Hello, good afternoon…yes I am at the shop, just ask any commercial motorcyclist you see once you get to Oke-koto to direct you to Ojekunle Street. As soon as you enter into the street, tell anybody you see that you are going to Mama T’s shop, they’ll direct you, everybody knows the place,” she said confidently to a caller on the phone as she emerged from a tricycle in front of her shop. Four minutes later, as she made to settle into a plastic chair at the veranda after welcoming the customer who called earlier, her phone rang again – this time a call all the way from London, United Kingdom.
“Good afternoon, yes you are speaking with Mama T. Oh sorry, I was on another call when you called earlier…business has been fine, we thank God. You can tell your sister to come to my shop, I will package everything into three plastic bottles for her, make sure you use it the way I explained, you will testify to its goodness, you will really like the result…okay, no problem sir, take care,” she said before ending the conversation – the 21st of its kind for the day, according to her. Looking completely famished at this point, the 27-year-old managed to finally collapse her entire body weight into the blue plastic chair in front of her. For the next three minutes, she sat quietly, only sighing heavily at intervals, like a person who had just been greeted by a brutal calamity.
But Mama T, originally known as Taiwo Ramon, is not contending with any form of misfortune – the only thing she battles with these days is the incessant calls to her mobile phone line and the overwhelming attention she receives from customers who come from far and near to have a taste of her different herbal mixtures known in local parlance as ‘agbo’.
Catapulted to limelight after a video of her advertising her different concoctions in a hilarious and raunchy language went viral in May 2016 after being posted on the internet, Ramon has suddenly transited from just another ‘agbo’ seller roaming the streets of Lagos in search of potential customers to a celebrity business woman. These days, besides the countless number of calls she receives, sleek and expensive cars also pull up beside and around her shop with the owners and several others who besiege the place on foot ensuring that there is hardly any space left for anyone else to sit. The traffic is in fact manifold at evenings – a large number of customers are indeed attended to while standing. It is a development requiring new answers by the day.
“I am already planning to get a bigger space because this place that I am using for now can hardly contain customers in the evening especially on weekends,” the light-complexioned lady told our correspondent who traced her to her business arena earlier in the week. “Since my video was posted on the internet, I have not had a full day of rest as people keep calling almost every minute of the day, asking how they can get to me or how I can bring the herbal products to them. As we speak, about two people have offered to take me to London and America to come and establish the business over there. They are some of the customers who saw the efficacy of the herbal drinks their relatives bought and sent to them. The attention I have been getting has really been overwhelming,” she said before turning away to help herself to a steaming plate of amala and ewedu soup – a local delicacy.
Between May and August, Ramon popularly known as Iyalaje Sobotone or Ponkiriyon – after two of her most sought-after herbal concoctions – by her teeming fans across and beyond Nigeria, has indeed enjoyed a phenomenal rise – from a life of struggle into relative comfort today. Apart from owning a well-stocked shop housing all sorts of alcoholic herbal mixtures used to cure different types of sex-related challenges, the Oyo State-born mother of one also boasts of a small warehouse where more drinks and other related items are stored until when they are needed. Mama T, with her array of herbal mixtures, appears to have entrenched a new kind of culture across and beyond this obscured part of Lagos, winning for herself dozens of faithful along the epic but turbulent journey to prominence.
While the young woman laughs all the way to the bank these days following a significant rise in sales, those who swamp all around her small but ‘mighty’ shop, vow never to be too far away – for them Iyalaje Sobotone holds the key to their pride as men.
“Since a friend introduced me to this woman’s herbal drinks, a lot has changed about my life,” one customer who identified himself as Yomi Obafemi, told our correspondent during the visit to the place. “I have taken bothSobotone and Ponkiriyon and the result I got was good and whenever I meet with my girlfriend on bed, she is always very happy. I have no regret taking these concoctions,” he said.
Also disclosing how his sex life has changed since coming in contact with Mama T and her array of performance enhancers, Dipo Ayodeji, an engineer who visited the place in company with two other friends, told NAIJANEWSROOM that apart from helping him curtail his sugar level and going to toilet very well in the morning, he has been able to impress women in bed lately – a development he admits makes him extremely proud.
“As an engineer who is always at the site, I hardly have time to take proper care of myself. Most of the alcoholic drinks that I take contain a lot of sugar so even when I meet a lady in the bedroom, I am not able to do much.
“But I had to contact this woman after a friend showed me the video posted online. I was captivated by all she was saying to the extent that I really wanted to taste and confirm how true her claims were. My brother, I will not lie to you, this is my sixth time of coming here. In fact, I don’t come alone, my friends and colleagues come with me because they too have had their sex lives improved after coming in contact with the herbal mixture,” he said.
It was a similar response from the several others our correspondent spoke with during the visit. While only a few who throng Ramon’s shop seek concoctions to treat fever and other related sicknesses, the majority of men who turn to her every day long after products that would trigger their libido and turn them into something of a ‘pumping machine’ in the bedroom. Young and old, Lagos to London – the request has been the same – ‘give us something special to thrill the ladies’.
“Most men want to be champions over their women once in bed, I have what they have searched everywhere for and that is why they keep looking for me,” Mama T told our correspondent. Interestingly, while the young woman rules the landscape in her Lagos neighbourhood, attracting customers from surrounding and distant places, in other parts of the state and other cities across Nigeria, sellers of similar herbal mixtures have continued to enjoy massive patronage, too, converting every available space in street corners to joints where concoctions of all kinds are experimented and consumed especially by men desperate for ‘a new life on bed’.
“There is no time that customers don’t come to my joint,” Bose Ladejo, a dealer in herbal mixtures whose kiosk is sandwiched in between a shopping mall and motorpark on a popular street around the Bolade area of Oshodi in Lagos, told NAIJANEWSROOM. “I have herbs to cure different types of sicknesses especially for body pains and men who can’t perform well in bed. Most of the sales I make are actually from the sex-enhancing mixtures, it is the first thing the men ask for once they come to my shop. Even if they want the one to treat malaria and body pains, they’ll still ask me to mix that particular one for them. It is the result that always brings them back,” she said, flashing a friendly grin at the reporter as she served more customers their favourite. The entire place was filled.
It was a similar sight in the Ojuelegba area of the city when our correspondent visited earlier in the week. Sitting on a few benches outside the small shop by a corner of a street as vehicles and commercial motorcycles moved in different directions, men of different ages could be seen helping themselves to herbal mixtures at the corner of one of the many streets dotting the neighbourhood. Known as Iya Naomi’s spot, the gathering was a congregation of men seeking ‘uplift’ in bed, according to what our correspondent would later discover. It was a busy afternoon for all present.
“I cannot go a day without coming to this place to clean my system,” one customer who identified himself simply as Ade, told NAIJANEWSROOM. “A lot of the food we eat these days are full of sugar and other chemicals that can harm the body; so I come here every day to take Iya Naomi’s agbo to flush out the bad chemicals to stay healthy. You know as a man, if you allow these things in your system, they can affect the way you perform in bed. I have tried the mixture several times and it worked, that is why I cannot afford to miss this place in a day,” he added.
A handful of customers at this popular joint, who interacted with our correspondent, said even though they took other types of alcoholic drinks like beer and spirits, they patronise and trust the herbal mixture more because of the result it gives them.
Owner of the popular spot, Iya Naomi, told NAIJANEWSROOM that she decided to go into the business to stop her husband from leaving home every evening in search of herbal concoctions in places a bit far from where they lived.
According to her, after learning how to prepare the mixture and successfully getting her husband to stop his daily evening sojourns, neighbours started demanding for the medicine from her as well. Before long, with demand spreading beyond their immediate compound, it became a commercial venture – a business she revealed had sustained the entire family over the last eight years since her husband lost his job.
“I got into this business by accident but eventually everything has turned out nice today. This is what has been keeping the entire family going especially since my husband lost his job in 2008.
“My customers come from all parts of Ojuelegba and environs because those who have tasted my drinks trust them. The men always demand for something that would boost their sexual energy. They tell me to give them something that would make women respect them. There is no time of the day that I don’t have customers at my shop, there is hardly ever time for rest in fact,” she said.
Operating from little kiosks conspicuously displayed at street corners and medium-sized shops sited at similar positions, joints offering herbal mixtures now compete favourably with bars and other relaxation spots across most parts of Nigeria today. The rise of the ‘sector’ has also seen some of these items being hawked from street to street in most neighbourhoods today as well. For sellers and patrons, it is a trend that knows no bounds.
But a trado-medical practitioner, Dr. Ray Oduntan-Kwadje, posits that consuming herbal mixtures or concoctions that are not subjected to proper research and scientific procedures could be injurious to the health.
According to her, taking sex-enhancing medicines without prescription and consultation with a professional at these roadside joints could result to more harm than good.
“What is happening now is every Tom Dick and Harry cashing in on the bandwagon effect of making money from mixing saw dust with lime and ginger and calling it herbs,” she stated. “Though NAFDAC is trying but I am afraid they are no match for the dexterity of the fake herbal medicine makers who continue to take advantage of many ill-informed and vulnerable Nigerians.
“In every town, village or even city, there is a trado medicine practitioner near you, they are licensed and professional; seek them out instead of going to these roadside guys. The Traditional Medicine Board has lists of those that are registered, call them and enquire about the practitioner.
“To enhance sexual prowess using natural herbs is cool, but do it naturally with a professional. A professional will go through the lists of causatives before doing anything with you. Sex organs are very delicate and can easily be damaged by our ignorance, so it is important to take good care of them by being on the safe side,” she said.
Speaking on what separates trado-medicine from herbal concoctions sold at roadsides and street corners, Oduntan-Kwadje, a trained engineer and graduate of the University of Lagos, who followed her childhood passion for solving health problems using herbs and roots, said while their own type of solution treats a problem holistically and finds a lasting cure, the others merely tend to the symptoms only.
While disclosing that many of her clients also request for sex-enhancing mixtures, she said a number of factors like eating and sleeping patterns including the stress level encountered must always be taken into consideration before treatment is administered on clients by a true professional.
“One of the biggest strengths of trado-medicine is that it treats holistically. No true professional will give you anything without properly asking all about your history like sleeping and waking patterns/hours, what and when do you eat? Any headache, whether you are drinking enough water, and the rest. The reason behind all these questions is to be able to treat you effectively. Under this type of method, individuals are placed on such treatment for a period of time to correct the anomaly completely.
“As a traditional medicine practitioner, I get requests for sex enhancers all the time from clients, the least I get in a day is three. As a matter of fact, due to deluge of requests, I had to gently ease away the young ones between 21 and 27 years while I focus on those between 28 and 70. It will surprise you to know that women also ask me to help save their marriages by preparing this type of medicine for their husbands. I am used to these types of requests but above all, it is not advisable for anyone to patronise those guys by the roadsides,” she said.
Sociologist, Benson Chidozie, explains that the increasing spread of drinking joints where herbal mixtures are sold in most street corners across the country was a result of the failure of government at every level in Nigeria to address the health needs of the citizens.
According to him, if every Nigerian citizen had access to quality and affordable health care system, many of those in the habit won’t go in search of cheap cure in some of these drinking joints, putting their lives under risk in the process.
“It is not by accident that you have these ‘agbo’ joints in almost every street corner in Nigeria today. For the poor and many financially-challenged citizens, these herbal mixtures are their only hope of solving several health problems.
“But if government at all levels have been sincere and judiciously used the funds at their disposals to build and equip good hospitals for the people, a lot of these issues could have been solved. The man who goes to these street corners to try different herbal mixtures didn’t wish that for himself, his action was purely driven by his inability to afford quality medical care at the hospital. So, the best way to tackle this problem is by building good health care facilities across the country, the ones that ordinary people can have access to,” he said.
Operating largely without regulation, dozens of individuals, especially women, appear to have found a silent money-spinner in the sale of these herbal concoctions in most parts of Nigeria today. Starting from as low as N30 per shot – the size of which differs from place to place – some of the concoctions go for around five times that amount in other areas, depending on what ailment it is meant to treat. For those in the business, it has been a period of boom while patrons, increasingly fascinated by the promises of wonderful outcomes, continue to keep up the tradition.