I have to admit that I speak a lot of English, maybe a little too much. You will not blame me for that. Everything I knew growing up was multicultural: family, school, hometown, and even my heart. English was the bridge, something that unites all of these different components of my life.
I once took a stroll along one of the few areas in this self-claimed Garden City that have gardens. This was an part of the city priding itself as one of its finest. It was there that I heard a supposed English word that seemed too simple for me to have no clue of what it meant.
We had seen a dog, but not the type of dog I expected in such an environment. It had flies converging on its ears and looked hungry. Seeing the surprise on my face, my guide said the dog was from the “Batcher”.
At first I though she wanted to make a mockery of engineering. Batch is a production word, but a dog could in no way be manufactured.
“What is a Batcher?” I asked, giving up on the English definition. I learnt that it was the name given to slums whose houses are made of wood, carton and roofing sheets. Unlike in many cities that slums have downtown locations, “batchers” could be found in every area of the Garden City, concealed in fenced and gated compounds. They are found even in the highbrow areas.
There have been several arguments about these slums, but no one admits that it addresses the accommodation challenges of the city in some way. Besides, unlike other slum dwellings, most are out of view are are not eyesores.
Two years after my initial stroll, we were about to drive past that highbrow area when we noticed a scene that looked like the aftermath of a war. Kids were scattered, household items were scattered and crushed.
We stopped to ask what happened. A rich politician who spends most of his time as a lawmaker in Abuja was upset that the Batcher was close to his house and he ordered that it be crushed.
Granted, those who live in these temporary structures are always ready to be on the move. They are often legitimate occupants that are leased these portions of land for several years while the owner raises money to develop the land from the proceeds. When the land is to be developed, they are always given eviction notices and enough time to look for another batcher. This particular eviction was done by someone who was exerting political power and who did not own the land. It was without notice.
I know these batchers are not “approved” but there should be alternatives.
A dog sat by the heap of ruins as people battled to salvage anything they could. The millionaire’s mansion would now be devoid of the view of the slum that is now gone. Does justice not belong to the powerful?