If I die in silence, God will not forgive me -Asthmatic LAWMA supervisor

A supervisor with the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, Olamide Suleiman, recently made a video on the plight of Lagos street sweepers , who were not paid salaries for two months .

He tells us how his life came under threat after the video went viral
Can you share with us a little about your background?

I am Olamide Toheeb Suleiman , a LAWMA supervisor .

I was born in Lagos and I am 26 years old .

I did not complete my secondary school because of some personal challenges , which also affected the relationship between my mum and dad .

About 18 years ago , when I was in secondary school , I was writing when something came on me and I walked out of school.

I was away from home for about four to five months .

My mum and dad looked for me and they could not find me .

The police found me , took me to court and then social welfare.

I was later released .

In 2007 , while at Ikotun , I found myself naked .

That was how I continued battling this mental problem .

Someone once took a video of me naked and posted it on the social media , saying I was a Yahoo – Yahoo boy.

That video is still online as we speak .

My parents took me to herbalists , hospitals and psychiatric homes for help, all to no avail .

My parents also fought and got separated because of me .

That was how I started following politicians around. I joined the campaign team of former Lagos Governor , Akinwunmi Ambode .

When he won the election , he bought a tricycle for me .

Because of my mental problem, I was involved in several accidents and the tricycle was wrecked .

I later went to meet him and begged for a job with the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority .

He referred me to the Ministry of Transportation and I was employed as a cleaner, because I had no qualification .

However , my mental problem occasionally surfaced and people started gossiping about me .

The government said I should go home and treat myself and they would be paying my salaries .

I was grateful .

When Ambode was denied a return ticket , I joined the Babajide Sanwo – Olu campaign team .

That was when I met a woman, Wuraola Williams , aka Iron Lady, who was in charge of the Sanwo – Olu Babes (a campaign group) .

Late last year , I went to meet her after I learnt that she was a contractor with LAWMA .

I told her to assist me with a job .

That was how I became a LAWMA supervisor in December 2019.

Why did you make the video that went viral on the social media ?

I did not know that the video would go viral .

As a background , we always receive our salaries as and when due .

Sweepers collect N 25, 000 , while supervisors get N 40, 000 .

However , in April, we got nothing . Then May , nothing .

Some of the people I supervise started mounting pressure on me .

I told them that I did not know what was happening .

I decided to meet other sweepers and supervisors under another contractor to ask if they had been paid and they said no, that they were also being owed for two months .

I called my boss , Iron Lady, and asked her what was going on.

She just said LAWMA was to blame and angrily disconnected the call .

One day, I saw one of the elderly women under me begging for money from a passerby and the person gave her N 50 .

I was sad .

I asked the woman why she begged for money .

People challenged me that I was their supervisor and I should fight for them to be paid .

I went back to meet my boss , Iron Lady , who is based on Lagos Island.

I asked what was going on and she said the LAWMA MD was responsible for the delay.

She did not mention any name .

She said he went to all the zones to verify the number of workers on duty and found just a few and he had compiled a list of five people , who would be paid.

I was shocked .

Out of 33 workers on my route , how could he say he wanted to pay just five ?

The next day , I went to work and tried to calm my co -workers .

That day , something strange happened to me .

I collapsed and started gasping for breath because of my asthma .

They checked my pocket and found an empty inhaler .

The hungry street sweepers contributed money , went to a pharmacy and bought an inhaler for me

. Everybody was crying.

When I got home , I thought I had to take drastic steps to get our salaries paid.

I thought I would do a video and post it on my Facebook page so that people would help us beg the LAWMA MD .

I was the one who went online to find his name and copy his photo .

I edited the video myself and posted it on Facebook without tagging anybody .

So , what happened after you posted it ?

I posted it on Friday, June 12 , 2020 .

A few hours after , somebody called me and asked for permission to repost the video on her Facebook wall and I consented.

She asked for my account number so she could send me money to buy an inhaler .

About 30 minutes later , I started getting calls from different people from all over the world – the United Kingdom , Canada , USA .

I was in disbelief . Before I knew it , people invaded my Facebook page and started commenting .

I never knew it would go viral . Maybe if I knew, I would not have posted it .

But I have the right to post the video, because I did the right thing .

If I went to steal , nobody will listen to my excuses .

If I die in silence , nobody will say anything and even God will blame me for not talking .

I used to beg for money , but now I have a job and I should not be begging again .

There were reports that your video was sponsored to stop the ongoing audit of LAWMA accounts , hence you kept calling out the new Managing Director , Ibrahim Odumboni, who had only worked for two weeks as of then.

Is this true ?

Some people also said Iron Lady paid me N 250 , 000 to make the video and some said the opposition party was using me to spoil the good work of Governor Babajide Sanwo – Olu .

These are big lies . My condition and the suffering of the widows and elderly women working as street sweepers made me do it .

They should put the blame on my head and not on anybody else .

It was after the video went viral that I realised that I made a mistake about the LAWMA MD .

I thought that he had been the LAWMA MD for a long time .

Later, I got information that he had not even spent up to two to three weeks .

I never knew.

Is it true that you received threats over the video?

Yes . While people were calling me to offer support , somebody called me with a hidden number.

The caller, while speaking in Yoruba , said , ‘ Olamide, you are the rave of the moment now .

You are all over the social media.

They have paid for your life ’ .

I asked who the caller was and he said , ‘ Bourdillon Boys ’ .

I quickly disconnected the call . Immediately , I fled the house , where I was staying .

For four days , I could not sleep .

I was restless .

Who are Bourdillon Boys ?

Bourdillon Boys are the people , who loiter around the house of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Ikoyi .

They beg for money from politicians visiting the Asiwaju .

They share the money among themselves .

I used to be part of them .

I left the group when I discovered that they cheated me whenever we got money .

I decided to become a one – man squad and collect my money myself .

After I received the threat , I made a video that Bourdillion Boys were after me and I posted it on my page .

That video also went viral .

Iron Lady challenged them during a meeting at her house over the threat and they denied it .

What responses have you got so far from the Lagos State Government since your video went viral ?

Three days after I did the video, I got a call from the Ministry of Transportation and I was queried .

They were angry with me and I cried. They stopped the salary I was collecting from the ministry .

They checked my records and discovered that the Ojora of Ijora land stood as my next of kin .

The king , who has been my benefactor since I started having the mental challenge , was not happy when they called him .

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He said I would have to leave the apartment he gave me in his house , because what I did was a big disgrace to him and the Ojora family , which everybody has identified me with.

He said he would , however, give me money to get another apartment.

What are your plans now ?

When people were sending me money , I tried to share about N 100 , 000 with other street sweepers , who had not collected their salaries that time .

As I got the money, I also shared it .

A company supplying inhalers , last Monday , came and gave me 10 packs of inhaler and 10 packs of Ventolin free of charge .

I have decided to give away some of the inhalers to other asthmatic patients .

All they need to do is to send me their addresses through WhatsApp and I will ask a delivery man to send it to them free of charge .

And those who want to support me should not send money ; they should just send me inhalers .

There are many asthmatic patients who don’ t have money .

They need help as well .

What are your thoughts on the elderly women and widows working as street sweepers?

Honestly, what those people need is social welfare.

Most of them have four to five kids . They are suffering .

The truth is, they are the ones working .

They pack human and animal wastes . What we do as supervisors is just to monitor them .

These are the people doing the work and they deserve better pay.

We also need health insurance and financial support .

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