22nd September, 2010
Abdullahi Yisa recently played a fast one on passers-by in Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos recently.Â The Zamfara state-born 44-year-old came to Lagos with no clear understanding of what heÂ wanted. He said he had no vocational skill nor has he ever attended school. He onlyÂ thought that with a little understanding of pidgin English, he could survive.
On arriving Lagos, he started by sleeping under the Ojuelegba bridge. From there, he metÂ fellow Nigerians from his state who told him their survival strategy. Part of it was thatÂ he must take advantage of the sympathetic nature of Nigerians, especially Lagosians, andÂ get them to assist him financially.
Yisa, who says he has a wife and six children back in his state, got to Iyana-Ipaja veryÂ early that fateful morning. After looking around and ensuring that nobody was payingÂ attention to him, he lay on the ground, placing a small sack beside him. He pretended asÂ if he was on the verge of death, and trust unsuspecting Lagosians, they gave generously,Â concerned a fellow could endure so much suffering.
Completely soaked, Yisa stayed like that for two hours on the ground, looking helplessÂ and getting all the attention he needed. However, when it was time to close business forÂ the day, he realised that the whole Iyana-Ipaja had become a beehive of activities.Â Commuters and petty traders were all over the place. He waited for some more minutes andÂ slowly began to get up. He drew the sack closer. â€œThe man did not know that we wereÂ watching him closely. He got up as if he was acting a movie. At that stage we went up toÂ him only to discover that he was faking everything’â€ a driver, who simply gave his nameÂ as Segun said.
It was discovered that Yisa, who was later given the beating of his life by those whoseÂ sympathy he had earlier bought, had engine oil in a bottle inside his bag which he pouredÂ on himself to give the impression that he was dying.
Explaining why he decided to put up such an act, Yisa said he had become a laughing stockÂ back in his village. He said because he had no money to take care of his family, some ofÂ his children have become homeless and are now fending for themselves. His wife evenÂ threatened to divorce him if the suffering continued. With no other choice, he found hisÂ way to Lagos.
Though he was given the money he made that day and warned never to return to the entireÂ Iyana-Ipaja area, checks revealed that Yisa is not the only one who has adopted thisÂ pattern to swindle people. While some of these beggars create the impression that theyÂ have terminal ailments like breast cancer, others tie particular parts of their body withÂ bandage and dress it as if they have serious sores that have defied all medicalÂ attentions.
Some of these beggars, mostly the females, stay along heavily populated areas during rushÂ hour.
When they approach their target, they fabricate touching stories. â€œThese well-dressedÂ women would either tell you that they travelled to Lagos only to discover that theirÂ guests had travelled. Some would even inform you that as they speak with you, theirÂ children are in the hospital, but if you look at these set of people, they are betterÂ dressed than you are,â€ lamented Adigun Abel, a resident of Egbeda. Many of the smartÂ beggars would tell you that they have been attacked and their money stolen from them.
Around Pen Cinema, in Agege area, a young man is always seen displaying a photograph inÂ which his stomach is plastered. He claims he suffering from a terminal illness, though heÂ is hale and hearty.
Andy Solomon, a banker, while lamenting the activities of these beggars, stated that heÂ once met a young man at Ojota on the way to his office on Victoria Island. According toÂ him the well-dressed man, clutching a brown leather bag, told him that he was on his wayÂ to Lekki and that his money had been snatched.
â€œBecause of his appearance, I never saw him as someone that could want to swindle me. IÂ gave the guy N100. Three days later, I saw this same man at Ojota again. He had forgottenÂ my face, so he told me the same story,â€ he said.
According to Solomon, â€œit was as if I should give him a slap but as a gentleman, I justÂ told him to leave my presence before I do something stupid. As if he understood what IÂ met, he disappeared from the scene and did not resurface till I left the place.”
Investigation reveals further that young ladies are fast getting into the act. TheseÂ young ladies hang out at places like eateries and bus stops and since they know that menÂ are easily touched by their appearance, they use the advantage.
â€œThese girls do not have jobs, so they just stay around areas they know they could getÂ the attention of the men with their cock and bull stories. Because of their good spokenÂ English, you will never know that they are what they are â€”beggars,â€ Isaiah Jimoh, whoÂ claimed he had had such experience recently, explained.
Gbenga Awomodu, a freelance writer and editor, once posted his encounter with a beggar onÂ his blog. While stating that anyone living in Lagos must have encountered people who haveÂ made a career of begging for alms, usually in the name of God, he explained that he onceÂ met a woman on his way from school.
â€œShe was neatly dressed, like someone attending a party, and this was not our firstÂ encounter. She repeated the familiar story in Yoruba:Â E jo sa, mo wa stranded ni sa.
â€œShe wanted me to part with a few Naira notes because she was stranded.Â Too bad! I willÂ not be fooled by this woman, I told myself!Â She had better moved â€˜officeâ€™ from theÂ University of Lagos and environs! At least, I doled out some cash the first time we met,â€Â he said.
While many would reckon with the saying in the holy book of the Christians that the poorÂ must remain among the rich, it has been proven that beggars make more money than theÂ average salary earner.
â€œThis is why they use every form of disability as a means of seeking for alms,â€ saidÂ Julius Ade. â€œWhile these ones laze around looking for who will butter their bread, theyÂ should always be reminded that there are several other deformed people who end upÂ becoming what they had set out to become. I know of some people with disability who sellÂ recharge cards and operate phone business centres for a living.â€