Over the weekend, we went to drop off a family member at the Murtala muhammed International Airport. While we were taking down the luggage before the car would leave for the parking lot, I wasn’t surprised to see two ladies begging under the guise of ‘voluntary service for charity’, because it’s common sight in Lagos. My concern however was that they were not only doing so at the International Airport, but they carried on this ‘begging for charity’ with every sense of embarrassment and agitation; one that was bad enough for any image-making. I noticed how one of the ladies rushed to the young man, held his upper arm as she dangled the ‘begging can’ before his eyes. Her labour was not in vain!
She had barely finished collecting the money when she dashed after another couple. She wasn’t going to have her way again as her partner had quickly put her own can before the couple who were hurrying down. Too bad, their shoving each other did not yield any fruit as the couple did not even stop to attend to them. In that annoyance, they exchanged hot words and blamed each other for their eventual woe.
Now, that took me back to some years past. It was the traditional ‘Rag Day’ by students of one of the institutions of higher learning in Lagos. Two friends had been on their rounds ‘begging for charity’, as it was claimed. The day was still young and in the bid to get enough money for ‘charity’, they moved from person to person advocating for help for the ‘motherless children’. Just as they walked past a busy bus-stop, an occupant of a car threw out some pieces of N500 notes to them, and that was it! Both students dived to the ground struggling for the money. Bad as it was, no one wanted to let go of the money for the other, they also didn’t agree to share it equally as each person laid claim to the money.
Trust Lagos, a few people had gathered and created a ‘street parliament’, each one suggesting how to solve the dispute. But while they talked, a roadside trader expressed surprise that people were trying to settle a ‘no case’. Her stand was simple, if the voluntary begging was for charity at all, then it was baseless to fight over the proceeds since it was going to be handed over to the same organisation.
As the small gathering of people dispersed, the area boys seized the money as part of charity for themselves, because the students couldn’t prove that the proceeds were actually for charity. Back to what I saw at the airport, I just thought within myself that truly, who benefits from these countless ‘charity collections’ that people engage in, either as ‘Rag Day’ in schools or ‘private voluntary charity’ service.