Last week, while working on a story on boat operators in Amuwo and the challenges they face, which required me to visit Aquataria Jetty, along 1st Avenue, Festac Town, I discovered a riverine area called Canal Village. From that moment, I knew I would visit the village.
On a sunny afternoon, after an interview session with a talented young saxophonist, I paid a visit to Canal Village.
There are two entrances to the village: Raji Rasak, which is a land area, and Aquaria Jetty, which is a riverine area.
On this day, I reached Canal Village through Aquataria Jetty because I wanted to understand how people felt boarding a canoe daily.It was a 5-minute ride from Aquataria Jetty to Canal Village.
The ride was the longest 5 minutes of my life as there were no life jackets for passengers and I was certainly not ready to put my swimming skills to the test.
Upon arrival, I met a trader at the bay who claimed she was in charge of the canoes. She called herself “The Queen”.
After exchanging pleasantries, I inquired, “How ona dey enter a canoe without life jackets?” The queen replied, “We get life jackets, but not everyone uses them; if we see more, we go happy.”
Although Queen did not show me the life jackets, she was gracious enough to introduce me to Preye Paddy, who became my tour guide.
After walking a few meters with Preye Paddy, Mrs. Mabel Ariri, who is in her seventies, was seen sorting the next batch of catfish she was going to smoke for her customers.
Speaking to her was fascinating, she was shy to speak but the moment she got out of her shell, nothing could stop her from expressing her passion for a business she had been doing for as long as she could remember.
I said to her, “Mama, I like what you do.” Well-done ma. How do you conduct your business?”
She responded with a smile and said, “I smoke fish, I get contracts. Even turkey, goat meat, and cow meat. I smoked all of them for people. Even from America, I still smoke for them.”
She also stated that she constantly gets jobs, but the challenge is maintaining the small space where she smokes fish.
The widow provides for her children and grandchildren, which is why she has not been able to maintain her space.
Mrs. Mabel Ariri told me she has been a provider for many years and even instructed her aging husband, who passed away eight years ago, to quit his job and rest.
“My husband na 86 years wen hin die but as hin don old, I tell am make hin no do anything. Make hin stay hin own. I do this business we take am dey feed ourselves, I still dey do am, I no leave am,” she laughed.
Preye Paddy and I walked down the narrow road of Canal Village. The village had some wooden houses built on water and some concrete block houses on the landed area.
People in Canal Village have some good things happening. They range from electricity, water, salons, viewing centers, bars, mini-provision stores, and food vendors. It was intriguing to see that people in the village had created their own happiness.
An Ijaw man named Thursday Perekebuna was seen with a chain saw fixing a canoe.
He told me he learned how to build boats in Ondo State, where he once lived.
He has lived in the Village for 18 years. I asked him, “how business dey go?” and he said, “We thank God but now I no dey only do boats again, I still dey do another job, I dey saw wood, cut trees and I dey work for Festac sef.” He told me he was fixing a canoe he had built a long time ago.
On my journey to see the Baale of the village, I was flabbergasted when I found out that the popular beans (Ewa Goyin) residents of Amuwo Odofin love are made in this community, with lots of Ewa Goyin sellers in view.
Although none of them were willing to speak to me, perhaps they were fagged out after a long day’s work. I observed them preparing fish and getting the prominent Ewa Goyin pepper ready. It was quite interesting to see that the Ewa Goyin we love so much has been right under our noses for many years.
I looked forward to revisiting and speaking to them, but the Baale of the Village was available at the time, and I had looked forward to seeing him, so Preye Paddy and I headed to his place.
The Canal Village is led by a Baale called Abbey Oforisha Shoghoro, who succeeded his late father, Reuben Oforisha Shoghoro.
The Baale has led the people of Canal Village since his father died in 2012. It was impossible to leave the village without speaking to the Baale.
Unknowingly, although I disrupted Baale’s nap, that didn’t stop him from being welcoming.
He offered me a seat and spoke to me passionately about his fears and the challenges members of the community face.
He complained about mosquitoes in the riverine area and solicited mosquito nets. He also said the riverine area gets flooded sometimes.
The Baale was emotional while recounting the support the village has received from residents of Amuwo Odofin.
During the lockdown, residents brought yam, rice, and tomatoes. “God will remember those who remember us.”
The Baale also expressed his fears about children who go to school in Festac Town because they have to use canoes to reach 1st Avenue, Festac Town.
He believes a speed boat will do a lot of good for the community.