The Neighborhood of the Naked Pedestrian

What standards of humanity can justify such neglect?

The weather was bright, traffic was light and at 7.45am we drove off the Roundabout to the inner road. Lining the road on both sides were shops and blocks of remodeled residential buildings that barely concealed the colonial architecture behind them.

Families exchanging pleasantries, children doing chores, residents casually sitting outside for air was the sign of a good day. Passers-by walked to church in this neighbourhood that would have been bustling with shoppers in the open market on a regular weekday. This was a market transformed to a community where real people live, work and play. “Take the next left and drive 1.1km” said the navigator as I glanced at google map on my phone to see if the next turn would be right or left.

Looking up to maintain view of the left side of the road which led to our final destination, I was struck with the sight of a figure, moving along with pedestrians. This was no ordinary pedestrian. I squinted to be sure of what I saw less than 50 metres ahead, then my jaw dropped. As I let out a distressful “oh my gosh . . .”, my husband made a gesture to warn that I could draw the attention of the boys in the back seat if I didn’t look away.

Out of her mind, out of her clothes and out in the streets was a stark naked mentally ill woman revelling in the coolness of a Sunday morning stroll in the neighbourhoods of Ebute Metta in Lagos, Nigeria. Perhaps to her, the world was perfect as it was. For me, everything was wrong with this sight.

Why was everyone carrying on as normal? Why wasn’t anyone bothered about covering this poor woman’s nakedness? Was I the only one who felt this intense pain about her state? There were no strange stares from people or any sign of empathy or pity towards this mental health patient apparently.

Beatrice symbolises the neglect of one of the first developed neighbourhoods in the commercial nerve of Africa’s giant, Nigeria. A neighbourhood which hosts the pre-independence history of the country when leaders did more for the welfare of the people than brag about building Africa’s model mega city.


She was a woman in her forties or fifties, same complexion as me, with love handles and stretch marks on her torso that suggest we both shared the experience of bringing a life into this world. Where are her children? Does she have a partner? Does her family know how far she’s strayed? Perhaps she is known in the neighbourhood, perhaps not. Why hadn’t anyone cared to hand her a wrapper, dress or get her help?

She wore weaves, all tangled and unkempt which gave a hint that this woman must have experienced urban life some time. Perhaps she was educated, worked in a corporate establishment or ran a business before the full moon, juju or whatever it was induced her insanity. She bore no semblance of a homeless and hopeless destitute as she strutted along with a seeming purpose and destination in mind. The difference between other pedestrians and her was one_ she proudly wore her birthday suit.

I contemplated taking my eyes away from this human not less deserving of a sound mind than me but it was only a few seconds to drive past her rear. The roads were clear so I had one more gaze. It was her lips that moved and I saw that she muttered to herself as her breasts swayed between her swinging arms. Then I was thankful for the overgrown black bushes around the fairest of all flowers below as she walked briskly by.

My time was up and all that would remain with me was a replay of the seconds I set eyes on Beatrice. I had to give her a name as long as she occupied my mind. She was no character from a fiction story. She could be any one who suddenly fell from grace.


Beatrice symbolises the neglect of one of the first developed neighbourhoods in the commercial nerve of Africa’s giant, Nigeria. A neighbourhood which hosts the pre-independence history of the country when leaders did more for the welfare of the people than brag about building Africa’s model mega city.

Ebute Metta is notable for the railway system that ran through the country conveying everyone from traders to blue collar workers to the private coaches of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Belewa and Queen Elizabeth at our independence in 1960. Now decaying were sheds where the trains steel tyres were stored, waste heaps in the nooks and corners of streets, markets sprawling uncontrollably through every pedestrian path as transporters in buses, bikes and tricycles jostle for every inch what was left of the road.

Ebute Metta, like Beatrice is the anomaly that became the norm. By what standards of humanity can this be justified? What level of depravity should strip a human of everything she’s ever been worth?

Just like the neighbourhood upon whose streets she strolled, Beatrice story is not a scene set in a depraved community in the poorest country in the world. Even the poorest countries in the world are not the places with people most affected by mental health. Lagos is the fourth wealthiest city in Africa where one must survive traffic, pollution and the consequences of overpopulation to beat depression.


Lagos is the revenue obsessed commercial capital of Nigeria with resources to tackle poverty and inequality and yet leaves its residents cohabiting with waste, abandoned infrastructure and poor access to health. Residents of the city’s Mainland become more forgettable with every tower that springs out of the new areas built for the rich at Eko Atlantic.

Stripped bare of the glory of the advent of the Railway Headquarters in Nigeria, the beauty of her three shorelines is gone. The Brazilian quarters, Jaekel house museum, the first Central bank building, the first Post office and all the firsts’ recorded in this place mean little or perhaps nothing to the urbanization obsessed elites of the city.

Ebute Metta, like Beatrice is the anomaly that became the norm.
By what standards of humanity can this be justified? What level of depravity should strip a human of everything she’s ever been worth? What degree of inequality permits such neglect?

None.

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