In The North, Rich Men Don’t Help The Poor — Warri-based Street Beggar

In The North, Rich Men Don’t Help The Poor — Warri-based Street Beggar

You will mistake him for a Fulani herder with his rod! He is not. The wooden rod is his third (or is it second?) leg that aids his movement. Without it, he’d limp on one leg, the left one, and can hardly go far in his alms-begging trade. This is the world of Lewoli Umar whom Saturday Tribune came across in Warri, Delta State. He’s one of the hundreds of street beggars from the north whose quest for greener pastures brought him down to oil-rich, but impoverished Warri.

Like many of his folks, Umar sleeps in one of the shanties in Igbudu Market in Warri South Local Government Area, come rain come shine. Inside Igbudu Market is an area called Hausa Quarters. There, folks of northern extraction, under the umbrella of Arewa, hobnob and socialise. They know one another, support and protect each other’s interest. If you gave an alm to one, be ready to attend to others who might get a wind of your benignity.

Whether the weather is hot or cold, Umar is less perturbed as he must struggle to make ends meet. A wife and eight children are in Maru, Zamfara State, who are waiting to be fed, housed and clothed through his earnings from begging.

“My name is Lewoli Umar from Zamfara State. I’ve been in Warri for 15 years.

“I have one wife and eight children. My wife is in Zamfara with my children. I send money to them. I’m about 55 years old,” he disclosed, flashing some infectious smiles.

Umar would continue with his story: “My children are in school in Zamfara. From the little money I make here, like N1500 per day, I send to them. The money comes in piecemeal from alms givers.”

True that Umar’s family is in Zamfara, but for him, it’s not a licence to philander around with his little heard-earned money. He considers it as haram (sin). Worsestill, he has no place of his own to call an abode in Warri. As an orphan with a few siblings left in life, he has to be circumspect with the way he lives his life.

With a stern frown when asked if he had a girlfriend, Umar swiftly responded:  “I don’t have girl friends here. It’s haram. I’ve nowhere to sleep. How can you even talk on that? I’m an orphan. I have siblings in Zamfara.”

He, however, acknowledged that far incomparable to what is obtainable in his home state, life is sumptuous in Warri.

“Life is good in Warri. We manage well here. Life is better here. Nobody disturbs us here. We’re safe,” he claimed.

Justifying his assertion, the dark-complexioned beggar said:

“For instance, this my colleague here (pointing at a fellow beggar on wheelchair), his bicycle was given him by one Emma, an Igbo man. Nobody gives such in the north.

“In my village, nobody gives money like N500 to help you and your wife. Yes, there are rich people there, but they’d never help you, unlike here in the South.

“Over there, they don’t just have the mind to give. They don’t. Who will give you ordinary N500? It’s everybody to himself, there. Nobody will give you a dime in the village.”

Umar’s right leg is lame, lean and unequal with his left leg. With the wooden stick earlier mentioned, he manoeuvres his way around town to beg for alms. Asked how he came about the deformity, he said he was born with it and coupled with poverty, he couldn’t get enrolled in school.

“I was born with this deformity (pointing at his right leg). My work is begging. I didn’t go to school because there was no money,” he stated.

“My only job is begging. But I don’t like it. I have to do it. If I have money, I won’t beg again.

“I can do business. Any reasonable amount can help me. N10 million will do something in my life,” he projected, smiling in the process with an aura of confidence.

According to him, such help is necessary because “I’ll want to send my children to higher institutions. Maybe like two or three of them. When they’re through, they’d now help others.”

At this point, Saturday Tribune probed into the rationale behind littering children he knew he couldn’t cater for. He said in the course of marriage, his wife, twice, gave birth to twins – the reason he’s popularly called Baba Ejime. Ejime is the variant of Ibeji in Yoruba, meaning twins.

“It’s not my fault. My wife had twins twice that’s why I have eight kids. I’m Baba Ejime,” he boasted while his colleagues listening to our conversation nodded in approval.

How’s his family coping with banditry in Zamfara? Saturday Tribune wanted to know and inquired from him. According to Baba Ejime, he’s lost no fewer than 10 brothers and sisters to the marauders in the last six years.

“Insurgency in Zamfara has consumed my people. My children are not affected, but it has affected my junior brothers and sisters, about 10 of them were killed.

“I am from Maru in Maru Local Government Area. Besides killing 10 of my siblings, the bandits sent threat messages to my remaining younger brother to beware or be killed like others.

“The last time I went home was last year September. But ordinarily I go home every three months,” Umar disclosed, adding that insurgency has discouraged many of them from going to see their family as often as expected though they reach out to them financially.

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