There is something about living in Lagos that gives people a funny sense of superiority and entitlement. I have watched this several times outside Lagos, of course, a person smugly telling another from say Warri or Enugu that they live in Lagos (until you ask them where they live in Lagos and they start giving vague descriptions. Errr around Ketu, errr close to Berger.)
Over time one gets this attitude from people in Lagos, too. The group I am talking about today are Lagos beggars, not even the physically challenged ones who need help, it is the healthy looking beggar chasing after cars or walking up to people. The air of entitlement they have! It is astonishing.
Has a beggar ever returned the money you gave because it was too small? Everyone knows those children with fine curly hair and full eye lashes that beg along the road while their parents lurk in the shadows watching?
One day, I watched one of them as she followed a car in traffic, pressed her face to the glass, begging for alms. The owner of the car brought down the glass and gave her N5, she kept looking at the person, expecting more notes but when it seemed that was all from the car owner, she took the money, stepped back, spread her fingers apart, shege, she told the person as the red light turned green.
I began to laugh from my vantage point. Ehen, did the car owner think she came to Lagos all the way from Niger? Chad? (Where are they from?) to collect N5? She is a Lagos beggar, not in some small community without electricity, Lagos! And you give her N5?
One time my friend, let’s call her J, went out early in the morning, on her way home say around 8:30 am, a young guy approached her, he asked her for money to buy breakfast as he was very hungry. J just bought hot akara and bread, her heart which wasn’t always available for such things was there that day, so she offered the hungry man her hot bread and akara. He turned her down, no, he doesn’t want akara and bread, he wants money. Ahn ahn, shebi you said you were hungry? See food she said, but he rejected it. When she told me at home later, I chuckled. You think he came to Lagos to eat bread and akara?
Too many times, I have heard of this attitude by beggars from several people. You offer them something; they say it’s too small. Other times it’s people who assume you owe them something. Like an okada man deciding to keep your change for pure water without your consent, cashiers in supermarkets, or security guards, when you arrange your face in the my friend, will you give me my N10 way, they will laugh and say big girl like you, you can’t dash me N10?
Last Friday, on my way home, I watched as a guy harassed a girl for money. Aunty abeg give me money, I never chop today xyz xyz, this is the same story he would tell one million people that evening and the next day, I assume.
She told him she didn’t have. He replied “fine girl like you, abeg aunty, I dey hungry, ANYTHING make I take chop.” At this point the girl was tired, so she put her hand into her bag and brought out N50 and stretched it out to him. If you see how his eyes changed from the playful-begging amusement, they became hardened. The girl must have felt a chill, for a minute she looked confused, then she handed the money to him again, “take now.”
“Na only N50 you wan give me? Wey I dey beg you since? Big girl like you?” he asked. She replied him, “na wetin I get be this,” then he hissed and said, “wicked girl, ashawo,” and he walked away. Of course, he did not come to Lagos to be collecting N50, special Eko beggars.
Please the next time someone asks you for money, make sure you give them at least N1,000, in fact, if you are close to an ATM go and withdraw some more for the person, after all, this is Lagos where everyone earns N10 million monthly!