By Tyover Gum
“Begging is much more difficult than it looks. Contrary to popular belief, it’s a high art form that takes years of dedicated practice to master”- Sol Luckman
There are reasons why the art of begging for money has persisted in our polity. Majority of the populace seek assistance in areas like feeding, hospital bills, school fees, transport fare, among others.
First, the level of poverty is so high and with little or no available jobs, most people have resolved to live on the benevolence of others by begging. Our leaders have also not helped the situation because by not creating the enabling environment, even those with creative ideas find it difficult to flourish in the system. Let me quickly state that some people who loiter around government offices come to genuinely seek assistance for jobs, contracts and financial assistance to satisfy mundane activities like buying a new phone, throwing a birthday party or marrying a new wife! These demands weigh heavily on our public officers; perhaps the reason some of them will continue to steal and embezzle to keep up with the routine giving of handouts.
Second, some of us who have lived in or been to Northern Nigeria can attest to the fact begging is a profession. Or better put it, a way of life – both the old and the young indulge in it. Case in point is the uproar and frantic argumentative hocus-pocus that greeted the announcement of ban on street begging in Kaduna two or so months ago by Gov. Nasir El-rufai, as a counter-terrorism measure, following the detonation of a bomb in Sabon Gari LG Secretariate by a teenage suicide bomber, in which scores of workers undergoing verification exercise to have their salaries paid to them died and some injured. A few days after the news of the ban, the beggars occupied the streets of Kaduna City and congregated at the NUJ office to register their protest and threatened the governor with a lawsuit for disrupting their means of livilihood.
It is a well known fact people beg because they are driven by circumstances, but when beggars become so organised and informed as to threaten government with a lawsuit, even when offered safety nets, then it is no longer a profession of happenstance. A little background check will surprise you most of the beggars have accomplished a lot from the trade of begging, like the spokesman of the Kaduna beggars, who was physically impaired but spoke the Queen’s English with relish, whom it was said owns cars and a house. Some are from capable homes that taking to begging should have been completely out of it. But it is the trend, their insatiable thirst for it is legendary, something akin to man’s distilled essence of existence. Indeed, there is a great army of beggars aimlessly and endlessly roaming the streets in the North that is susceptible to social manipulation, which complicates the already complicated problem of terrorism.
But we can’t keep complaining about all these and pointing fingers without proffering solutions. Destructive criticisms cannot take us out of the woods. It’s our desire our leaders hit the ground running and deliver on their promises. We must therefore, discourage the trend of begging, re-orientate and encourage those with ideas to find decent and dignifying ways of translating their ideas into achievements or earning their daily bread. Skills acquisition programmes and Beggars Rehabilitation Centres should be put in place. It is also pertinent our leaders create jobs and employment opportunities for the jobless, or woo investors for job creation by providing the enabling environment for business to thrive. Instead of giving out peanuts, why not identify those with business plans and provide them with soft loans? This will make a good number of people self-reliant.
The panacea to decongesting the streets and “waiting rooms” of government offices is to provide good governance; we cannot move forward as a nation when most Nigerians waylay public officers or other citizens in the streets, homes and offices on a daily basis seeking all manner of charity subscription. Systematic begging is appalling. Hence, we are calling on our leaders to live selflessly, provide excellent leadership and thus reduce the number of those who beg to survive!