I have to agree with the remark that anything is possible in Nigeria. Well, almost anything because I don’t ever see Nigeria completely expunging corruption from our system. Don’t call me a pessimist. I am being realistic. It’s just that in this country, we are scared of facing the reality.
Nigerians can eke out something out of nothing and we boast of a high level of survival instinct. That’s our positive side. Unfortunately, our negative side is the major reason while the country is becoming a hell of sorts. We have the ability of making a crime look like business.
Kidnapping was once something we watched in the foreign movies and it was always the big bad boss sending his stooges to kidnap the girlfriend or family member of the good strong guy so as to force him to submission or to comply with a course and then, the good guy whom as kids we called ‘the actor’ always finds a way of defeating the bad ‘boss’ and rescue his girlfriend or family member as the case may be. Today, kidnapping is not just a vice in Nigeria, it is now a business!
Lots of people are making their ‘cool’ millions through this venture. Call it a new sector in the economy – the kidnapping sector; and of course, like any other lucrative sector, it has investors and networks. It’s so attractive and rewarding that even so called clergy men are involved, politicians are into it, the younger men started it, the older ones are now spear heading it and now the women both the young and the old even the very old are all interested!
Another blossoming and seemingly rewarding sector is now the street or roadside begging thing. Yes, you read that right. Gone are the days when street begging was associated to the destitute and physically challenged. Gone are those days when people feigned disability or tied big bandages on their legs and poured ‘zobo’ drink on it to look blood just to get people’s attention and sympathy. Those are no longer en vogue. Begging has been ‘tushed’ up. Some people have taken begging to a higher level; a professional level.
Yes! Begging has gone professional. It is now an occupation and from the look of things it is yielding good dividends. Some Yoruba folks call it FINE BARA. It is now normal for someone to just walk up to you these days along the road with a well cooked up story. Most of them have devised what I call intellectual begging. They come to you well dressed and armed with the ability of discerning your type of person.
It will baffle you how well some of them posses a good command of the English language which they freely use once they discover that you are an educated fellow. Usually well dressed so as to completely erase any notion of being taken as ordinary beggars, their style is always to create the impression of being stranded and need just little money for transport. It’s always transport money. The elderly ones among them often have a way of appealing to your sense of pity by claiming to be unpaid pensioners or need money to buy drugs for one ailment or the other.
Another thing they do is that they are not usually persistent like the ordinary beggars just to create that impression that they are mere victims of circumstance. That’s the style of the educated beggars.
The less educated ones prefer to sit by the road sides and beg. With the knowledge that Nigerians love prayers, they sway people into parting with their hard earned money mostly with the belief that God will answer their prayers just because they gave out alms.
My Aunt once told me about a man who built house with money raised through street begging in Ibadan. Don’t even think it’s an exaggeration; most of these beggars you see on the street are much more comfortable than you think. Many of them are landowners and own properties. Have you seen some of them make calls and see the type of phones they have? Some of them especially those crippled guys on roller wheels wear wrist watches that even some civil servants cannot afford.
When some Niger refugees stormed our streets with their families begging, we thought that with time they would disappear but instead, some Nigerian families have joined them especially those from northern extraction. Now, we see families scattered at different corners of the streets begging and I can imagine them sitting around a table or mat at the end of the day to count their returns. Na wao!
While almost everyone will want to hurriedly heap the blame on the government for this, I choose to differ and rightly so. We often tend to paint the image of the country darker than it really is and then hide under its shadow to perpetrate evil. Some people have suddenly realized that it seems easier to beg for the money instead of actually working for it. The corporate beggars even seem to be making more money than their counterparts. First, they don’t have to sit at the road side and then they are not given peanuts. You can easily drop five naira note on the palms of the beggar on the street and still get appreciated for it. Well, by few of them actually. But you can’t give that to someone neatly dressed and who by the way is asking for just ‘assistance’.
In our desperation to survive and make quick and easy money, we delve into many things. Prostitution has come to be accepted as part of the society. It has even been rebranded and is now called ‘aristo’ runs or hustling; a very large sector indeed; cutting across age, gender, religious, ethnic and educational strata. The yahoo yahoo sector is still moving but has assumed a diabolical trend. Militancy came up and was rewarded with amnesty. Now Federal government is spending millions of naira funding the amnesty programme. That has also become a sector on its own. After all, it has a place in the national budget. With the offer of the same amnesty to Boko Haram members, many youths started giving serious consideration to picking up arms. God help us!
The kidnapping sector is thriving with its complex networks and connections, and now even street begging has gained prominence. Who knows what next awaits us? Naija!
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