Begging is becoming increasingly ‘thriving’ in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State as more and more people are joining the ‘business’. Sikiru Akinola, who visited major parks, reports.
Anywhere you go within the city of Ibadan, beggars are there, embarrassing people. Except for those who are strong enough to ignore them, they stand in your way that you don’t even know what to do than to part with something. At social functions, political parties’ meetings, motor parks, religious places, they are common scenes to behold. Exiting malls, you find them by your side, asking for the own ‘share’ of what you have gone to buy.
Evoking pity, with their tattered clothes and unkept hairs most of the time, assisted by innocent kids, they tour the streets, hoping to eke a fortune. There is virtually no bus stop in Ibadan that you won’t find beggars. As you are coming out of the car, bus or alighting from an okada, they besiege you, spreading out their palms or plates to collect money from you.
More worrisome is the guards at supermarkets, malls, banks and big offices that have also become beggars. As you enter and exit the place, they greet you in a special way, saying: “weldone sir…”
Iwo-road has the highest number of beggars. With three local governments -Lagelu, Egbeda and Ibadan North East, meeting at the interchange, it serves as park for commercial buses and cars coming from different parts of the country. It is believed that the Oyo State chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) makes its highest income from Iwo-road, followed by Ojoo, which is a 10-minute drive from Iwo-road.
Iwo-road and Ojoo are known to be places where you find these beggars at any hour of the day. In fact, many of them were said to have be killed during the 2011 NURTW crisis in Iwo-road. Some of them live under the bridge, in front of shops and anywhere that is ‘conducive’ for them.
How Arisekola’s Death Spoilt Their Business
Before the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao’s demise, beggars were kings in Ibadan. Apart from feeding them daily, from the same pot he ate from, hardly would a day pass without each of them making close to N4000, a source who was close to the late philanthropist revealed.
“Wanting to emulate the kind gesture of Aare, visitors to his Oluwo-kekere, Basorun residence would dole out huge amount of money, mostly from what they have collected from Aare to the beggars. Then, they stayed glued to the residence. If you are opportune to see him, your problem is solved to a reasonable extent. He built houses for them. He sponsored them to holy lands. Assisted them financially and what have you. Now they don’t have anywhere to go. And they have returned to the streets,” said the source.
Begging Has Tricks…
Begging, however, is done in different ways. There are the ‘normal’ and ‘executive’ ones. Beside a popular filling station in Iwo-road where passengers going to Ife, Ondo, Akure board buses and cars, there are many of them. A woman who claims to be working for an orphanage, in her late 50s, is always there telling passengers: “Uncle, I like you, would you marry me. I love your shirts…” and you wouldn’t but look at her. She would show you her identity card, whose address nobody knows, customised envelope and continue: “we need money to continue running the orphanage…”and all sorts. Passengers who are seeing her for the first time always fall for the gimmick until they are told by those who have always seen her before.
There is another man, who ‘ply’ his trade at Bere area, with a stylishly-tailored clothes, a cap to match and a well-polished shoes. As he was coming, this reporter dipped his hand into his pocket, pretending to be bringing out something. The man stopped and said: “Please my brother, I am a traveller. I was coming from Benin, going to Lagos, when one of my tyres got burst and I don’t have an ‘extra tyre’; I have exhausted the money with me. I need money to fix it”. The reporter, having seen him many times, asked for where his car was to see if he can help. At first, he moved towards Mapo before he raced down to a street close to Oke-dada, not wanting to be caught in the act. But some innocent people, thinking he was stranded because of his sartorial elegance, have fallen victims, dropping as high as N1000.
At Sabo area of Ibadan, small kids, especially deformed ones, are put on wheel chairs, rented by the ‘operators’ and wheeled around markets, to beg. “The kids are available for rentage,” Aminu, who is a bureau de change operators disclosed.
Sudanese kid beggars are the worst. With their mothers stationed at a trekable distance, the kids will hold your arms and clothes. Until you part with something, they would follow you and hold you to ‘ransom’. How they get to Ibadan is still a puzzle.
According to a shop owner who craved anonymity, “they are just increasing in number everyday. As we open our shops, we just discover new kids. Those who close late told us that they have agents who bring them and their parents. They sleep under the tables at night,” the source recounted.
It is not also uncommon to see some old women at parties, wanting to ‘tag’ a ‘you are welcome’ card on your chest. You will be made to pay some certain amount of money except if you are smart before they start eulogising you.
More worrisome is the fact that children, who are of school age, have started begging. They accost you on the road, lifting their hands to their mouths, to show you they are hungry: ‘ejowo, efun mi ni N10; ebi npami…”
Another set of beggars are those who claim to be students of higher institutions within the state capital. They will approach you, with pity written all over them, saying: “we are students. We don’t have anything to feed on. We wouldn’t mind if you can give us money or buy stuffs for us…” For the first time, you will be moved to give them something but before you know it, they start coming to you everyday.
Beggars, Richer Than The Givers
A woman who simply identified herself as ‘Iya Bukky’ disclosed that “on many occasions, I borrowed money from beggars to augment my business. Even when the economy was booming, we borrow from them. But we pay more than what we borrow whenever we want to pay. Most of them have good houses and beautiful wives with fine cars.”
Any End In Sight?
Expressing sadness over the development, ex-caretaker chairman of Ibadan North West local government, Dr Wasiu Olatunbosun said that moral values have been lost. He is, however, hopeful that with government legislation, the scourge can be gradually eradicated.
For a social commentator, Mrs Yemi Taiwo-Alabi, the issue requires adequate thinking. She is worried that there is no welfare scheme for the less privileged. Hear her when she was asked about the solution: “What can we do? We have no welfare and social programme to take care of these people. Honestly, maybe a whatsapp group of 10 or more people can provoke critical thinking on wayout,” she proferred.
For Owoyokon Samson, begging has become a global profession. He explained that “The menace of street begging in our society, like other vices puncturing the development of Nigeria, stemmed out of unnoticeable but festering cancerous and systemic actions of the family, community, religious institutions and most importantly our government. The art of occultism, kidnapping, ritualism, street begging etc over time have graduated from an approach of shame to a global profession of pride in Ibadan and environs.”
He continued: “Let it be established that begging as an act is not evil but more worrisome is the evolutionary trends which makes it fashionable in the sight of the street beggars ranging from the corporate to the street urchins, down to the obviously poor and downtrodden.
“The major significance that catapulted this ugly business is the complete eradication of the middle class group in the economic strata of our society, there is a widely noticeable and life threatening gap between the wealthy rich and the poverty stricken poor. The middle class was responsible for the productive and manufacturing sector of our country, how many companies are either producing or manufacturing again? Except there is a realignment of purpose to reabsorb the unemployed, regeneration of serviceable companies, metamorphosis of our nation from an importing to an exporting one, solution is not in sight.
“Laziness is another contributory factor which virtually, we are all guilty of. We have overtime seen how the hardworking people in our society are poorly treated and we assume that taking a short cut to circumvent life is the best approach. No. Government through her various agencies need to bring back the consciousness of morality, honesty, hardwork through consistent awareness and orientation workshop targeted towards the average class in the society.
“And lastly, the political cum the leadership class need to show commensurate compassion towards the needy, there would always be the beggars in any sane world but our disposition towards alleviating their suffering, providing succor when and where necessary will serve as timely intervention in reducing this scourge that is competing with decent way of living,” he said.