Lagos holds many secrets and within its most infamous streets, vices like prostitution and drug use sit beside corporate and private wealth.
On one of his more popular tracks, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, a Lagosian if there ever was one, sings “Igba to d’eko, o m’eyo”. It roughly translates to mean, “Since you’ve not been to Lagos, you can’t know Eyo”.
This statement is true of the Eyo masquerade and many other novelties that Lagos hides, ready to show anyone who’s willing.
Sometimes, the secrets are the kind that has earned Lagos a subtle reputation for infamy, the scary and the scandalous. On Allen Avenue, for instance, the story becomes one of sex and debauchery as soon as night falls.
Here are 5 such streets that Allen Avenue would be proud of:
1. Ayilara Street, Ojuelegba
Surulere has long been one of the main residential suburbs in Lagos. Its many neighbourhoods are dotted with recording studios that have produced icons like OJB Jezreel and Wizkid.
However, Ayilara Street is more famous for its brothels than creative spaces. Ayilara is split into two parts: one goes down Lawanson to join Clegg Street; the other was what Nigerian newspapers described as “Sodom and Gomorrah” and a “prostitution haven”.
A fair number of the old hotels now shelter praise and worship sessions on Sunday or have been rented, but at places like Empire Hotel, it is still business as usual.
2. Demurin Road, Ketu
If you have heard of Ketu or lived there, you have heard of the idea of another of Lagos’ large neighbourhoods, with an improbable balance of young lower-middle-class families and street gangs that form in secondary school.
What you have heard of is Demurin Road. Most of Ketu sprouts from Demurin and through its length, it is punctuated by schools, front shops and apartment buildings where pastors and a colony of yahoo boys live in the same block of four flats.
3. Ojelade Street, Mushin:
Even though it has lost the suffix, Olosa (meaning: home of thieves”), Mushin is still like the crown jewel of chaos in Lagos’ nether-regions. It is notorious for housing thieves, prostitution, arms stashing and cult wars.
Ojelade Street has helped it to earn this reputation. It is one that set of in-roads that latch on to Ikorodu Road from Onipanu to Ojuelegba.
Dealers in marijuana and pills are scattered along its length but everyone clears out when violence erupts and this happens fairly often, for many reasons.
4. Ipodo Street, Ikeja
One thing that Ipodo does not share with any of the streets above is guile. At one end of the street, there is a shrine to Esu, a rarity even on the mainland.
With that same energy, the cast and crew of Ipodo’s shenanigans are always out in the open, day or night, with no regard for who sees.
Traders haggle and professionals walk past while beside them, marijuana and cocaine exchange hands in the open.
Drug addicts and destitute men sit beneath the sun ogling commercial sex workers who are there any time of the day looking for customers.
Between all these players, the economics of a troubled neighbourhood is near perfect; which makes it likely that the reports of an Ipodo drug cartel may be true.
5. Broad Street, Lagos Island
This is one of the oldest streets in Lagos. Its colonial architecture sits beside modern skyscrapers that tell two sides of its long history.
Broad Street is at the centre of Lagos Island’s financial district and it is home to banks, discount houses, and other similar institutions.
But within the abandoned shells of old banks and dilapidated buildings, another side of Broad street flourishes. The area is the scene of a thickly veiled drug trade where dealers stash substantial quantities of cocaine and heroin.
The area is also home to a number of hidden stash houses where illegal substances, from counterfeit books to fake documents can be gotten for a fraction of their cost.