People with the milk of Human kindness cannot fail to frown at the apparent insensitivity of comfort-seeking Nigerians at the plight of the lunatics, destitutes and the disabled in our society. There has been a conceptualized attempt to rid the major streets of Nigeria and the state capitals of the presence of beggars, the invalid, the destitutes and the lunatics.
This has been periodically embarked upon and accomplished. This posture of the authorities calls for a rethink as it smacks of sadism by overzealous officials. It is a deliberate attempt to play to the gallery, which government officials and appointees are prone to in order to attract credence over their chameleonic allegiance and cosmetic loyalty to any Government in power.
Nobody considers the disabled for anything good or speaks for their welfare. Many of us have no sympathy for this class of Nigerians who are left to die in silence and despair for no fault of theirs. This class of Nigerians who have a right to live have often been hounded and bundled together like 18th Century colonial slaves and dumped in far-away hinterland asylums in different parts of Nigeria, where they could easily be got rid of. This is man’s inhumanity to man in practice.
The ill-treatment recounted by the survivors of the torture reads like pages from the middle ages. They are said to constitute a nuisance to the pretentious Nigerian Society of hero worships who don’t appreciate the fact that it is a heritage of underdevelopment occasioned by inequitable distribution and mismanagement of resources which we gloss over because we don’t care.
No sooner were those invalids and beggars forcefully exiled than those who survived the ordeal came back in full force. If the fate of these less privileged Nigerians is part of the agenda of any concerned government Ministry for the vulnerable groups, instead of pleasing the comfort seeking Nigerians, these invalids should not have been so badly treated as residual elements and scum of the earth simply to enhance Nigerian’s propensity for window dressing in a no-man’s land.
Why should a remote hinterland be assigned to people created by God because and they have one disability or the other. Who will cater for their beggarly needs there? Slow death is anticipated for them. Let us believe that Nigerians are interested in the aesthetic view of our environment that has been polluted by negligence over the years. How many of us have taken pains to give a thought to the amazing plight and living conditions of beggars with abbreviated and stumpy legs and whose upper hemisphere rest on wooden rollers as they artfully and swiftly move behind fast moving cars on our streets, while narrowly escaping from reckless drivers.
The suggestion by the social welfare Ministry that it is because of laziness that people embark on street begging, is incorrect and simply begs the question. This suggestion is as puerile as the mental effusion of physically healthy people who feed fat at the executive corridors of power where there is no pain. I am aware that many healthy beggars may not want to labour because of laziness. These could be confined in homes by human rights advocates and concerned Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who may help them learn a trade for self-survival. This has remained a futile effort as there is nothing one can do to “stop a cat from mousing”. It is my contention, that a disabled blind, deaf and dumb without assistance of any sort must beg to eat.
We must realize that there are congenital beggars who can’t work for a living. There are also ecotypes who can’t be changed and made to appreciate the value of dignity of labour as a means of survival.
There are also genotypical family traits in migrant and itinerant beggars. To stop these groups from begging is as difficult as squeezing water out of stone. Leave them for God who knows that they must beg to survive in contemporary mass society where able bodied “professional beggars” lurk around the corridors of power undisturbed. These are the beggars with a choice.
Let it be known that these beggars whose lips are full of blessings are meek and humble and do not steal. They are satisfied with the little they are given as they move around in a world of their own. They have no choice over what they are offered. Those who care and sympathize with them are witnessing Christ in measuring terms. Beggars have no plans to bid for ghost contracts so as to loot the government treasury and belong to the class of the rich. They are neither bandits, armed robbers, terrorists nor herdsmen, kidnappers and unknown gunmen. They are not even found at the lowest rung of the social ladder.
Empty campaign promises are not for them. Only sadists will walk past without being touched by their plea for help. For them, life is permanently comatose but they have not lost hope as long as they lived. Anything can help to fill an empty stomach. God has used them to teach a lesson to the able bodied who may not like to see them.
It is equally necessary to mention the motherless babies homes, which are asylums of a sort that depend endlessly on charity to sustain the inmates who are children of circumstance. A siren or orchestrated visit could be organized to these homes to attract acclamation, but they are homes of want perpetually.
The truth remains that the anticipated natural mothers care and love is lacking in these homes where the remote looks of inmates from sunken eyes on their foreheads call for compassion from privileged Nigerians who may organize theatrical palliative visits with their “non-widow’s mites”.
Why is there no known welfare package and special fund allocations for the invalids and disabled in Nigeria? Why don’t they deserve attention in our stupendously oil rich country where suffering as a result of inequitable distribution of wealth is immortalized. Some of them are not mentally sick but physically disabled. They are from constituencies whose representatives are oblivious of their plight and abandonment.
The deaf, dumb and blind as well as many physically disabled are led along busy streets by guards who are invariably members of their families. Some of these guards are children who have dropped out of school because they cannot fend for themselves and their incapacitated relations. The only option left for their survival is to accompany these relations to beg under the rain and heat of the sun to eke out a living in the unsympathetic wild world, irrespective of the free education in vogue, the denial of which is human rights abuse.
I doubt whether the Ministry of social welfare in Nigeria and its agencies realize that most of these beggars are in so hopeless a situation that any genuine government of the people cannot afford to ignore them. The ministry for vulnerable groups should wake up. There are some extra vulnerable groups who have no alternative than to live on charity.
One may be tempted to ask why the concerned ministry is bereft of ideas about what to do to attract government’s assistance for these suffering Nigerians, who are taken for granted and exposed to inherent environmental dangers as they crawl along the streets. We cannot rule out the possibility of known sharp practices by healthy Nigerians who may readily take undue advantage of any help meant for this class of Nigerians and convert same for personal use in defiance of the nemesis of revenge.
It is an act of savagery to talk of the nuisance value of a group of human beings rejected by the larger society except their closest relations. If this ministry or agency embarks on its periodic and unpraise worthy assignment to rid the major streets of the state capitals of these class of unfortunate Nigerians who have no “Kidnap value”, let it also realize that the so-called major streets are not the anticipated earthly paradise but painted sepulchral outposts of filth and human persecutors.
The invalids need compassion since what life has in stock for anybody is unpredictable. It is therefore necessary to make sure that the disadvantaged in our society don’t suffer through group neglect.
To force them away from their source of personal survival to where they will starve to death is repugnant, contempt of their personality and careless cruelty. What else is human rights abuse?
We are urgently, in need of a paradigm shift by a practically concerned ministry or agency to address the problem of our vulnerable groups in Nigeria “When beggars die, there are no comets seen but the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes” Shakespeare – Julius Caesar. We need a humane approach in aid of the invalid in the Nigerian society.
Sir. Andrew I. Ajaero (KSJI)
Public Affairs Commentator/Analyst
Onicha Nweorie Ezinihitte Mbaise