Saturday, December 15, 2007

I was driving by the local airport in the morning, yesterday, when I saw a little beggar girl aged about 7 run frantically to her mother, who was sitting by the road-side. I watched through the wind-screen as she frantically slapped her mother on the knees and signalled the older woman to run too. Then the child took off in fear, leaving her mother behind. I craned to see what/who was in pursuit of the child but it was hard to make out. Then I looked back at the old woman, she had goitre, and stood unsure,not knowing whether to fold her mat, grab her slippers etc She just sort of hopped from foot to foot then stood still as others fled around and past her.

Then I saw the pursuers. They were officials of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Development and they'd brought a mighty vehicle to pick vagrants off the streets. I saw one of the officials grab the hand of a dwarf and drag him towards the bus. When I finally drew level with the bus, there were beggars and destitutes seated and standing everywhere in it. Blind beggars of both sexes and their child-guides too.

The woman whose child had warned her was left alone for some reason (maybe the bus was full) but as I drove past the bus, I saw a blind female beggar crying inside it. I couldnt get that image out of my head. There was no dignity in the tears, and the scene was soundless as she was in the bus, and I, in my car, but I could see her fear. She looked half-crazed with it.

They were probably taking them to Majidun, a camp to rehabilitate destitutes somewhere around ikorodu. I don't know if it will be a lasting solution however as begging pays much more than basket weaving ever can.


Chude! said...

Laspapi, I truly wish I had ur patience, or would I say, ur gift. This things strike me almost daily, but I am so overwhelmed by the nuance of it, I am rendered speechless. There was such a man was begging to be killed at the airport on my way out of Lagos a few weeks ago. And yet another renders-me-speechless scene on my way from maiduguri yesterday.

Once again, I say thank you for bringing it home to us.


p.s: Oga Wole, let it not be said that I didnt try my BEST to be of help o, even in the midst of my own whirlwind..

Unknown said...

It is bad enough that human beings have to discard of their dignity in order to beg for alms and what not but treating them like cattle and herding them off to some institution which the government seems to think is better for them is far from a resolution to this. Your description of their condition was pathetic...I don't know where Majidun is but something tells me it is probably not paradise on earth. Anyone in government ever thought to find out the root cause of begging and take it from their in order to herald some hope of dignity for these ones...instead of some condemnation of sorts

Ms. Catwalq said...

This quick fix methods that do nothing but clear up space for anpther batch to take their place. Rehabilitate them for what? A society that has not much to offer? Or leaders who don't care that their weak and frail have no support system. It's only here that we don't see the potential in handicapped people. You cannot imagine how shocked and refocused I had to be when I failed a project because I had provided no means of access for the wheelchair bound. The idea was not to build a society entirely seperate from the general but to incorporate their needs into that of everyone else's.

Comrade said...

Men, It's a little hard to take such kind of stuff at face value by the time you start thinking of all the complex issues attached to the concept of begging. For example, a state in the North decides to enforce the Sharia Penal code. What does that mean - More destitutes in Lagos.
In Lagos, begging is now being handled by organised cartels. These people organise and transport these beggars to various road spots. They tax their returns at the end of the day. The Sun Newspaper once interviewed a beggar and he said he makes an average of N5000 daily. Can u dig that?
In the past, beggars have been seen to possess dangerous weapons. They are often used to scout /case out potential targets for Armed robbers. This is because they know any area they are in like the back of their hands.
I've witnessed the public humiliation of a supposedly blind beggar by area boys. They had been watching her movements supiciously for a while and they decided to confront her. After persistent harrasment, she spoke "Leave me alone, at least I am not robbing anybody"
Too many complexities surrounding this simple issue.
Well, Jesus said ' The poor you will always have among you'

Flourishing Florida said...

Am the first!!! Hmm!!! Am almost tempted to say, 'yeah, get them off the roads' cos lagos has d most number of beggers of all d places i've ever been. But then, they are human beings too, living in that circumstances not by choice. The govt shouldn't stop at taking them off d streets. They should provide them with a source of income. But of course, dat na day-dreaming!!!!

Hey, & u posted this on my birthday!!!!

Nuggets of Gold said...

Sometimes in my quiet moments, i wonder if every one who is a beggar deserves to be a beggar. Some may be lazy, but many other are unfortunate with the disdvantage of birth. They have never been in a home, never sat at a table to eat with a fork and knife, never been able to lock a door; without the priviledge to read or write.

Our first instinct is to scorn them, look down on them, tell them to leave us alone.

Eddie Murphy "traded places" once and didn't like it one bit.

I wonder what the reader's perspective on life would be if you were the beggar and the beggar was you.

All we are today and now, is by His grace alone

Mimi said...

that was quite disturbing to read......

Unknown said...

I share your thoughts here, begging does pay more than basket weaving. I once wrote a blog post about how begging has become a lucrative profession and really, it has to be. Why else would the little beggar girl run away from a chance of rehabilitation and living a normal life? Unless, of course the fact that the rehabilitation center is run by Nigerians with every Nigerian factor in place.

A truth many people neglect however, is that these people beg because they have a need. But then again, don't we all?

lemonade factory said...

i feel u papi,isnt that just one of those times u wish u could help but somehow u just cant. nd u look at ur own life and cant help but to be thankful.

wats up with u papi for xmas,

Sherri said...

How sad!
i suppose it's a start,hopefully a lasting solution will be found.
i just wonder if the blind woman thinks that begging is dignified.

how u dey papi?

Jinta said...

There, but for the grace of God, we are. Most of us are only one paycheck away from their situation.

We must be thankful and put pressure on the govt in any way we can, to create wealth in our society. And how easy it is to achieve if we did not have so many thieving bastards in power.

Uzo said...

I drive to work everyday and i see little children begging and their mothers not too far away and i get very irritated and upset.

I also wonder how easy it will be to get rid of the beggars because like you wrote - it pays so much more to beg than to make bracelets or baskets...

Sad really...

laspapi said...

@ chude- I sent a text to your phone. Was trying to secure an appointment.

@ jola- we need a system that works, the new governor seems to be trying something different, but I don't know if he has it down pat.

@ catwalq- I can tell you one thing. For the first time in many years, we have a governor, trying to govern.

@ comrade- You have a point, Comrade. No matter how heavy-handed it might appear, the streets are not the place for these people.

@ florida- happy birthday. I agree the government shouldnt stop at taking them off the streets. They must be taught to fish.

@ nuggets- Life is hard.

@ ~mimi~ I know what you mean...

@ tayo- begging is big business in Nigeria and according to my criminal law professor, can be classified as organized crime.

@ shola- I'll be watching the game, shola. There are some good friends in the country. Hang out with them a bit.

@ sherri- I'm alright, Sherri. I hope Fashola (the Governor) takes steps beyond clearing them off the streets.

@ jinta- wealth creation... For years, we've had men in power who think only of themselves, not the larger good.

@ uzo- we have an endless cycle here. I've known a dumb girl-beggar on the streets for upwards of 10 years. Now aged about 20 and one of the most aggressive humans I have ever seen, she's not going to change professions in a hurry.