WHY BEGGARS, DESTITUTE, AND THE MENTALLY UNSTABLE FLOOD NIGERIAN STREETS
Nigeria is gradually becoming a country populated by beggars, destitute, and the mentally unstable. It is a country where everybody begs—including government. In recent time, it is difficult for Nigerian government to embark on any project without begging for loan. When a state is soaked in debt, can its citizens be rich and productive? By citizens, I mean the masses at the bottom of the giant pyramid which Nigeria is. If the socio-economic condition of a people in a country determines the shape of its map, Nigerian map ought to be pyramidal. Rather than re-design our currency, why not our map to reflect our socio-economic reality?
It is true that some individuals are extraordinary rich. Their wealth is stinking and, thus, not meant to benefit the masses. Wealth is essentially good; it emits fragrance when it benefits the state and the downtrodden. However, it is evil, in and of itself, when it is accumulated, not to generate more wealth but to impoverish the state and its citizens. To these few rich individuals, in government and out of government, egocentrism is their primary reason for aggrandizement of wealth and power. They are not Nigerian citizens in the true sense. They are the owners of Nigeria in the real sense. Can the owners of a country be its citizens? This question is rather philosophical.
Begging, for whatever reason, is shameful. Admittedly, there are compelling circumstances which make begging justifiable. But can it ever be beautifiable? Begging remains an ugly act even when it is justified for a genuine reason and for a good cause. It is not difficult to explain why Beggars and the mentally unstable flood Nigerian streets. A country that loses its intellectuals, professionals, and entrepreneurs to brain drain—on daily basis—can only be left with beggars. A country where speaking the truth is a punishable offence and diligence is frowned at, it is natural to have its streets flooded with those with mental challenge. A country where people vie for positions of leadership to loot and steal (not to lead and serve), destitute flooding its streets shouldn’t be seen as anomaly.
Daily Post reports that since the inception of the present administration in Oyo State, evacuation of destitute and beggars has been embarked upon more than three times in some parts the state capital (Ibadan). All to no avail. That is to say, the more these beggars are evacuated, the more they litter the streets. Ibadan is not alone, it is a menace that engulfs the whole of Nigeria. In fact, there are traditional and modern ways of begging. The former are well known, the latter are called ‘fine bara’. How do I even explain it? Okay! Sophisticated begging.
But why do people beg? To be honest, though begging is an age-old phenomenon, it has never been phenomenal as it is in Nigeria of recent time. Solution to this menace is not a rocket science and does not require serious expertise. What it requires is political will and sincerity of purpose. In Nigeria, political rulers (not leaders) like to grandstand on many issues and politicize what does not require politics. They treat beggars like refuse which litter our environment. They try to evacuate them the way refuse are emptied. They pretend not to know that creating jobs is the solution. By jobs, I mean jobs with reasonable and sustainable pay where fairness defines the relationship between employers and employees.
Aside creating jobs, conducive environment is also required for self-job-creation. Rather than create jobs, what the present regime in Nigeria has been able to create is unemployment and a threatening environment that kills businesses and buries initiatives. It is apparently a spoken policy (may be not written) of this government not to create jobs. Even at that, the government is not happy for not being praised. It is in this regime that, for the first time, I understand what it means to be a misanthrope. This regime is misanthropic to the core—it incredulously and disappointedly hates the people who brought it to power. If one tries, out of fairness, to see a reason to acknowledge one good done by this government, one is inundated with a thousand and one of its atrocities.
After the government professionalized looting and embezzlement of public funds and made it a hobby, there is no reason why the masses should not flood the Nigerian streets as beggars and mentally unstable. My hatred for, and perception of, begging and beggars has radically changed recently. In principle, begging remains humiliating and must be frowned at. However, within the context of today’s Nigeria, one has to be very careful in condemning begging and repudiating beggars. This is not the time to criminalize beggary. It is the time to pity beggars and attend to their needs according to one’s means. Of course, they are fake beggars who should not be tolerated. The problem is how to distinguish the genuine from the fake when the former are exceedingly overwhelming in number due to widespread poverty.
Many of these street beggars are educated with different degrees of qualifications but with no job. Some are civil servants who resort to beggary (in their case, ‘fine bara’) as side hustle to make ends meet. They have literally become slaves in the hands of their merciless employers who employ them to impoverish them. I referred to these employers as owners of Nigeria in my article titled “The Owners of Nigeria and their Salaries.” Nigerians at the lower rungs of the societal ladder are generally mentally unstable. How can a civil servant who has four children—the maximum number of children approved by Nigerian Government for parents to sire—survive with an average of fifty thousand naira as monthly salary? Such parent could hardly be mentally stable.
It is true that economies are nose-diving across the globe and inflation is raging in virtually every country. While countries in saner climes are doing everything doable to cushion the effects of economic melt down for their citizens, top government functionaries in Nigeria (the owners of Nigeria) find this trying times the most appropriate time to merciless bleed the country and excessively loot its resources in the most unprecedented manner. As if the looting is not enough, salaries of owners of Nigeria are to be reviewed upward soon. May we not die in poverty while our owners stink in abundance.