If you live in Lagos chances are that you have met one of any of the variants of Lagos beggars.
See, Lagos beggars have a sub-category of their own in beggar-dom. Lagos beggars are the X-men of beggars, The Guardians of the Galaxy of Mendicants, the Optimus Prime of AnythingForTheBoys and it doesn’t matter whether they are in VI or Ikeja or Surulere or Ojodu, what unites them all is a lack of shame, a total refusal to appreciate the fact that they are the beggars and you are the “beggee.”
As a child growing up in Bendel then Kano state, we used to see beggars but they were defined by one characteristic; shame or should I say, bashfulness. They were usually shy and timid and did not make eye contact. They were not forceful, and they seemed to appreciate the fact that they were asking you to part with something that belonged to you and over which you have the power to give or not give.
In Lagos, the story is different o. That money in your pocket is not for you alone o. The Lagos beggar is begging for one reason: to GET YOUR MONEY OR DIE GETTING IT!
Omo, for the Lagos beggar every year is YEAR LIFE OF NO SHAME. They will make eye contact and by eye contact I mean accusatory eye contact. I KNOW YOU HAVE MONEY BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO GIVE. YES, YOU. NO BE YOU JUST LEAVE THE ATM.
Have you met the ones that accost you as you step out of a supermarket laden with shopping? Never mind that you just shopped with money you worked hard to earn. They don’t care. They will wait for you by your car and try to guilt-trip you into giving them money. The unspoken plea, scratch that. The unspoken DEMAND in their eyes is – SEE ALL YOU HAVE BOUGHT AND YOU CANT EVEN GIVE ME COMMON N500.
Once I was so guilt-tripped I ran into another car and what did the guilt tripping beggar do, he sidled off to another VICTIM.
Let me not even start with the security guards who instead of helping you get out of tight spots is so busy asking you for SOMETHING FOR THE BOYS you end up rear ending another car.
How about the Corporate Beggars, the ones that stop you and ask you for money even though they are dressed better than you. Have you met the I-am-dying-please-help-me beggars, those one who suffer from CANCER WHICH DOES NOT KILL. Damn!
The ones that used to get me when I first came to Lagos were the mother of twins. I just couldn’t walk or drive past a woman with twins begging in the hot sun without dropping something. Well, that was until I realized that these women were actually BORROWING those children, sometimes, from Day Care Centers. This is Lagos na.
Okay, let’s talk about the beggars at the tills. You have shopped. You now get to the till to pay and he or she keeps trying to make eye contact and if like me you have perfected the art of not ‘seeing’ they will get right out with it and say “Happy weekend, sir. Anything for your girl?”
I have learnt how to evade those ones. First, I will say “You are not my girl o. Don’t let madam hear you.” But the best answer is “I don’t have cash. Here, my ATM card.”
God bless the inventor of ATM cards.
But the worst beggars in Lagos, (in fact these ones have a special place in the hottest part of hell) are the petrol station attendants. They will cheat you as in sell you N4,000 fuel instead of N6,000 then still have the temerity, the effrontery, the fuck3ry to ask you for money.
They will not make heaven. Somebody say amen.