Something is wrong. Regrettably, I will go the easy way which is to keep praying but do little or nothing because I have been defeated by the very thought of what the solution could be.
Many years back, when my father drove me and my brother to this blooming downtown to show us a land that belonged to us, I fell in love with the city. I have always loved heterogeneity, Asaba had such.
While my boyhood will-o’-the-wisp of living in our own house in Asaba didn’t metamorphose, it was the nearest city I’d love to move to anytime I nurse the thoughts of leaving Onitsha when I gain my “independence”.
It wasn’t as though there was anything special about Asaba. Asaba cannot be matched to the modern cities of Abuja and Lagos. Many cities beat Asaba hands down in terms of development. However, it is the closest city to Onitsha but lacking the noise and tout-infestation that Onitsha is known for.
Many years later, I moved to Asaba. First, I lived in the out sketch of the city but later moved into the town to witness what I have always known had existed in Asaba but not to the symmetry that I was going to meet it.
While Onitsha is a city full of touts known as agebros, a city where an average citizen is expected to be a tout which isn’t always the case, Asaba gained another kind of moral degeneration. There aren’t many touts in Asaba but this is a city where so many young boys believe that the only way to prominence is through internet scams and the girls believe that they can only survive off the sex-hungry boys whose one-eyed snakes can’t rest till it tastes some random sugar.
What do we have? Thousands of young girls shuffling along the roads, shopping malls and every other area of concentration in stimulating and highly libidinous wears, in wait for men whose one-eyed snakes needs some resting place for the night. The appearance of these girls alone is enough to knock the one-eyed snake into action and it takes another level of shield to hold oneself from falling for the trap that these beauties display.
In many cities, there are red-light districts but in Asaba, there are no red-light districts, the city itself is an entirely red-light district. I feel hurt seeing these girls wander about, jeopardise their lives, sell their bodies to men who do not even merit them only if they knew what they are worth.
The more depressing part is that majority of these girls are very young, talented and beautiful. Most of them are the dreams of every man when it comes to beauty but they consider themselves insignificant and would therefore give themselves away for money; an amount that cannot even make them become anything essential in society.
Just like the Igbo proverb says “anyone who goes hunting for insects is asking the lizard for a visit”. As internet scam is becoming a norm, making more and more boys wealthy overnight which often don’t stand the test of time, more and more young girls are infiltrating the city of Asaba in search of a greener hayfield, a hayfield they believe can only be found on the bed of these G-guys.
In a bid to stay woke and up their games, these girls are acquainted with all manner of things. While some do their thing the best way they know how to, others go the extra mile and delve into sinister things just to keep men to themselves. These girls expose themselves to all manner of lifestyles including drugs. It starts with shisha and then graduates to the smoking of cigarettes, then hemp and drugs. These are young girls who will become mothers tomorrow but they don’t think of the future as the most critical thing for them is how to survive.
Every day, the number of young girls who engage in these illicit enterprises in this city increases. Most of them are not from the city of Asaba. They move into Asaba from Lagos, Benin, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Kogi, Ebonyi and other far places. Their purpose is to do their stuff unseen by those who know them so well and then go back to their places when they have made some money to live a resolute life.
I have been privileged to speak with some of them; it didn’t happen without its bait anyway. Some claim that they are orphans, some claim that their parents couldn’t take care of them. Each of them has a story to tell, to justify their wrongs and while some are lies, some are equally true.
I met one whose mother has been on dialysis. Every week she sends money back home to her mother for treatment. The solution isn’t far-fetched. These girls need mentors, they need good role models and not many of the things they watch on TV. Some of them seem to have some level of respect for God too but their fears of not being able to make ends meet keep propelling them into this mess. I know they need to be harvested, armed with skills and launched with some resources and guidance.
At some point, I have tried helping a few with some money but how much can be enough? As much as I admit that change is possible for them if someone can pick them off the street, take care of them and begin to train them not only in righteousness but with skills, I wouldn’t want to make defences for them because it was completely their choice to give in to their fears. Most of us have given in to our fears at some point in our lives.
Subjectively, I think that it will take a concerted effort to take these teenagers and young adults off the street. Taking them off the street will demand understanding them better, not judging them. It will require a genuinely compassionate heart and not one who sees nothing good in people; it will also require patience and resources. An anti-prostitution enthusiast is an absurd person to save prostitutes from their ventures. It requires someone who has the heart of Jesus.
Nevertheless, while I think of ways we can save these girls off the street, I feel very defeated except for the fact that I will keep settling for the easy one; to pray. These girls need a community but a judgmental church cannot serve as this community. They need mentors and coaches but these days, they don’t even know whom to trust because most self-acclaimed coaches and mentors are sexual abusers and predators who will want to take advantage of them. Some of these girls do not love the life they are living but nobody is telling them that they have a choice; nobody is showing them the choices that they have.
When I ask them to leave the streets, will I give them jobs? When I ask them to leave the streets, will I place them on salary or foot the bills they are footing in their families? Perhaps, the best way is to find a way to win their hearts, a way to let them know that we care, a way to let them know that we are as much weak as they are and a way to let them know that despite the challenge, there are better alternatives. Ultimately, they need a community that will make them realize that regardless of how long they have been in this mess, it could be just the beginning of a good story for them of which the present could be the end of a chapter.