Begging depicts poverty. It is a sign of abject lack which downgrades dignity of those who indulge in it. Although begging for an arm it is said is better than servitude, stealing and crime.
Begging is also preferred to slavery. A slave, unlike a beggar, has no freedom. His or her rights as a human being are always tampered or punctured by his master, who dictates his or her life and affairs.
Lately, begging for arms in the streets of Owerri, Okigwe, Orlu and environs including the entire Igboland, has taken a negatively diverse dimension, as parents now send their under aged children (who ought to be in school, trading or learning skills) in the streets to solicit for financial help from the public.
Most of these beggars are juveniles who are between the ages of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 to 16 and 19 who move in groups begging, harassing and cursing people especially those who could not give them money. And many a time, if you do not give them money, you are forced to give them anything you have (like sachet water, bottle water,
groundnut, biscuits, cucumber or moi moi) which they collect happily without minding. This set of beggars gives their proceeds to their parents or guardians who are always expectant to receive them.
These groups of beggars who intimidate or harass people are mainly foreigners who reportedly migrated from Niger Republic, Mali and parts of Northern Nigeria. They live in shanty or makeshift homes where they retire after begging and resurface the next day to continue their trade. Their trade is always lucrative, reason many of them, according to investigations, prefer begging no matter the risk attached to it.
There are other segments of beggars who are stationary. They include the aged and those who are above 20 years including wretched nursing mothers. These groups of beggars always beg with begging bowls- shading themselves in makeshift tents. Some active ones sing, as well as use some of their items to generate sound to attract attention of sympathizers who give them arms, food or gifts.
Funnily, there are corporate beggars. These types of beggars often dress well. Many of them are educated, no doubt. They normally come down to the city from their villages, as some reside in the city. They would tell you, “please, brother or sister or sir or madam. I need some money to complete my transport fare. I’m stranded and I’m traveling back to my village”. Some of them fake illness, blindness, deaf or dumb just to get attention from the public.
In Imo State particularly, there are lazy humans who use people with sore illnesses or diseases to beg for arms on the streets. They always clad on green and white clothes. They often carry pictures of the sick persons and display them along. They make a lot of money as their victims’ conditions catches the sympathy of the public. At the end of the day, the sick person will not be cured nor taken to hospital, but are sure of daily bread and shelter anytime their masters are ready to dish out food.
Then, there are itinerant types of beggars who usually walk in single file, having a leader who leads them, handles their proceeds too. These sets of paupers are really deformed: blind, dumb, deaf and mentally deranged. They always file in the market or church entrance as they generate sound to attract arms from the people.
Notably, the major streets where beggars always station within Owerri urban are: Douglas (St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mbaise Road, Ama JK), Wetheral Road Roundabout, Cherubim Junction, Fire Service, Control Post, Hospital Junction, Orlu/Warehouse Roundabout. But the corporate beggars walk about the city soliciting for financial help.
Begging is an ugly business. It exposes beggars to danger. Some of them who have no makeshift tents are always beaten by sun and rain. Many too have fallen into wicked hands of ritualists, vampires, human abductors and traffickers.
Begging has a biological and social stigma. Sometimes the reason for indulging in it is attributed to economic factors: poverty, deformity, unemployment and lack of proper education.
Some individuals may not abandon asking for alms no matter the shame and trauma they are expose to. This is because they see it as a lucrative business. Indirectly, some countries or states have legalized begging. Road Safety officials, traffic wardens, Police and Military beg for arms on the road from motorists as well.
Statistics has it that government’s neglect on job creation, poor education, dearth of social amenities as electricity, potable water, good road network and unfavorable economic policies and lack of legislations, bad governance (greed and corruption) are major causes of poverty which leads to begging.
Some findings have it that lack of education does not really cause begging, but lack of parental care, disability, illness and lack of spirit for hard work and perseverance does.
In their essay: Street Begging and its Psychological, Social Effects in Ibadan Metropolis, Oyo State, Temitope M. Ojo and Titilayo A. Benson, reflected that psychological effects of poverty and beggary are “development of inferiority complex, lack of social interaction, increased mindset of poverty and loss of self- confidence”.
Solutions to begging:
Government should play a positive part by taking care of the sick that are being used as tools by lazy humans to beg for arms, just as houses should be erected for the aged and the less- privileged with adequate care. Free education should be awarded to little children especially orphans and the poor to encourage them to enroll in schools.
Also, government should provide regular electricity, portable water, build good roads, quality and affordable hospitals, education, provide employment, pay monthly allowances to identified beggars (less-privileged) and the aged with the implementation of good policies and specific legislations.
Begging is socially, psychologically and culturally bad. It belittles those who directly or indirectly engage in it. Hence people should positively engage themselves in meaningful activities no matter how petty in order to beat poverty, as well as breathe air of freedom and gain confidence.