Chuba was driving me home from his place that Monday evening at about 8:00pm and just as we got to the Asokoro junction, the traffic lights turned red and so he slowed the car down. We had barely been there 5 seconds and next thing I know, this crowd of disabled people begins to surge towards the car. I was so scared, I instinctively took the glasses up. They stayed there for a couple of minutes like a bunch of zombies chanting some well rehearsed lines that we couldn’t even hear because our glasses were up. Their presence there unnerved me; there were so many of them. It wasn’t until they moved away from the car to the one behind us that I heaved a sigh of relief. Wow! Nigeria, begging is an occupation. Those people are there, every single night! If you’re going by that junction, you’re bound to meet them!
Here’s the point of my little story. Chuba and I could not fathom why people who have some form of disability should give up on life and resort to begging as a means of livelihood. And yet again, we could not understand why the federal government would allow for such especially in the Federal Capital territory and not just anywhere in Abuja but in Asokoro where we have heavy foreign presence. It’s really sad actually! Well thankfully, the lights changed eventually and we drove off, leaving the crowd of zombies behind.
Don’t get it twisted. Our sentiments were not because we’re privileged to have our bodies fully functional but our sentiments were based on the fact that we are well aware that life does not end with a part of your body being dysfunctional. I knew a man while I was growing up, who he lost his left hand in a factory accident but I never saw him one day begging on the streets. Actually, he drove me to school a number of times. He had something tangible doing. There was a cab guy I met here in Abuja that drove my friend and I one day and we did not know but one of his eyes was bad. So he was essentiall a one-eyed cabbie but he wasn’t begging on the streets. I guess most people know Cobhams Asuquo, blind from birth but very popular musician here in Nigeria and he plays the keyboard! There are so many examples I could give but I really want to keep this piece short because I’m actually rushing off somewhere. Now to my most important and final example. On two different occassions, I saw a man with one leg selling recharge cards. Actually that was what inspired me to write this article. I met the first one some months ago, but the second man, I met this morning on my way to work. He was a hausa man. Probably couldn’t speak much English. But he knew enough to say “recharge cardt! recharge cardt!” while he leaned on crutches for support! And I was glad to buy from him.
The downfall of a man is not the end of his life. I’ve heard that so many times! My thoughts? The loss of a limb is not the end of your life! I’m actually tired of seeing beggars on the streets. Its rather embarrassing! I mean, how much can you give to each one you meet and how long would you continue to give to them? Of all the beggars at the Asokoro junction, there is a particular one that Chuba no longer feels sympathy for. She is a young lady, probably in her twenties. You could not see what is physically wrong but she always carries a paper so we assumed that she is either deaf or dumb or both. She would just stare at you for a while and if you gave her money, there would be no gratitude in her eyes. She would merely look at you as though she had a right to the money, like she had earned it just by being there! And then she would walk away! Annoying but true! That’s the country we live in.
I hope the government does something about those people. Set up a rehabilitation centre, organize skill acquisition trainings… anything legal that can take them off the streets! The paralympics competion that took place sometime last year in the UK was organized for disabled athletes! I don’t think Nigeria would have had any medals to boast of at that competition if all those individuals had taken to begging on the streets. Beggars all over the place really is an embarrassment. Governor Fashola of Lagos State was somehow able to manage the beggars in Lagos I think by rehabilitating them (Not sure at the moment and I’m typing this in a hurry but I could update that later. Plus I don’t mind being furnished with more information 🙂 ) and now beggars are nearly non-existent in Lagos but we cannot say same for Asokoro, right here in Abuja where the President is! Oh well, I hope that someday, somehow, that will change.
Please share your thoughts. I’ll be glad to get your feedback. Cheers 🙂