures especially music and sports, football in particular.

For more than a decade, Ajegunle has produced great people that have made the nation proud in all aspects of human endeavours, particularly music and football. 

Great musicians like Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo, Father U Turn, Daddy Fresh and Dagga Tolar, a famous poet and musician ruled the music industry between late 80s, 90s and early 2000.  While Tarila Okorowanta, Junbo Awala, Emmanuel Amunike and Samson Siasia, among others, from that enclave got fame and stardom at the international scene playing football.  All these personalities passed through Ajegunle ghetto before they became successful.

However, in recent times, the ‘Jolly City’, as Ajegunle is fondly called has been finding it difficult to find talents who will champion the cause of ‘galala’ music the area is known for except for some up and coming artists who are striving hard to survive and create a long-lasting platform that will stand the test of time.

There are talents who are creatively blessed in AJ City, but the hard life there has been a major obstacle for them to triumph.

Ajegunle is believed to be housing over two million Nigerians from different tribes and even foreigners, yet it lacks basic amenities such as housing, potable water, good medical facilities, good roads and drainage system.

There is high rate of youth unemployment in the ghetto.  Their major occupation is entertainment (music and football).  Some, however, work as porters, bus drivers and conductors, while others are artisans.

Jeff Owhofasa Akiri, popularly known as Delta Ninja, is an upcoming artist but works as a commercial bus conductor, plying Mile 2, Wharf and Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos.  The Sapele, Delta State born artist narrated how he’s juggling his career with commercial bus conducting.

According to him, “Every day, I wake up at 4.00 a.m and before 2 p.m, I am already back so as to face my music career.  I take my bath and go to Miracle Studio at Buraimoh Street, off Oyegunle Street for the recording of my songs.”

Delta Ninja told ENCOMIUM Weekly that he has been working on his debut album for years, adding that, “By God’s grace, it will be released before the end of May.  Life has not been easy since I came to Lagos.  There is nobody to help and I can’t even go back to Sapele because the impression we had about Lagos was that there are lots of opportunities.  I went into bus conducting so as to feed myself and save money to promote my song,” he concluded.

When we visited Miracle Studio, a small cubicle inside a bungalow at Buraimoh Street, we saw many young talented artists, who were there to work on their songs.

Michael Akpan is from Akwa Ibom but lived all his life in Ajegunle.  He is an upcoming musician and also one of the studio managers.  Michael, who goes by the stage name, Builder left his parents to live with his friends in a tiny one-room apartment.  According to him, “We were seven living in the room but gradually the number was reduced to four.  Some of the ladies that were with us left after getting married.”

Speaking further, “I found it difficult to live inside the same room with more than one person because I love my privacy but I later adapted because I have no option.”

Builder could not further his education after his secondary school at Unity Secondary School, Ajegunle because of finance.  He said, “I love to go to school but nobody to help.  So, I decided to focus on my music career. I am currently working on my new album and it’s going to be released before the end of this year.”

Ajegunle2While the interview was on, a young lady entered the studio, with food in a cellophane bag.  Upon entering, she was instructed by some guys inside the studio to pour the food inside a plate, get spoons and buy sachet water, otherwise known as pure water.  She did as instructed.  Later, she stood in one corner of the studio singing to herself in a melodious tone.  We were later informed by the studio manager that the young lady is also an upcoming R&B singer.  Her name is Suzan McDonald with the stage name Suzan Spice.

Suzan’s story is so pathetic.  The 25 year-old lost her father five years ago.  She left Port Harcourt for Lagos a year after when life became unbearable for her and her mother.  “When I came to Lagos, my intention was to stay with my uncle but he couldn’t help me because there was no space for me in his apartment.  So, I ended up sleeping with some girls in the ghetto, using what I have (music) to earn a means of livelihood,” she narrated.

Speaking further, Suzan said, “In 2009, Governor Fashola’s men demolished our house. I left to live with my friends and those who couldn’t get a home returned to the street.  Since then, I have been living with my friends.” She admitted that life in Ajegunle is not easy but promised to strive hard to actualise her ambition of becoming a great singer.  “I have a dream of becoming a great singer.  By God’s grace, I will get there one day. I am working on my new album but the major challenge is finance,” she concluded.

Life in AJ City, according to Ayowale Ebiesuwa, popularly known as Chief Ayo. Is very difficult.  Ayo, 23, lives with his mother at Ajasa Street, one of the noisy areas in Ajegunle. She was separated from her husband several years ago.  According to him, “Living with my mother without financial support from my dad has negatively affected my dream of becoming a successful musician.”

He said, “My dad wants me to further my education after my secondary school, but I love music and I believe music will open my way.  So, he has decided not to sponsor me again.  I have recorded two singles entitled One Love and I Don Tire, but they are not popular because there was no money to promote them.  I am now working on my new album,” he stated.

There are thousands of Ajegunle youths still striving to survive and restore the glory of the city through music.  But the challenge has always been finance.  Apart from this, the level of development in the ghetto has also contributed to the challenge of the community.

The youths are therefore, appealing to successful musicians to come to their aid, calling on government to upgrade their community.

  • This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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