Chydy Njere on the new Tejuosho Market

Chydy Njere on the new Tejuosho Market

The dazzling sight regales you as you approach. Filled with wonder, you begin your soliloquy. Is this not where… where… Bomboi’s shoe shack used to be? Yes, this line, and if you follow this way, you come out to the used bedspread and towel boys…confused? Hold it. Calm down. Yes. But here, welcome to the new Tejuosho world-class shopping mall. The building is ready, spick and clean. Modern fittings complete. The rest rooms – international standard.  Roads, smooth and glittering. The parking lots are spacious.

Organized, the new sellers and buyers of the new international Tejuosho mall will be free from the Yoruba women chanting, ‘Ara gold’.  The chanji dollar chant of the Hausa money-changers. They will be free from the Igbo market urchins – apprentices otherwise called shop rats who held sway, clutching at any young lady that passes along their lane in the guise of igba nmbo – hustling while their masters look the other way. Free from the human traffic, the congestion, the heat. The new mall promises ease to shoppers and class to sellers.

But – would the magic of Tejuosho Market return?  tej4

Years back, Tejuosho market used to be the place. Two things were in hot pursuit, okrika – bend-down or fairly used clothes, shoes and bag – and, secondly, African arts and crafts. It was the perfect place to take visitors to Nigeria. There was no Lekki, as we have come to know it now. So there was no Lekki arts and crafts market then. Quintessence and Bogobiri crafts market in Ikoyi were only known to the few oyibo, too scared to come to the mainland. And Nike Art Gallery was still largely tucked away in people’s minds in Oshogbo.

Tejuosho was a place where everybody felt at home. The smell and sights, fun and pride of knowing that one is sure to find rarities in those small makeshifts, amidst the shoving and shuffling among the sea of humans. The crowd was thick and people were in a hurry. Touts and urchins, in order to manoeuvre their way in the heavy human traffic, would announce ‘I carry money o.’ Others would warn bystanders to clear out because they are hot-tempered. Said in the local parlance, one would not but be amused.  TV personalities, musicians and celebrities mingled with hawkers and beggars, with pickpockets and hardworking young men who make a living clapping few items of clothing on hangers into people’s faces. Tejuosho used to be the training ground for aspiring hair makers, especially young men from Unilag who take up weaving to help them pay off the high cost of hand-outs from hardened lecturers. All shades visited. The new and emerging Nollywood acts come to look for exceptional items of African arts to showcase. Other patrons were musicians and Rastafarians wearing dreadlocks with cowry shells and animal teeth. Aspiring fashionistas with an eye for quality bent down to forage; their designers and drycleaners knew what to do with such finds. International footballers in foreign lands come to get items to wow their counterparts and friends with. Items with which to court favour from foreign coaches. Ask students of Unilag, Yaba Tech and other surrounding tertiary institutions, even universities as far away as Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria on holidays come straight to the spot.

tej2It was when the naira had power. London used clothes, Italian leather bags and shoes from Spain were affordable, no matter how much the cry about the high exchange rate at the border. It was the business that helped many a young man obtain the much sought-after wealth, particularly big boys from the south-east. Young men doing brisk business picking and sorting dresses, skirts, blouses, jackets, complete suits with slight discolouration at the armpit but the compensation – a lot cheaper! Jobless cobblers began tinkering with high-quality shoes and soon horned their skills.

While some come to shop for themselves, others come to select clothing items to resale.

Whoever had good clothes-sense would hit business. Wardrobe Managers emerged as a corporate job as those who were laid off in the era of wonder banks, fronting for bank workers did brisk business shuttling between former colleagues’ offices, homes and the market. Brands were built. Boutique owners built their fashion and clothes business from buying and reselling Tejuosho bend-down select goods. They select first hand, after which they wash, iron and display in their beautiful shops and clients buy without a hint of where the clothes came from. In the open, people patronise malls displaying second hand-clothing on mannequins. Whole duplexes, warehouses, bungalows and shops with amazing lightings, became home to bend-down select. Moving up a notch, emphasis shifted to the comfort of shoppers, cosy atmosphere, as against the backbreaking, sun-scorched method of old.

Then enter the Obioma

tej3The bridge between Nigeria and London, US, Italy, Spain, etc. They wield the magic wand that transforms the ordinary into the glamorous. From fixing missing buttons and labels, to lifting sagged edges and baggy collars, to sewing up torn button holes, shortening or elongating wears as the case maybe for clients, they have gone ahead to build a thriving business, better believe it. Otherwise, bored and idle street tailors who moved to the market began to have more work than they have time to do. In squalor they make money, as long as customers are satisfy discarded Woolworths, Dorothy Perkins, and Nine West wears to the latest design in town.

How did this concept develop?

Somebody saw the wastage of durable, expensive materials and took to turning old clothes into wearable styles. They are bold to slash out sleeves, curves, any part, and make something different. They loosen folded edges, flatten them out and make room for body size. Change shirt and suit collars to round neck. Mend dresses to fit any size. Turn trousers to skirts and vice versa.  Satisfaction on both sides was the bottom line. Now people buy clothes they fancy irrespective of size and thereafter slim to fit their body sizes. They are not complaining. It is no longer shameful to get quality clothes this way if you don’t want to buy made in China clothes for Italian and London clothes. Office ladies and gents have no problem buying from them. A young graduate on his first corporate job knew just where to go shopping for suits.

The number is mind-boggling, young and not-so-young men and women who could have been unemployed even if there were a hundred and oneteju6 Nigerian textile mills! While many traders have found their way into other markets in Lagos, some of these once-rootless tailors refused to move, lurking in whatever available place, under trees, in the sun, in shanties; anywhere customers could put their head and try their latest selection before and after the necessary amendment would do.

Tejuosho is no more the way we knew it.

In the new, sprawling world class complex that Tejuosho has turned to, would they be able to come back to the main market?

O yes. We have paid.

But wait; is bend-down- select not a banned business under the Nigerian law? The sale of second-hand clothes does not seem to be prohibited; they are evertej5ywhere, bales and bales of second-hand goods.

Let us not lie. Are your so called officers blind?  Why does no one enter shops and arrest the sellers and buyers? Do you know that hundreds of grown family men and women have their sustenance through this business? Again, consider the realities on ground.

Which are?

Not everyone can afford the big shops. Not everyone likes cheap China-made Ankara fabrics – with no guarantee of surviving three washes. The high cost of sewing. Ladies and gents still want to wear quality clothing.

Tejuosho is about to be commissioned after five years of closure. This is a great leap from yesterday. Many of the young men and women have diversified, others have acquired new tastes. There are many shops and there are stalls waiting for habitation. Time is going, resources are wasting, the new owners are anxious: where are the new owners? Customers are waiting. Who would be the buyers and sellers? Many celebrities have migrated, some live on the Island and faraway places, online shopping has emerged. The passage of time may have, like a pack of unsold vegetables from the market, affected people’s zeal.

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