Last Friday, I left Radisson Blu feeling good with myself. I and my work colleagues had just eaten dinner with the boss. The boss was delightful all through it and blessed us with a healthy dose of wisdom (one day I’ll write about that man- hey boss! Don’t panic). The office driver dropped me at Lekki Phase 1 bus stop and a colleague helped me get into a bus. Immediately I got in, the young man sitting beside me got up and sat in his neighbour’s laps. It was confusing and hilarious.
ME: Bros, there’s still space in the bus
HIM: (smiling shyly) Sis, you know nah
ME: I don’t know anything
HIM: (lowering his voice) we contributed money for the transport.
For a moment I felt bad that I almost laughed at him. His friend looked outside the window, embarrassed.
ME: Please sit down and don’t worry about the fare.
HIM : (Hurriedly sitting down) God will bless you. Thank you very much Aunty. (I noticed he was clutching two N100 notes in his fist)
When the conductor started collecting the fares, I decided to pay for his friend also. That way they could keep their money.
He kept muttering ‘Thank you aunty’ every few minutes. I felt embarrassed he had to call me ‘Aunty’ simply because I was paying his N200 fare. I dared to look at him a little closer, what I saw didn’t match the actions of the man sitting next to me– he’s laiskinned and fresh. Put him in the front seat of a clean ride and he’ll fit right in. His clothes were clean though his friend looked unkempt.
When he got to his stop, he handed N100 to his friend and left.
Few minutes into the ride, the conductor asked if anybody was going beyond Ajah. Didn’t catch the name of the area he called. The dirty looking friend responded in affirmative.
Conductor : Na N200 o
Dirty Guy: Bros abeg, I get N100. Abeg help me
He kept begging the conductor and got no response for over 5 minutes.
Conductor: I go drop you for Ajah make you find N100 bus.
Dirty Guy: Aunty please balance me for me (he turned to me)
I shook my head and turned away for a bit. He sat down quietly until I moved closer and engaged him in a conversation.
According to his story, he had gone to work somewhere in the morning but wasn’t paid after the job that’s why he couldn’t afford his fare. He met the guy who dropped off earlier at a bus stop begging for help. They both had N100 each and so decided to share a seat. He was simply unlucky because he had to go a longer distance.
I’m always very suspicious about helping people like that. I don’t like beggars; I’ve been known to use longer routes simply because I wanted to avoid seeing them. I felt he was trying to take advantage of me because I paid their fare earlier. I battled with my demons and held my handbag really tight. He looked away, and kept staring outside the window.
As I approached my bus stop, a brilliant idea hit me.
ME: Give me your N100.
He looked at me suspiciously before handing it over. I fished out a N200 note from my purse and dropped his money in my bag.
ME: Conductor, take.
CONDUCTOR: You never pay before?
ME: Na for this my brother, carry am go where im wan stop after Ajah. If im wan stop for Ajah, give am N100 keep 100.
CONDUCTOR: Bros, you hear am?
The unkempt guy gave me a side hug.
‘Jeez, I’m going to have to disinfect my dress’’, something mean in me uttered. Felt ashamed of my thought. I’m not a nice person but then I’m not so mean. I would never kick a hungry man but I would dare a fat lion.
Dirty Guy: Thank you aunty. My God go answer you. He must answer you.
I’ve never seen someone so grateful for N100 before. I began to wonder if he had food to eat at home, if he was wearing his only good clothes… How many of his kind are there in Lagos?; ‘’millions’’, I estimated in my head.
That Friday night, as I stopped at VGC roundabout and boarded an overpriced cab home I began to think of all the beggars I had seen on the streets of Lagos.
Just by Lekki Phase 1 bus stop down to the gate, there’s a horde of dirty looking children sent out by their parents to beg. The children, mostly girls approach strangers and beg for money to eat while their mothers’ watch from afar. I always wish I could help them but I know that would only encourage the mothers to send them out again the next day. I wish the government will arrest the mothers and take the children off the streets. I wish everyone will have more than enough money for food and traffic fare.
Source: Nigerian Bulletin
To share your NYSC experience email nyscdiaries[at]corperwee.com.ng