The collapsed building at the Ita-Faaji area of Lagos Island East Local Council Development Area on Wednesday March 13, 2019 which claimed 20 lives mostly school children and the subsequent one days after at Oke-Arin Area of Lagos Island Local Government, Lagos during a demolition exercise has further revealed the potentialities of our Youths begin to be annexed by our leaders who would rather prefer to exploit and lure them into societal vices to achieving their selfish political ends.
Tragedy struck at Ita-Faaji community around 10am on this faithful day. Area Boys swung into action, risking their lives to safe lives. Breaking and clearing debris with bare hands. Roles were assigned by instinct, some breaking blocks and iron rods, some fetching water to cool down the temperature for the trapped school children while others were calling on the State’s emergency agency. Many of the early rescued victims were rushed to the Mercy Children Hospital with those in critical conditions referred to the Lagos Island General Hospital. It was a real division of labor at its peak.
According to reports, 40 lives were saved and 20 died. But for the quick intervention of these boys, the story would have been different. Even the Lagos State emergency team could not but appreciate the daring rescue efforts of the Area Boys. They were swift, brave and meticulous even with crude or no rescue equipment, experience or formal training. Many without any form of affiliation with the victims except for being just ‘Area Boys’. Regardless of their notorious popularities, they’re always on ground during accidents and rescue operations. Fire disaster, autocrash, boat capsize and even armed robbery. They are first and early responders.
Four days after the Ita-Faaji tragedy, another building collapsed during demolition at Egerton Street, Oke-Arin. Victims this time around were majorly scavengers, another set of Area Boys. They beat the odds of joblessness and bad governance by scavenging for their daily bread. Now they’re victims of circumstance, a rotten society they refused to succumb to.
‘Area Boys’ are young able bodied youths living in a community but are largely jobless. Some are educated while some are not. Many who learnt one vocational trade or the other are forced back to the society of joblessness by the wickedness of our leaders who have misplaced their priorities in governance and leadership. The Youths are their followers when in need of their services but become Area Boys when their missions and aspirations are met. They bear the brunt of it all, they’re basically used and dumped.
But, these youths are not lazy. They are ready to perform and explore given the enabling environment. In all that transpired at the Ita-Faaji and Oke-Arin tragedies, I saw in the youths bravery, determination and resourcefulness. I saw opportunities for government to harness to solving the problems of youth unemployment and joblessness. I saw in the ‘Area Boys’ potential security officers, paramedics, fire fighters and traffic managers. I saw youth ready and eager to work with their hands and fend for themselves and their families. What they lack is opportunity to grab, environment to operate and responsibility to make a bold statement and charge our leaders to wake up to their callings by looking beyond ordinary name tag and see the underlining potentialities of these Area Boys waiting to be tapped.