The beggars of Lagos have a variety of choices. If you do any how they will treat your f*ck up. It is their right to have your money!
I have two stories to share today and both happened on the same day.
I closed early from work on Monday so I took the opportunity to fix my phone at Computer Village, Ikeja. On my way home, I noticed someone was calling me. I looked back to find it was an Area boy calling me for his Oga. It could have been for anything so I stopped; I might have dropped something they helped retrieve.
According to Wikipedia, Area boys (also known as Agberos) are loosely organized gangs of street children and teenagers, composed mostly of males, who roam the streets of Lagos State in Nigeria. They extort money from passers-by, public transporters and traders, sell illegal drugs, act as informal security guards, and perform other “odd jobs” in return for compensation.
The man the Area boy was calling me for was more like an Area father. He came to me and as if talking to his child asked, “Do you want to say you did not hear I was calling you?” Before I could answer he extended his hand for a handshake and I took it, which is surprising because I don’t do handshakes (unless you are Dangote).
“Give me money to buy a drink,” he ordered in Yoruba.
From the first question, I had known it was money he was hoping to get from me but I thought he would have been at least polite enough to ask. This guy demanded for my money like he had me at gunpoint. It was the kind of request you made when you had someone in a trance and it did not feel like I was in one, so I obviously refused him.
You don’t get to sit around all day on the grace of others and get to be arrogant! I wish I had said more than “I am not giving you any money” but I can’t have Area boys expecting my next visit to Computer Village.
You would think one entitled sicko was enough for a day but the bus I boarded had more in store for me.
The bus took a lot of time to fill up and when it finally did, the trip did not start immediately, as we (passengers) expected. What we got was a fight. The bus conductor realised he had two couples (One male and female and the other both male) lapping and he could only afford to have one.
According to Naija English dictionary, Lapping/Lap is where two people share a seat by one sitting on the other’s laps; partners lap to minimize the cost of paying for two or to save space. Example: Boniface refused to lap Mike from Obalende to Oshodi.
Dem no dey explain Lap and Agbero to anybody in Lagos, so if you needed those explanations that would make you a foreigner (and that would mean I am global now. Ha-ha. This boy is famous). I would like to take my time to welcome you to the great city of Lagos – I know what you are thinking but it is not so bad. There are times you can’t help but love the city).
Back to our story: The conductor said keeping the two could run him into trouble with the Road Safety task force who would charge him for overloading. The lappers did not reason with this for they had been on the bus too long and it would be a waste of time to wait over again in another bus and so the hassle began.
Fierce insults and curses went back and forth, all sides had a lot to say about the others’ mothers. Amidst, the insults and arguing the bus did not move, leaving the rest of us to bake in the heat. The ruckus invited other bus drivers and conductors from the park. They joined the tortured passengers in pleading with the last lappers (the male couple) to leave the bus. But this was not very successful and only brought more trouble.
After that suggestion, two parties merged into one, leaving just one opposing side and one defending side. The first lappers to get on the bus (male and female) were now in sync with the other parties and they were all trying to get the male lappers out. It would have been easy to drag them out if they were seated close to the door but the men were seated on the last seat, next to me, by the side of the window. They were not going to get rid of these men so easily, they pushed back, reminding the ones against them how foolish they and the members of their families were. These men were skilled verbal warriors, I have picked up some pretty good insults I can’t wait to try on someone.
The driver finally had enough, it was going to take more than shouting to remove these guys but he could not bother to drag them out because that would impede his business, so he decided to move but not without giving the conductor a good lashing for his incompetence.
I have seen a lot of crazy but what happens next takes the cake.
We are on the road now, The conductor is collecting the fare (N250) when I overhear one of the male lappers whisper (I was sitting next to them) to his partner, “Do you think that man will still give us the N50?” They pulled out a N100 note and pleaded I spare them N100.
It felt like a joke! How quickly the guys from just ten minutes ago had vanished. These guys were like rats, nothing like the ferocious animals of before. They did not want to draw the conductor’s attention. So these guys did not have money on them and were making so much noise? What effrontery! I gave them the money and they moved to the man next to me to complete their fare. This one was not so kind. He did not bother to hide his disgust when he told them he did not have money – I am sure he meant for the conductor to hear it. The nice man beside him helped them with N50, completing their fare. They thanked us furiously.
But they left me pondering: what in the world happened to humility? How do you enter a bus without your fare and still go head on with your potential helpers? That’s crazy. A very risky move, the driver and conductor would have been more than happy to break their heads if they had found out.
This was one hell of a long episode, I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know your Lagos experience with proud beggars in the comment section. It makes me glad to hear from you. Have a blast weekend.
By Tobee Awosika