Razz Is The New Cool

Razz is the new cool.

It was a sunny Tuesday in Lagos, the temperature hitting over 40˚C, everywhere was steamy hot. I was driving to Ketu-Mile 12 area, sweating like an Agege goat that just escaped the slaughter. My destination was somewhere under the popular Mile 12 bridge.


No! I wasn’t throwing any owambé party, so my mission wasn’t to buy baskets of rotten tomatoes or onions. I was going to a business meeting!

Chuckles. A business meeting under the chaotic Mile 12 Bridge?!


I arrived under the bridge and while searching for a parking space, a guy came from behind and knocked on the car door. One hand on the steering wheel, the other hand secretly grabbing a wheel spinner by my side. 


A thief or a hero?

No response. 


Oh, I concluded, he’s an àgbero wanting to get paid or to tell me to fuck-off. 


He stared at me, and suddenly, his lips parted in slow stupid smiles as he threw up his hands in a street ‘tuale’ salute, simultaneously stamping his feet on the ground. 

‘Tuale Oga Victor’

I stared on. 

‘Shebi you’re Victor?’

I nodded.

‘Thank you for coming, I’m Jayeoba. We talk on phone’

‘Oh really, Mr. Jaye’ I eased my posture and lowered my defense.


He directed me to where to park and gave a series of two-hands-up ‘tuale’ salutes to the touts under the bridge so they could back off me.

They did. He seemed to be popular among them as they all exchanged familiar street greetings and raucous laughter. 


The street was busy.


‘Ikorodu o…Ikorodu’ a conductor of a dilapidated BRT bus hollered repeatedly, hanging carelessly on the door of the blue rickety bus.


‘Ketu jábòòlé o…I dey talk my own o…Ketu come down o’ another conductor warned passengers in flat Yoruba intonation, pulling his own ear.


‘Ojota waso…wole 50 naira Ojota’ another chanted as his yellow Danfo bus raced up into Ketu area. 


The cacophonous melodrama intensified. Loud Naira Marley music pulsed out of raucous speakers and further heated the vicinity. Everywhere was riotous. 


The traffic crawled and thickened, while the carbon monoxide from the moving machines choked up the entire supply of oxygen, my breathing became labored, and I was panting for air. 

I screamed. Riot!


Welcome to Mile 12, the epicenter of chaos and disorder. 


Formed after Iddo Market could not satisfactorily supply the growing Lagos populace, Mile 12 market in Ketu area became one of the biggest, most popular, and busiest markets in Lagos and southwest Nigeria. 


The market is termed the mecca for fresh foods like pepper, tomato, onions, veggies, fruits, palm oil, yam, and other edible goods, all beautifully stacked in heaps of baskets. It is popular far beyond the Southwest to the East and North Central states of Nigeria. 


Mile 12 market is characterized by a beehive of activities involving wholesale merchants, wholesale buyers, retailers, and the end consumers. The ecosystem also extends to permanent and casual laborers who engage in loading and off-loading from and into trailers and other vehicles, as well as hordes of market women who come to buy to resell in neighborhood markets. No matter your food need, someone somewhere sells it in Mile 12. 


The intense electric atmosphere associated with any typical Lagos market is what you get at Mile 12 since it is a depot where over 95% of all the food products come from within and outside the state lands.


Crowd mill in thousands, people bump into themselves, and into trucks of different sizes. Hawkers of sachet water and soft drinks, lenders of rubber boots, truck boys, aboki wheelbarrow boys, aláàru chics, the mekayás, touts, bystanders, and shoppers of different ethnic groups litter the market like Mushin rats. 


Accessing the market is a lot of struggles, starting with the nuisance of gridlock caused by traders who display their goods on the road; coupled with the olfactory assault triggered by the nauseating smell of rotten and decaying food items, either at the roadside or emitting from the market interior.


It is a common sight for baskets of rotten tomatoes called ‘esha’ in Yoruba to leave the market in droves, not to the waste truck, but to rickety vehicles waiting at the entrance of the market to be conveyed to other consumers in the poorer neighborhoods, the D and E socio-economic class. 


Summarily, Mile 12 market is chaotic, unkempt, dirty, smelly, nauseating, disorganized, and disorderly, yet it is that same market that feeds Lagos.


And this was where my new client wants to discuss business. 




Jaye entered the car and sat on the passenger’s seat, sweating like Anty Kafaya’s armpit. He smiled again but I maintained a straight face. I don’t like his teeth.


A few minutes ago, my life was perfect, until I got stuck inside my own car with a random street guy I never wanted to be with, whose stare was piercing through every part of me.


I had a flash of thought. 

Could this be a robbery or kidnapping setup, considering the fact that Ikorodu and the baddo boys were not far from there? 

My heart skipped a beat, and I became extra cautious.


So, what’s the deal? I snapped out.


Lás làs, we started talking and Jaye knocked me out with one punch after another. He brings food in trucks and trailers from the North to Lagos. He has many food shops inside the market. He’s currently developing an N1 million software at CcHub that will decentralize the Mile 12 market. He had spent about a million naira traveling all over the country on R&D drive, striking up deals on food security. His business is currently worth over N20 million. 

Jaye is a multimillionaire! 


My respect for him became astronomic and somewhere in-between, I introduced ‘sir’ into our conversation. Here was a guy trained to become a street kingpin and a nuisance to society, but he changed the narrative and took his generation off the street. 


Five years ago…


He was ‘razz’ to the core; a dark plump guy with an incomplete set of teeth lost in a street brawl. He was well built, tattooed on the neck, with scars and bruises all over his body. His breath reeked of alcohol and smelled of unfinished cigarette butt stumped in a damp bar. He was the king of the street.


He belonged to the razz culture, bred to rule the street. He hung around neighborhood bars, sports viewing centers, and cheap sex hotels.


Awón elei.


He habitually gets drunk on festive days of cheap liquor, either from the sachet gin brands or low-priced beer brands. He even uses Tramadol sometimes to supplement the cheap liquor to attain top ‘highness’. He was a frequent face at Bet9ja and Baba Ijebu outlets, and always ‘throw dice’ at some rickety and unkempt makeshift stalls. 


Hopeless worshiper of stars, proximity to local heroes was a social currency to him, especially the Fuji musical artists. 


And today, Jaye is thinking of using digital tools to replicate Mile 12 market. 


In five fucking years, he transited from a street urchin to a global contender, from a kingpin to a kingmaker. He never resigned to fate even though life had handed him a funny script. 

Jaye is a live proof that razz is the new cool. 


After narrating his story, right under the royal Ketu bridge, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding.


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