From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Taiwo Road in Ilorin is one of the major highways in the Kwara State capital. It is named after the former military governor of Kwara State, Col. Ibrahim Taiwo, who was assassinated during the coup de’tat of February 1976.
This stretch of road is divided into two: Taiwo Oke and Taiwo Isale. After leaving the post office through Emirs Road, the first turning to the left is the beginning of Taiwo Isale up to Amodu Junction. The rest is Taiwo Oke.
If you take a look to your left at the turning, there is a storey building, looking unkempt. But for a telecommunications outfit, which recently painted the building, one would wonder what type of building it was. Looking so ancient, it was obvious that the building must have been erected many years ago in the heart of the town where anyone could easily see it. But the building has lost its beauty. Why the owners have refused to do something about rehabilitating the structure has remained a mystery to many.
One important historical fact about the building is that it is the second bar established in Ilorin Kwara State. The bar, Queen’s Bar, came into existence around 1947. Earlier, the Paradise Bar, the first in the area, had begun operations in the early 40s. It was situated at the building where Bob Shege Photo Laboratory presently is. The two bars were beside each other. Besides being bars, they were also motels, with some lodging facilities. They were also a place where sex hawkers congregated seeking customers.
Investigation by the reporter revealed that the building was owned by one Mr. Tinde, a native of Abeokuta, who died many years ago. It was discovered that some of the relations of the man, many of whom have become old, still live in the building. A grandson of the deceased manages the bar.
The ground floor of the building has about 10 rooms with five on either side, each facing the other. There is a large veranda at the back, which houses the bar and a dancing floor. The first floor is mainly for lodging.
During the day, the building is as quiet as a graveyard. But at night, it comes alive, bubbling and very boisterous. One hardly notices any activity, going on there during the day.
But a visit to Queen’s Bar at night will be an experience that will linger on in the visitor’s mind. This is because sex workers suddenly materialise from nowhere and start lining up the roadside and corridors of the inn. They dress seductively in transparent lingerie with short pants or miniskirts, carelessly eating chewing gum or smoking cigarettes. They shake their breasts of assorted sizes to arrest the attention of those that might be needing their services.
One of the regular customers at the inn, Azeez Amao, a commercial motorbike (okada) operator, said you could hardly see the sex workers from the Queen’s Bar in the vicinity because of the way they conducted themselves and practised their vocation.
Amao, a divorcee in his early 40s, said he had been patronising the inn for more than 10 years and said the fun he usually got at the place couldn’t be compared to the entertainment in other areas in the metropolis.
He said most of the prostitutes in the area came from all parts of Nigeria to ply their trade in Ilorin. According to him, most of the prostitutes in Queen’s Bar were grandmothers, with children and grandchildren in big boarding schools in Kwara and other states.
According to him, in order to conceal their trade, they live miles away from their relatives.
He also told the reporter why he preferred the prostitutes of Queen’s Bar to the ones on Coca Cola Road, Ahmadu Bello Way, Broadway and many other places in Ilorin.
“The mamas here are more experienced than those girls in terms of sexual escapades, and most importantly, they charge little amount of money. If I have N300, I will do all sorts of things with the ones here,” he said.
“I never wanted to patronise the Coca Cola Road girls. I was lured there by my childhood friend, who patronised them often. Those girls are into all sort of diabolical acts that could only be noticed by persons with inner instincts. I would have died by now if I had not stopped my dealing with those girls. I prefer the Queen’s Bar mamas at all times.”
He admitted that there was much danger in having sex partners, but noted that the danger could be minimised with the use of condoms.
Narrating how he lost a relative, Amao said: “Lukuman died in 2014 as a result of the disease he contracted from one of his prostitutes. The girl died a week after Lukuman’s death. Since then, I’ve learnt always to protect myself because of the woman I’m planning to marry.”
A taxi driver, identified as Ibro, who was spotted leaving the premises of the inn, said he patronised the sex den to satisfy his sexual urge.
“I don’t have a wife at home. My body is flesh, not stone,” he informed the reporter.
He disclosed that he had been patronising the place since the hourly service by the prostitutes was between N50 and N70.
Another man, an Hausa trader selling rat-killing trap, who was just leaving the bar, refused to speak with the reporter.
Amaka, also called Ama Baby, one of the sex hawkers, told the reporter that referring to women in her trade as prostitutes or sex hawkers was insulting and unacceptable. “We are friends of the society; we give pleasure to all men,” she said, insisting that prostitution could never die.
Ama said her services were very affordable. In her words, she could take as low as N300 for a session. But she said she might charge a higher amount, noting that most customers would still haggle and force the price down.
“Those local men could turn into something unbelievable in the middle of the night,” she said. But she said the general price of between N1, 500 and N2, 000 charged by her colleagues for an all-night session, also called Till Daybreak, was too cheap. “The money is not commensurate with the service rendered all night,” she noted.
Another sex hawker called Princess said: “The business is poor. The ‘short time’ begins from N300 to N500 before the price of dollar increased while the ‘long time’ service was like N2,500. Before, I used to realise N5, 000 or more per day to the glory of God. But now, market is not moving. Dollar don rise, yet monkey go chop banana,” she stated.
She also regretted how the society has tagged prostitutes and sex hawkers. “Government has been threatening to wipe us out. They have forgotten that we are part of the society. We are fending for our families with this business. Would they give us jobs if we decided to leave our jobs here?”
Speaking on the activities of the sex hawkers, a pepper seller at the evening market beside the inn said: “They do not disturb our peace in any way. They’ve become our friends because of our long relationship. We fondly called them olemi. That is how some of the sex hawkers refer to their customers while trying to entice them.”
A popular vegetable seller in the area, known as Iya Tawa, said the business was as old as the building.
“I have known this building, as a home and business outfit for prostitutes since I was a little child. And, if you look at me now, I’m not a young woman anymore. So, it is one soldier go, another comes. Once the tenure of the recent occupant lapses, which is usually two or four years, another set of prostitutes will come to the inn. But in all honesty, they have continued to boost our sales,” she added.