By Toyin Falola
Life is trade by barter! We use what we have to get what we want. Even our Daddy GOs, Oyedepo and Adeboye, collect money from us before they pray for us! This is the philosophical foundation of every activity and value of humans: exchange. How much one can mobilise and achieve one’s aspirations, anxieties, and intentions depends on the values one can give for it. Many would trade items for money and money for items. Some would subject themselves to long and tiring periods of training and schooling just to add personal values worthy of forming services that would be exchanged for wants and needs.
But some trade their bodies, at least many humans, using what they have to get what they want. When one says that human needs are insatiable and businesses are often built around needs and opportunities, one should not forget to cast one’s mind towards the fact that human sexual urge is a need and also greedy, and as such, there should not be frowning of faces when ọmọges, snap their fingers for kudi, before their backs touch the bed. “Money for hand, back for ground!” They ‘service’ you in the manner your money can afford, with no credit, no emotions, just another day in the office.
Don’t pretend that you don’t know that services come in packages—of one, a fixed rate; of two, another rate; more than two, double the price. You cannot pay for the breasts and get other things! Even the pastor of your church is aware of this small fact. Add tips for groaning; another tip for the massage. A flat back comes with a reduced fee! “Pay as you go” requires extra money since it does not come with a deductible pension. If you always buy on credit, you have to pay more, and should you default, be on your knees and make fake promises. “You know me now, Mary; I am not like that. Oga Falola has not paid me for three months. He has been seriously ill, but I know he will not die.” Mary had no customer for the day: “Be quick, onigbese, the thong is not from Osodi bend down; it came from New York City. Original ni.”
Sorry, you are a man of God, just read along; I am talking to you too.
If they ask the successful “tech bro” what made him venture into his expertise and adjoining businesses, he probably would say, “hunger sat me down….” But different strokes for different folks and what motivates you to increase your leverage in life-bargaining may be different. You would probably condemn Ṣope, the always sad-looking girl who, after many attempts at getting jobs, landed a private high school teaching job that pays her 25,000 Naira monthly. Her parents are waiting at home for oúnje ọmọ, her siblings are expecting her to do big sister duty, and she has transport, but kerosene is expensive, so she must fetch firewood. It even crossed her mind to be dating the Okoda man so that she would eliminate transportation costs. So, she buys a lot of Garri to help her kick-start her Garri marathon from the second week of the month because she has paid some debt with a substantial part of the ‘25k.’ If she picks up the Olóṣó’s business, “hunger sat her down too.” At least, no investment, reinvestment, or restocking of her vagina, and the labia majora and labia minora do not require recharge fees. A night or two at Allen Avenue or Toyin Street might make two times her salary as a teacher. In Sabinu’s voice, smart move. What are you angry about? No woman goes to Toyin Street and forgets to return home with her vagina.
You have been enjoying the story! But this is not to celebrate immorality but to open logical considerations that allow solutions not coated by emotions. Mere promiscuity could have been the driving force behind venturing into Olóṣó’s business. But you can be promiscuous without being a prostitute, and promiscuity might not be what moves one to be an Olóṣó. My conclusion is derived from fieldwork, a collaborative social science project.
But before we judge promiscuity, one must know that many of them are victims of circumstances. A too-trusting pupil that her lesson teacher sexually harassed; the neighbours secretly having sex with teenage children when their parents are away at work; unfortunate relatives and big uncles taking advantage of their nieces; a girl subjected to rape or gang rape; and other instances leave huge psychological footprints that affect identity formations and as such could contribute to the propensity of being promiscuous. She has seen sex magazines, watched movies meant for adults, and probably walked on her parents’ sexual affairs. Later-stage promiscuity in these cases is beyond choice but psychology. And when finances are down, monetising it may not be an issue. Hence, basing arguments against prostitution on morality and condemnations alone will not neutralise the urge of several people with psychological or strong financial motivations to be sex workers.
The Olóṣó business has turned into a full-scale industry in the country with a range from 103,506 sex workers, as UNAIDS put the figure, to 874,000, as Statista put it in 2020. Economically speaking, it is an important sector of the Nigerian economy, and I won’t be surprised if there are considerations of taxing the services. The business and the price that goes with it depend on the location, the situation, the duration, and your negotiation skills. A field investigation suggests that short-term sex could attract just 500 naira in Ilé-Ifẹ̀ and 3000 naira overnight with three different services and other bonuses. The prices in Abuja and Lagos might be a little bit higher, of course, the cost of living in those areas is high, and you cannot compare it with Bódìjà/Awóolọwọ̀ road prices in Ìbàdàn, Ọ̀yọ State. At Gbenla, you can negotiate far less on a Monday morning for N300 because there is no business.
There was a report by Punch Newspaper on the 18th of April 2020 that some of the prostitutes at Toyin Street had to slash 3000 naira from the normal price of 8000 naira to attract customers because market strategies must go along with the business. However, there are big guns that service the big guys in the country. These sets of Olóṣós ride exotic cars and live a life of luxury. They are the ones that sometimes pride themselves on being “President and voice awọn Olóṣó.” Mama for di mama! Several of them keep low-key lives; you only notice that they are always on night duties. They are probably worse than those on the street as they must work for big pay. Some involved bestiality, servicing men, and service dogs. There was a common wave in 2022 of many girls having sex with dogs in Lekki and Lagos Island, getting paid as much as 1.5 million Naira, three times the salary of a Professor at the University of Lagos.
The situation gets worse with the advancement of technology. In the same way, businesses aim at getting business visibility; the Olóṣós do not relax. The advent of subscriptions to social media has increased the reach of service suppliers and clients. Social media platforms, sex apps, and dating apps have allowed the business to boom. It is no more surprising for some to do live streams on Instagram, run ads, or do sex give-away to increase the brand reputation and reach prospective patronisers.
Well, all attention has always been on popular streets, but the Olóṣó’s business is too comfortable to do than the street alone. Nigerian higher institutions have become the biggest homes for different types of Olóṣós, depending on the type of school. You see them file out of school to places of appointments, parading events, and functions. They service students, lecturers, general staff, school officials, and outsiders. They are the Aristo and runs girls that call shameless older men, probably older than their fathers, baby, zaddy, or sugar daddies. Maybe the school authorities do not know that several of the exotic cars that come into the school gates at night either come to pick them up, drop them off, or hunt for fresh ones. There are agents on campuses with albums of women for you to pick and choose.
What about the popular celebrities and social media influencers who have become role models to ladies who probably do not know the secret of their wealth? They stack and stick around politicians, influential men, wealthy individuals, religious leaders, and others. We have seen a series of cases where they claim to have been gifted luxurious cars and houses in Banana Islands by their fans or that they acquired these from proceeds of influencing. Some pastors secretly build mansions for their secret Olóṣós or book vacations with them in Miami. When we point fingers, it should not be towards the traders alone, but the impunities are caused by almost everyone and exploited by many, so the business may not stop.
Let me be the devil’s advocate a little. Should prostitution be criminalised? And would it be right to ban the business? Is there a crime, and if so, is there a victim? Aside from morals, which are subjective, would it in any way negatively affect the development of the country? These are philosophical questions that are often not answered logically. Every society has some level of moral standards built into the fibres that form the society. Since the law must follow the people’s will, criminalising such acts that ridicule those social standards is not overreacting because there is a place for public morality. However, rarely can one see an Olóṣó having sex in open public, they use apartments and even be as decent as others in public, and as such, one asks what public morality is affected.
Whatever your answer is, we must understand that desperate times attract desperate means, and several of Nigeria’s Olóṣós today have become one because of the damning situation of the Nigerian economy. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics stated that 63% of Nigerians are multidimensionally poor as of November 2022. With more than 6 out of 10 people in poverty, Nigeria accounts for about 12.9% of the total number of poor people worldwide as of 2022. So, one should probably be thankful that instead of carrying arms, choosing the supposed victimless act might be more profitable to the nation than otherwise. The point conditions beyond personal will often necessitate the situation before they become habits. In a Premium Times investigation story on November 7, 2020, by Adejumo Kabir, Iya Emma stated that she had to become Aṣéwó in 2012 to get money to sponsor her first child to the university. Iya Emma grew to be a veteran in the business and has built a three-bedroom apartment from the Olóṣó business. The case of Ṣọpẹ, Iya Emma, and others would not be solved by mere criticism because they know where the shoe itches than succumb to some societal moral backlashes. But providing viable alternatives would take several of them out of the business for good. Empowerment programs without discrimination, provision of opportunities, and reformation of the general economy are considerable efforts to provide alternatives.
Where there is work, there is also a high possibility of the occasioning of “corporate prostitution” or “workplace prostitution” caused by gender discriminatory biases that slow down the success and promotions of women at work or in business. This is why many ladies sleep around with their bosses to get salary increases and promotions and “water” the ground for their achievements. What about female artists that have to sleep with producers and different people just to get a role in the cast? The case is worse among those that work at construction sites to help move blocks, sand, and other materials to the bricklayers. They sometimes have to sleep their way through into selection process for the day that would yield just 1500 naira.
So, the nation might need to leave the towers of moralities and relate with the peculiarities of this set of people. Rehabilitation programs for those that have become addicts and steps towards a solution than any form of criticism. In addition, prostitution is two-way traffic, and those patronising are not less guilty than the sex workers. Attention needs to be directed towards factors that incite Olóṣó patronisers.
No matter how lucrative it is, every Olóṣó must know that there can be so much more achievable in the right businesses and start retiring away from using the brain rather than the body. Children, even males, must be taught how to speak up if issues could psychologically condemn them to a life of promiscuity.
We all must know that this is not the time to condemn but to resolve the situation. You are a sinner and I am your Prophet.