A prostitute’s life; prostitution and poverty in Nigeria.

by Onyinye Ogbuka
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Life has been offering you crumbs and when you decide to scale the wall, it throws you back down. Nigeria is life, but I survived because God loves me. A prostitute’s life is about me and how I got saved.

A prostitute’s life: Hard life

I darted my eyes left, right and centre as I kept watch of whatever man had intentions of coming my way. I have to be vigilant because girls are not smiling today. We are all littered down a few yards, dressed in cheap wigs, red lipstick of varying shades, cheap perfumes and secondhand sleazy outfits. Business seems to be slow today but it does not matter because I am going to snag a customer today, I am always that lucky and I am counting on my lucky stars tonight. I have a feeling this night will be a great one. I feel a bit cold and bring out my cigarette, I light it up and take a long drag allowing its warmth to warm my body before I release a long ring of smoke. 

A car stops some yards away from me and prostitutes like me run to the car, the guy at the passenger side of the car comes out and comes towards me, he fends off ladies who keep pulling him on all sides. I don’t waste time closing the distance between us, we negotiate on a price and he motions that I follow him which I do. We get into his car with other sex workers insulting me and calling me names and I don’t bother to answer them. It’s the price you pay for being preferred or being chosen by a customer.

A prostitute’s life: better side of life

I discover the driver is a chauffeur and the man who negotiated with me is the owner of the car. The car moves in the direction of a beautiful part of town. This part of town is for the creme de la crème of the society. I start to get scared for my life, normally, my clients take me to hotels. Some cheap hotels with thin walls, creaking ceilings and squeaking rats. Some three-star with hotels, squawking beds, poor food service and non-functional televisions. Some five-star hotels with breathtaking interior decor, wonderful rooms, amazing food service, great complimentary wines and wonderful satellite.


I let out a silent chuckle at the thievery we prostitutes use on those five-star hotels. An instrument of thievery all prostitutes use is to hold with them a big polythene bag in hopes that they would be taken to a five-star hotel. Sometimes they are taken there and some they are not.

Whenever I am taken to a five-star hotel, and my client orders room service, I get excited. Rich people and their life of wastage; my clients usually order more than they can finish. They just take a few bites of a table full of food and they are good to go. I act like I am not so interested in the food but once they check out before me, I bring out my nylon and pack the entire food into it. I go into the toilet and clean the toilet of the soaps, shampoos and the little tidbits here and there. When I come back in the morning, I would share these meals with my friends and they would gladly partake. It didn’t come every time so we had learnt to treasure it. On some days, it’s good and some days, it’s bad but we take it as it comes.

A prostitute’s life: palatial abode

The car is driven into a compound surrounded by tall trees and I look to behold a very beautiful compound. I get down from the car and I am facing a big mansion. We go into the mansion and the owner of the car offers me a seat in the living room. I sit in my seat and wonder in my heart if he wants us to have sex here in the sitting room. I look around as he goes upstairs. This place could easily pass for a palace. 

A prostitute's life

He comes down after a few minutes and offers me wine. I hesitate to take it, a rule of thumb for sex workers is always to avoid offered drinks. Some clients offer drinks to kill a prostitute and use her for rituals or some if kind enough, rape her and dump her where they picked her up from. I look at him and when he senses I am not going to take it from him, he places it on the table before me. 

He sits across me and fixes his gaze on me. I feel conscious of myself and attempt to sit with more comportment. 

A prostitute’s life: who I am

He introduces himself as Simon and asked that I introduce myself. Most times, we prostitutes do not give out our real names. So for security purposes, we pick out fancy names and that is what I go with when I tell the man in front of me my name. He shakes his head and insists that I tell him my real name. I don’t hold back and tell him my name is Oge.

He smiles and asks that I tell him about myself. I become annoyed, I thought he was bringing me for sex, why is he interrogating me? I wouldn’t mind having sex with him for free, he is good looking and I suspect he would be good in bed but it won’t work today because I need to pay my rent. Since he wants my story, I would give it to him as far as he pays me for my time. 

To be a Nigerian woman

I tell him, of how I was born into a poverty-stricken family. We grew up eating dust, two meals a day was a luxury, and three square meals was a dream. Growing up, I didn’t know people ate three times a day. My parents managed to send us to public schools and after primary school washed their hands off us. Most of my siblings had to go work or learn a trade but I wanted to learn. I loved learning and so I combined schooling with working. Doggedly, I made my way to the university where I graduated. I searched endlessly for jobs even the lowly ones but I was unable to get a job. I was either underqualified or overqualified; I was a first-class graduate of Engineering without a master’s.

I started a little business and fire gutted down my shop turning to ashes my profit, my capital and the loan I took out. My creditor came for me and threatened to arrest me if I did not pay him. I did not have any money to pay and in place of the money, he asked for my body and promised to give me some money. I did not need to ask for advice before I knew what to do so I offered my body and got some money from him. He referred his friends to me and I made sure to leave them satisfied. It was bad but there was nothing that I could do about it.

The road not taken

From there, I took it up as a business.

When I finished my story, I had tears in my eyes. I realized I had been living a pathetic life. I could not help it, I continued to cry. This was not what I came here for.

He came to me and took me in his arms. After crying, he asked that he wanted to help me and I readily agreed because I could not continue living this kind of life. 

He invited me to his church and hearing the pastor preach God’s love brought tears to my eyes. I questioned God in my heart and asked that if he truly loved me then why did he allow me to go through what I went through. Immediately, I felt the love of God overwhelm me and I began to cry.  Somehow, I felt light in my heart and knew that I was loved.

A beautiful life

Simon sponsored me for my Master’s and I went back to school with a newfound zeal for God and academics. Juggling my memory was hard but I pulled through.  Whilst I studied, Simon got me a job in an engineering company. I moved out of my old area to a new place. 

In the space of one year, whoever was told I was once standing on the streets to offer sex at a price would not believe it. Simon helped me to remember that my past does not define me. I live with that mindset now, reaching out to others and preaching Christ to them. I have the vision to start a foundation that will help prostitutes like me leave the streets.


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