The alarm clock rang so loudly it produced enough force to break any glass within its reach but luckily for Collins he had little glass objects in his house, even the window had no frames (an old-fashioned wooden type).
Collins jumped up from the foam he laid on. He was a tall, lanky guy with a dark complexion who had little reasons to stay at home late (his home lacked any kind of real asset). ‘It won’t be well with all my haters’ he said his usual morning prayer that had become a daily ritual for him. Cursing his haters makes him feel comfortable in his present predicament of poverty. If his haters made him poor and miserable then he deserves to pray the same prayers for them.
He rolled up his foam and hid it at the back of the old wooden shelf, one of the few meager properties he inherited from his late father. The shelf contained his father’s schoolbooks, especially Shakespeare books which where his literature books in school and his own school books and some novels he picks up here and there.
He rented a one-room apartment he could barely pay the bills and he was already owning two years rent and had been embarrassed a lot of things by his landlady who had threatened to send him packing and the only reason she has not succeeded is because no one was interested in taking over the mouse-hole where I live.
The room could barely qualify as a one-room apartment and looked like a small security house. He didn’t own a stove; he could not afford kerosene or a gas cooker. His home was not connected to Electricity the bill for a month would take feed him for three months and more. He owned only his foam that had lost its cover, his termite-infested shelf, a wooden bench, three cups, six plates and three cutlery set and a large container where he kept large portions of Garri he could afford.
He took a long look around the room, he saw scattered, dirty clothes, scattered books, cobwebs that filled the room like it was an abandoned warehouse, the marble floor with big pot-hole looked like a sandy littered beach and nylons of sugar, milk and ground nut littered every way dust had not already taken. Everything about the room is poor, even the wall is cracked and the ceiling filled up with holes it is a miracle rain doesn’t get in.
‘I have to leave to job-hunt now’. He saw a flyer a week ago of a cement distribution company who was looking to employ twenty sales distributor, he had applied and today he was going to know his fate. He belonged to the club of the Unemployed of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He looked at the time, it was just 6am and he still had an extra two hours to spare before his appointment.
He knew he has to leave now or never or else if he lays in bed again and sleeps off he wouldn’t wake up again till the landlady comes knocking to start her usual harassment by 12pm. He rushed out with his bucket to fetch his water from the only running tap in the compound except for the ones in the landlady’s apartment. Luckily he had to share this tap with 12 other fellow occupants.
He met three ladies already at the tap doing what they best knew how to do gossip. The three women Bisi, Kehinde and Sarah worked for the same restaurant as attendants and cooks. I wasn’t interested in their gossip and they also weren’t interested in me. I impatiently poured one of their already filled buckets of water into mine and I walked away. They cursed me calling me all sort of names like poor man, bastard and castrated man. The last one got my attention but I ignored them and moved into the bathroom to have my bath.
I could hear them gossiping loudly about me now but I didn’t care to listen. I got to the bathroom and luckily I didn’t meet the punctual Sunday in there. I took my bath and headed back to my room shouting a loud Thank You to the tongue-scratching women.
I wore my best of clothes, the one I reserved for special occasions. The suit was a little bit small for me but I wore it anyway, I had to look formal to seal this job. He wore the Italian fairly used shoe which was still in good shape left over by the formal occupant of this flat. ‘May God bless whosoever has chosen to bless me with this shoe.’
He looked at the time and it was 6:30am. He opened his cupboard and brought out a cup and a spoon. He used one of his dirty clothes to clean the dust on the cup, moved over with them to his large basin and poured two handful of garri into the cup. He took a sachet of pure water and poured it into the cup and mixed the garri. He then carried the empty sugar container and scrapped for crumbs and poured the crumbs into the cup.
He finished his mal and opened a small torchlight and brought out the sum of two hundred naira which was all he would need to move from Arepo to Ojodu Berger and back. He had another twelve thousand five hundred naira which was all he had on him and that was just half of his rent. He had a bank account that had been predominantly empty for the past six months. He kept the torchlight back and prepared to leave.
The Lagos-Ibadan Express way was so back a journey of twenty minutes will take you forty minutes and even hours depending on the number of cars on the road. He left to meet the forty minutes timeline and on the way to his Arepo bus-stop where he would get a bus going to Berger he started his daily proclamation.
‘Today I shall be confirmed as one of the new sales distributor, I will get my own van I will drive and I will earn the twenty thousand a month salary. I will then pay my two-year rent deficit and show all my haters I have finally left them in the poverty bracket. I will build myself a house and marry a fine lady.’ He kept on declaring more and more things as he literally danced and sang on his way to the bus-stop.
Today is my Day
Poverty must go
Bye-Bye to suffering and hustling
Welcome to wealth and long prosperity
It’s my time to be rich and famous
Get all the pretty babes flocking around me
Cause I’m stepping out of line
I hell-bent on riches and glory
No question can ever put me back in line
Because my new line is riches and glory
No fucked up hater can do me any harm
All they can do is to waste their fucking hating energy envying me
They will all come all at once to my table to beg for crumbs out of my plates
But they get nothing but more miseries
Screw all my haters, those fucked up low-niggas are really going down
I’m going to hit them like the man in the sun
I’m superman and I don’t think they know this yet
Cause they can’t stand to his my rise
Cause I’m evolving from grass to grace, from crumbs to whole and nothing less haters.
He kept on singing and singing till he reached his bus-stop. He smiled as he saw the free-flowing traffic on the road. He stood there for close to half an hour and noticed there were no passengers nor buses plying this route, only a few cars and trucks plied the road and this was not quite usual on a Monday morning, the first day of work.
He pondered at what had gone wrong, was there another nationwide strike again? He kept on pondering and pondering as he waited impatiently for a bus. He looked at his watch and it was already 7:15am meaning he had just45 minutes more. He took to begging cars to give him a lift but they all declined till he sat down out of fatigue.
A beggar who had been watching him for a while decided to try to get some money from him. ‘God will bless and prosper you. Help the poor sir.’ The beggar knelt down pleading. Collins took his plea with a pinch of salt; here he was the definition of poverty and a fellow beggar was pleading with him for money when he barely had a kobo.
The beggar continued not deterred by his refusal to even acknowledge his plea with a reply. ‘Sir, please help me a poor soul. Sir all religion of Earth advocate giving to the needy sir, I really need help from you, any form of help will be deeply appreciated and an investment for everlasting returns.’
Collins just smiled and dipped his hand in his pocket; the beggar stretched his hand in anticipation of some monetary return. Collins smiled mischievously seeing what the beggar wanted and brought out his handkerchief and wiped his sweaty face.
The beggar boiling with rage almost shouted in anger ‘don’t be selfish sir, just dip your hand into your pocket and bring out some money, any amount will do. May God bless you forever as you help elevate my predicament.’
Collins chose this time to ignore him and focus on getting a bus. The beggar more angry and desperate kept on kneeling and pleading but Collins did not even listen hoping the beggar will get tired and drop a curse on him and move away but the beggar had apparently resolved to succeeding before leaving. This made Collins go mad with anger. ‘How dare you this poor beggar disturb me? Young man I am a poor man like you waiting for a bus to take me to Berger so I can finally get a job unlike you who does not even have a defect yet you choose to beg instead of hustling.’
The beggar cut him short ‘I have tried to get work but I can’t and now I am a poor beggar sir. Help me and God……….’ Collins interrupted him ‘Stop calling me sir you this beggar. I am a young man like you and equally as poor. I live in a mouse-hole in the name of a one-room apartment and I own two years rent plus all I have been eating for the past three months has been Garri and party food. The only money I have on me is two hundred naira and that is my transport fare going and coming. You are even an abled-bodied young man and you are begging a beggar, is it possible?’
The beggar was stunned by the array of words thrown at him but managed to fake a quick smile ‘Tell me Mr. Fellow Beggar, if your story is true then how did you afford to buy this expensive shoe and this equally costly Italian shoe? Tell me sir.’
Collins smiled still puzzled by the beggars good use of English, a man who can speak this good English must be from a comfortable background said ‘I didn’t buy any of the items you mentioned. They were both left for me by a Good Samaritan who was gracious enough to consider my plight without even meeting me’
The beggar moved to sit beside him and smiled at him but Collins chose to ignore him praying a bus comes and carry him away from here. The beggar coughed and said ‘As for the bus you are impatiently watching for they won’t come any time soon. I guess if you can’t afford a TV then you can afford a Radio or if you can’t afford even that then you can afford to listen to women gossip because there is a nationwide strike over fuel subsidy matters.’
Collins couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Why didn’t I buy batteries for his radio after the previous ones got bad? Now a beggar is challenging his intelligence and social awareness. I am not going to go down with a fight.
Collins said determining not to lose this one ‘So what has that got to do with bus not coming here to carry passengers? All this dumb Nigerians that love strikes, they are really lazy people. Today Universities are on strike, tomorrow it is Teachers, next it is Doctors and Medical workers then even judicial workers go on strike. God help us all.’
The beggar said turning towards his right side as if to scout for another target to ask for money. ‘There is nothing wrong with citizens trying to get better welfare and better pay cheques. They have to struggle to get what they want. All great revolutions of the world like the French Revolution and the Arab Spring didn’t get their results on a platter of gold but pure determination to get results.’
Collins was stunned by the intelligence of this beggar. He had to ask him some questions. ‘Do you get your intelligence from listening to the local radio or a foreign one?’
The beggar smiled picking his hair ‘Not at all. It might come as a surprise to you I studied law in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife but never had the opportunity to go to law school.’
Collins looked at the wretched beggar in disbelief. ‘How did you, I mean how did you end up as a beggar.’
The beggar inhaled the air for a while and said ‘It is a long story my friend. I don’t know where to even start from.’
Collins now interested in hearing the beggar talk than ever said ‘Start from after your degree.’
………………………………..to be continued