As a teenager, I carried the reasonable paranoia any Nigerian raised by ‘God-fearing’ parents would have, buying drugs. I’d always known that a man’s relationship with his drug dealer is sacred but the rules of the game didn’t become more apparent until I grew older.
No matter how brief the encounter; money and substance skilfully exchanged through a handshake or a brief too-close-for-comfort walk till we both parted ways. My relationship with any drug dealer is always based on ‘mutual-assured-destruction’ (the same principle that ended the Cold War because, either that or we’d probably all be living in a dystopian Mad Max type world where even survivors have been traumatised into insanity). Once you understand your place in each other’s lives, your relationship becomes more defined. You could be the ‘hard-guy’ who snobbishly puts up a jaded brave face or the open minded guy with a warped sense of adventure who doesn’t think less of a man earning a dishonest living — this is how I met Ahmed.
It was a sunny afternoon in June and I had just stormed out of a meeting with two guys who wanted me to work for ‘exposure’. I paced impatiently for an Uber I should’ve requested ahead of my dramatic exit when an Okada man pulled up a few inches short of my shoes. He asked me where I was going and offered to take me there. I wasn’t sold on the idea immediately, but I was too upset and restless to care so I canceled my ‘6-minutes away’ Uber request and hopped on the Okada.
I don’t exactly know how I started talking drugs with Ahmed, but I remember him describing me in a way I had never seen myself.
‘As I look you, I don sabi say you be correct guy’. He’d said with a thick Hausa accent as we slowed into a deserted street.
I didn’t know if there was any other kind of guy to be, but I knew being a ‘correct guy’ meant, I could go from walking out on a job offer to getting a percentage cut on sales every time I got him a new customer.
But while the prospects of becoming ‘a guy’ with the ‘hook-up’ had equal parts intrigue and poor foresight, what endeared me to Ahmed was the sincerity of his pitch. He’d come from a small village in Kano and started a small operation in Abuja last year. After a sour deal put the authorities on his tail, he gathered up whatever he could and moved to Lagos. He quickly realised that because Lagosians spend so much time on the on the road, the easiest way to be the kind of drug dealer of he wanted was to get a means of commuting other people. The time spent together, wading through motionless traffic gave him enough time to study his passenger and decide if he wanted to offer products to the person or not. And like that, he gradually built a small network of customers by simply reading social cues and keeping his motorcycle stationed at select mid to high brow locations on the Lagos island. That he’d only moved to Lagos two months earlier meant he still didn’t have everything figured out. But he understood the risk of his business demanded careful planning of every move and he acted accordingly.
After our brief encounter, he took my number and kept in touch to occasionally tell me about new merchandise in painful-to-read texts. By the time I finally got around getting my first supply from him in November, Ahmed was quick to randomly inform me with a typical Nigerian brag, that he had scaled the medium of his business up from a motorcycle to an Uber.
This is the Lagos dream baby!
As someone who spent nearly three years in the backwaters of the content industry before anyone even gave me a floor to air anything I had to say, It was hard not ignore the nature of his trade and just be impressed at his leap in only eight months. Ahmed is no exception from many Lagos dealers I’ve come in close contact with over the last one year. Their head is in the moment, their decisions are rational and their moves are quick. For them, every step of the way is just another hustle up the ladder to the infinite apex. No matter where they stood, they took each phase with the same due diligence they would give the next one.
This is why I started thinking like a drug dealer.”
The drug dealer mentality has one laser-focus: to get rich. Even your chummy bond is a marketing strategy that won’t stop him from collecting his neatly squeezed naira notes for every bag, tablet or rock he hands to you. The biggest driving force for any dealer is the sheer lack of contentment with small wins. More customers must get hooked, more products must be sold and more money must be fucking made. That is the simple the M.O.
As I have learned this year, talent is cheap, and success is just finding something you know how to do and becoming the best at it. I don’t want to get preachy here but if you have watched the series Westworld, you’d learn quickly that life is pointless and purpose is just something we all collectively imagined to give our life meaning. My takeaway from this is that Donald Trump is probably going to kill us all anyway, so why not live like a drug dealer with nothing to lose and everything to gain?