Surviving Under The Iwo Road Bridge: The Story of Khalid


Story by Olufunke Oyinlola

I strongly believe that boys need more positive male role models to guide them and teach them about good values, morals, sexual purity, and legitimate ways to make money. Boys need men who will offer emotional support and help them through difficult times. We need to help boys navigate the pressures of being a man in our world.

It was a little past 7 am, and I stood by my gate, observing the early morning hustle and bustle of people going about their daily activities. Suddenly, my attention was caught by a barefooted boy of about 10 years old, dressed in tattered clothes, and standing by the side of the road, begging for alms. No one seemed to be paying him any attention.

My heart was filled with intense pity and curiosity. Why was a child like him on the streets, begging for alms, and dressed in rags? I decided to talk to him to find out more.

He told me he lived under the Iwo Road bridge with several other boys, and they slept in front of shops at night and went out to scavenge, beg, and help people carry their baggage during the day to get money to feed themselves. He mostly scavenged, but that day he had decided to beg for food before setting out for his daily activities.

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I invited him into my compound and got him some food. Then we went out to buy slippers for him, as he was barefooted. People looked at me strangely as I walked about with a boy who looked like him. The shop where we went to buy the slippers gave me a pair that did not look quite neat.

When I complained, the woman asked if it mattered since it was for ‘that’ boy, waving the slippers at him. I was angry and told her to get me better slippers since I was paying for them, or she should keep her goods.

Olufunke speaking to students of Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan.

For two weeks, Khalid, as he introduced himself, came back to see me. We shared breakfast, and I helped him with lunch. I asked him about his family, and he told me his parents were separated, and he lived with his grandmother, who had no job, and they rarely had food to eat, except when his father came around once in a while to drop something.

He also had a neighbor who beat him incessantly, and these things made him run away from home. He returned sometimes, but he always left because there was nothing for him there. No one looked for him either.

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Khalid’s slippers were cut two days after we met, and after a week, they were stolen. He told me that there was a taxing system under the bridge, and every dweller must pay a particular sum to someone they call ‘Caesar.’ Failure to pay would put them in a lot of trouble. For some days, I did not see Khalid, and when he finally came, he was looking quite sick and tattered.

His clothes were gone, and he had been sick and could not go out. A woman selling food at the park had given him the clothes he wore after the one he took off was stolen when he went to a river to bathe.

Khalid looked ready to run when some elderly men who came around my house started shouting at him and telling him to go away from the area. They said they did not want his likes around and accused him of being a thief.

Soon, he would grow up and become a thief, and they did not want him around. Someone told me that those people had dragged him and beaten him up. His clothes were freshly torn.

A day before we were to take him home, my friend and I decided to take him home to his grandmother, but we were careful because we knew how dangerous the country could be. We eventually found his home, and surprisingly, Khalid seemed to be looking forward to going home. However, the situation under the bridge was far from desirable, and it was clear that Khalid needed a safe and secure environment to grow up.

The day before I was supposed to take my little friend, Khalid, home, I was called inside because some elderly men had seen him outside my house and started shouting at him to go away. They said they didn’t want his kind around and accused him of being a potential thief. When I went out to see him, I saw that his clothes were torn and he looked ready to run.

One-day Boys Bootcamp for Royal Ambassadors of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (Akande Chapter)

Someone told me that those men had dragged and beaten him, further cementing their belief that he would become a criminal in the future. They told me that they didn’t want to see him around again and asked what I was trying to do. I tried to remain calm despite their disrespectful behavior and eventually called Khalid to the side to apologize to him. He looked sad and empty, and I couldn’t bear to imagine what he had gone through.

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We agreed that he would come the next day and we would go see his grandmother and help him go back to school or acquire a skill. However, Khalid never showed up, and I never saw him again. This experience made me realize that there are countless boys like Khalid in the world who lack guidance, examples, and support.

However, society often rejects them because they don’t fit the mold of a perfect citizen. Many of them desire education but cannot afford it, and their teachers and role models are on the streets. They are stripped of their belongings by the powerful people of the world, and they envy those who have it better.

These boys face a tough life, having to navigate through puberty and adulthood without guidance. They have to survive on what the streets provide and learn to speak the language of the street.

They are surrounded by crime and struggle to find their way out. However, if someone takes the time to look beneath their rough exterior, they will see a boy who is lost and carrying pain that he cannot express. These boys need someone who cares enough to help them find purpose and direction.

In May 2022, I started the Boys Against Crime Campaign to educate boys on the consequences of crime and to provide them with alternatives to a life of crime. Our organization offers free legal and counseling services to boys who have been victims of crime.

We believe that if we want to reduce crime, we need to focus on helping boys like Khalid. We want to share their stories with the world and enroll them in vocational training programs. We also want to connect them with people who can help them.

I strongly believe that boys need more positive male role models to guide them and teach them about good values, morals, sexual purity, and legitimate ways to make money. Boys need men who will offer emotional support and help them through difficult times. We need to help boys navigate the pressures of being a man in our world.

Olufunke Oyinlola is a Lawyer. Team Lead and Director, Boy-King International. She’s the pioneer of the Boys Against Crime Campaign, and she hopes helping boys like Khalid will  create a better world for all. She can be reached via: Twitter: @oyinolufunke



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