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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One quick story of our times and climes.

I was in the passenger seat of a friends second hand ‘l dey pretend say l be big man” Mercedes jeep. Most of the stuff in it doesn’t work but it looks good on the outside and confers a big man status on the driver, which is really all that matters in Nigeria. So it is we arrive at Maryland bus stop and the lights turn red. Right on cue, the horde of degraded humanity descend of us like a pack of weakly baying diseased dogs. The hawkers, the beggars the diseased, the homeless, the hopeless, the mindless and the children. Like many lagosians my senses are numbed to some of these sights (well except the decaying breasts hanging out of a hopeless cancer patient’s blouse). Yep l saw that last month and l couldn’t bear it so l spoke to Seki who runs our change a life project about her. One of the things we do is try to find help for the most desperate and helpless cases; usually we get the Lagos State Government to treat them free. We can only help 5% of the cases in Lagos alone not to talk about Nigeria as a whole but my belief is that if it is just one person dying before me, l shall not walk away. Anyways we have spent 3 weeks searching for that woman, somehow l must accept that time may have run out on her.

Back to Maryland, the kids came, all collectively dirty, raged, wily and hiding anger, confusion and fear under guises as diverse as bravado, cockiness, vacant smiles and comic turns. Children as young as eighteen months whose first words are, “madam l beg, oga l beg”. I can never become numb to the children. I hate with all fibre of my being a society that does that to its young. As you can see, l tend to digress. So on this day around 10pm, this horde descend on our car and one kid stood out, he was one of those who pests you about washing your windscreen usually messing it up the more. I don’t know what it was about him, perhaps it was the defiance in his stance, and his belligerence but he commanded our attention. My friend winds down and asks him how much it was to buy food around the corner? Like the boy, l was temporarily confused wondering why he doesn’t just give him money if he wants to. I usually don’t do this, as l know it doesn’t solve the problem and it feeds the underground cabal that trades in using child beggars. The boy snapped back “you wan buy Mr Biggs? “My friend said, “no l wan know how much person get to have to buy food for mama put (local roadside resturant) for there.” By now other kids had come around and were sniggering. The kid, who must be around 9 but looks like a wizened 5 shrugs and says 60 naira. So my friend pulls out 500 naira and hangs it over. Let me tell you this, l do not have the words to describe the next set of emotions on his suddenly young and vulnerable face.

He flinched and almost reeled back in shock, eyes widening like saucers, then his eyes narrows in suspicion but then he gave a wan but genuine smile, and went down flat on the floor in a prostrate saying thank you sir, that you sir as he got up, turned around, clutching his grubby wash rag and bottle, he raced all the way to the mama put at the corner. As the traffic light turned green, l saw that my friend had a tear in his eye, l was already bawling. The kid was really hungry. This in a society were politicians paid 400 pounds to watch Beyonce perform in a concert that THISDAY described as Lagos Rocks…for the rich and middle class! The bile rises again.


Anonymous said...

God I just couldn't help but cry too as I read the concluding part of that piece. Well like I would say, it isnt everybody that God has given the mind and I mean that good mind to spend on the needy and Funmi please tell your friend "God Bless him" for me and may God replenish his pockets in Jesus name Amen. Keep the fire burning.

Babs said...


May we become a society where the few who are passionate about change keep doing until the virus of change catch up with a critical mass.

How does one get to be a part of the audience on your show?

Anonymous said...

That was really sad. I still can not believe that people paid that much to see Beyonce and co perform. Its a sad country our country, but you gotta love it regardless.
You are really doing a good work. Keeop it up and may God give you strength to carry out His works.

In my head and around me said...

My goodness!! I think about this thing everyday!!! Can nothing be done? What do I pay all this tax for if they cannot take care of the needy?

There is peace in the land, but these children are living in war-like situations. Scavenging, begging, paying with their young bodies. Lord knows what else. Our future leaders are on the street.

I actually wrote something about it in the past, you can read it here: "http://headandaround.blogspot.com/2006/07/angst.html.

Funmi, this post was lovely.

Anonymous said...

am happy your friend was able to touch that boy life a lot of nigerians dont see things from your friend's view. the 500 your friend gave the boy in some nigerian homes is what is given to a primary school student for break money. well thats life i hope people can come to this site and get touched by your stories inorder to touch someone's life. "kudos to you"

Anonymous said...

it is just so sad and one wonders all d time ,what is the government doing?I mean the governor sees these beggars everyday,is he not moved to do something abt the plight of these pple.I can imagine how that boy felt when he was given N500.If i loose N500 i wouldnt even notice and one young boy is prostrating because of it.It is good that people give these destitutes money but it is not a lasting solution..What funmi does(getting government to treat these pple free)is a drop in the ocean but it is helping some people .If the Government and its parastatals,NGO's ,Corporate bodeis,
Social club and individual all put a drop of water in the ocean.I am sure one day we will have a mighty ocean.After all,it is song "little drop of water,little grains of sand make a mighty ocean and a beautous land.Funmi keep up d work o.

Anonymous said...

God save this country. If only THISDAY will use the proceeds of that thier concert to rock these kids' lives, then people like me will forgive them. I bet funmi agrees with me.

Anonymous said...

I was at that THIS DAY concert, and far from being a politician, Im an independent interior designer, who took out of my savings because I wanted to see some of my musical admirees perform.
While i understand your need to play social crusader, I think you might have been a bit unfair.
Concerts are expensive all over the world, and there will always be people who cant afford them (i.e the poor amongst us.
Why did YOU not feel the need Funmi, to sell/donate your famous Carrie Bradshaw-esque collection of shoes and feed the children on the street?
Each of your Jimmy Choos will certainly give a lot of N500 to starving children.
Lets ALL get off our moral horses, stop being pious and pointing fingers and TRY to work together to make things better!!!!
Bitter Truth....

Anonymous said...

Hey no bad feelings just want to know how much u have donated nd how many decorations to save thet much.direct my ques to him.
anyway maybe the show for naija celebs should be for thet amount will u go.
to the same mail addy

Anonymous said...

I knw how it feels. But do u knw one day after i gave one of those kids money he ran to give his father who was sitting uselessly at one corner. I ave spotted their fathers pushing them to go and beg...and i wonder.

Angie said...

My heart breaks each time i see this little children begging. Really it would have been better if half of the money spent on the concert was used to at least send these little ones to a school, or even help start a small business for their parents so the kids wouldn't ave to beg. God help us!!!

cheta okorafor said...

hello,funmi,i think you should know that women now at days get themselves into rape situations.they want it so badly but keep fronting as if they don't want it.i'll later tell you all i know.

bhookey84 said...

We cannot merely pray to you, O god to end war
For we know that You have made the world in a way
That man must find his own path to peace
Within himself and with his neighbor
We cannot merely pray to you O God to end starvation
For you have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we could only use them wisely
We cannot merely pray to you, O God
To root out prejudice
For you have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all men
If we would only use them rightly
We cannot merely pray to You, O God to end despair
For you have already given us the power
To clear away slums and give hope
If we would only use our power justly
We cannot merely pray to you, O God to end disease
For you have already given us great minds with whch
To search out cures and healing
If we would only use them constructively
Therefore we pray to You instead, O God
For strength, determination and willpower
To do instead of just to pray
To become instead of merely to wish!

erra said...

Err, I just want to thank that anonymous no. infinity for pointing out that finger pointing is quite unproductive yielding no results.
I really want to believe actually I am well aware most people that could afford that concert well deserved that lil treat they entitled themselves to.
Also, just cause they went to a highly overpriced event does not directly insinuate they have no humanitarian endeavors which they see to, just not everyone has the time to go around blaring horns about it.
I still think youre okay though.