Lagos teaches you three things: 1. It is possible to spend one-third of your life in traffic. 2. Life is hard. 3. People can lie.
Now, I would like to focus on the third one, mainly because of a few experiences I have had recently.
So the first time, it happens you were almost – almost – deceived. You are in the bus, waiting for driver to move and trying to sit with as much dignity as you can in a ‘Danfo’, which I can bet you is not much dignity.
Then the man stands up and screams: “I am blind!”
You are startled. You jerk your head up, and listen to the story carefully – how he lost his job, and how he needs 15,000 naira for eye drops tomorrow before surgery. You want to ask questions, but you see the girl beside you calmly replying her boyfriend on WhatsApp, then you look at everyone else, and they are all ignoring the story. Then it dawns on you. And the next time you sight him in another bus, in another part of Lagos, with a slightly different story with the same theme, you ignore him totally, and answer your own girlfriend on WhatsApp. Welcome to Lagos.
Then you are close to Freedom Park Lagos, beneath a streetlight, mentally preparing yourself for the awaiting 3MB traffic. And a man comes up by your side, in tears. You are worried, but not overly bothered. This is Lagos, there is nothing your eyes have not seen, so it will take more than a crying man to ruffle you. The story begins: He has a child in the hospital who is very sick. The doctor says he should buy these drugs. He shows you a piece of paper with names of drugs written on them. Everything will cost twenty-three thousand naira. He has ten thousand, and he is trying to raise thirteen thousand. You tell him you don’t have money on you. He says ok, give me hundred naira, let me buy bread and take to the hospital. You think about it a little, and then you stop the next keke and jump in, leaving him standing there. Lagos is hard, so it is easy to forget that particular event.
Until one day, you are in Ikoyi, at an ATM stand. And another crying man approaches you with the exact same story. You ask him to bring the list closer, you look carefully at the names of the drugs, and then you give it back to him and walk away.
See eh, Lagos is known for traffic and agberos. But the real MVPs? It is the people I like to call Beggars INC. Believe me, they have an association, and a pattern; the stories are too similar, the manner they operate too.
Yet there are real stories of hardship. The question is how do you know which? I will answer that in the next paragraph.
Just kidding, I don’t know.
Written by Chika Jones, tweets @chika_jones