Allen Avenue: living it up as the Central Business District

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

By 6:10am, the semi-darkness that enveloped what is the Central Business District (CBD) of the capital town of Lagos did not reveal much. The road leading to Opebi Junction is almost bare, silent so to say, save the pockets of artisans and okadamen trying their best to rustle up some pocket change in the wee hours of this morning. But by 6:48am, in front of Oshoppey Plaza, the man sitting atop the bonnet of his car, stone drunk and shaking his head vigorously as one in a paralytic fit wasn’t ready to tell me about how it is that he became owner of Allen Avenue.However in less than thirty minutes, he had reeled out his life history to me. I guess he represents part of the facelessness of what a part of Allen is notorious – the strong currency of centripetal forces that inevitably drags one to the slums of recklessness and vanity.

By 7:00am, Allen was still asleep, comfortably ensconced in the beauty and deceptive serenity of the morning- a seeming reflection of the urbane, the blue-chip and the respectable etiquette of the entrepreneur who man the cluster of glass houses and the plethora of banks. By 7:15 however, pretty much of Allen is awake. You could begin to feel the silent pulse of activity mostly at the junctions where the hub, the push and shoves of the familiar terrain set in. At this point, what razzmatazz, what enigma hidden behind the shadows of the darkness of the early morning begin to unfurl and the day unfolds like a hibiscus in bloom.

But what is it that drives Allen Avenue and establishes it as the hub of business (whatever business) activity of Ikeja? Is it that it has a chequered history dating back to the days of the irrepressible Chief Awolowo? Is it in its famous night life well-nigh in comparison to the glitz of Las Vegas, Nevada? Is it because Allen is centrally located making it accessible to business and government business? What is that special vigour and what is that tonic that makes Allen, Allen?

Chux is a popular musician and actor who believes that there is some ‘rightness’ in the centrality of Allen that has attracted the army of banks and private commercial interests. He believes that Allen has, over the years made a name for itself on account of the class of people who seem to have some vested interests in Allen. His position is a different one from that adopted by Amoo Jacob, an insurance broker whose office is right in the heart of Allen. According to him, what you see of Allen in the day is a sharp contrast with the kaleidoscope, the klieg lights and the rhythm of the night.Apart from that, he said that Allen is synonymous with the well-to-do and with success in such a manner that makes Allen a little comparable to reasons why Hollywood attracts the ambitious, the bold and the audacious.

The Chief Security Officer (as he claimed he is) of the popular Alade Market believes that Allen is the New York or the financial nerve centre of the whole of Lagos. He pointed out a little too authoritativelythat because of the peculiar nature of the Avenue, Allen is the one place where ‘business’ is conducted twenty-four hours, seven days in a week.

What some of this probably reveals of Allen is that there is still a dearth of the kind of ideas that should shake-up things a bit instead of the run-of-the-mill disposition that it has garnered over the years – of shady deals; of the ladies of the night, of the drug lords with their cartels and the lot. Akeem Jamiu is a small-time self-employed artisan who has lived in Allen Avenue’s backyards for close to fifteen years. He believes that both diurnal and nocturnal businesses in Allen could be synchronized if those in authority did something about the pure-water vendor who transmuted to murderers at night in a Dr. Jekyll-Mr.-Hyde fashion; the traffic jam that reduces the tempo of business and eventually ground it to a halt whenever there is a slight drizzle. Akeem believes too that with the kind of businesses generated by Allen’s seeming strategic location, government should not go to sleep when Allen wakes up at night.

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