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Amputee hawker as a metaphor

Published by The Nation on Wed, 05 May 2021

By Dele AdeoluwaMary Daniel came upon us as a bold statement. She at once evinced dignity of labour. Sheer grit to survive all odds. In the words of elders, a one-eyed man is king in a blind colony.In our climes where physical disability is a passport to the degrading world of begging, 27-year- old Daniel, the sensational Oshodi, Lagos amputee hawker, chose to be different or so it seemed. Rather than sulk in self-pity and begin to live on others through the naturally well cut out channel of begging, she chose the inimitable path of earning a living through the sweats of her brow.This was the visage implanted in the hearts of her potential benefactors when her pictures went viral on the social media as an amputee sachet pure water hawker at Oshodi, Lagos, some weeks back.Naturally, seeing a one-legged, full grown up lady hoping like a frog in the usually dangerous Lagos traffic, with only a crutch to lean on as she scampered after vehicles to be able to sell, immediately stirs a rivulet of pity and admiration in your veins.Hawking in the notorious Lagos traffic is battle, even for the able-bodied, let alone the physically challenged. You have to be prepared to sprint crazily after vehicles that would suddenly move in the unpredictable traffic, just when you are about to be paid for items already bought.What about the gritty task of having to contend with the equally unpredictable elements and the Lagos Task Force men as well as KAI (Kick Against Indiscipline) operatives whose bid is to, among others, rid the state of the unsightly band of hawkers as part of the agenda of turning Lagos into a mega city. You need to see these hawkers do the sprinting of their lives in a desperate bid to evade the sanitation officials, who constantly raid and arrest them as well as confiscate their wares. You can then imagine how an amputee could manage to survive the iniquitous situation.That aptly sums up why kind-hearted Nigerians were sufficiently moved to reach into their purses to donate handsomely to the Mary Daniel fund. A former governors aide reportedly donated a million naira to the fund. And within two weeks, a hefty sum of N25million had begun to breathe comfortably in the amputee hawkers bank account!Lagos, as we all know, is home to both divides of human nature in equal extremes. On one hand, you have the kindest lot who, if possible, can donate their eyes to charity. On the other side of the coin, there are the vilest, most savage of beings who, given the chance, will not bat an eyelid to dispossess the amputee of the donated sum.The former category rallied round her and she became an instant celebrity and a cool millionaire. The Lagos State government, whose noble intention was ostensibly to encourage the rare diligence, which Daniel had ordinarily exhibited, immediately temporarily sheltered her and even threw a birthday bash for her. Of course, the government later clarified that it took the action to shield her against criminal elements who might attack her and deprive her of her fortune.She grinned and grinned as she basked in her dream world. But, as they say, the wind soon blew to expose the foul bosom of the fowl. A twist crept into the whole saga and her edifice of fortune began to totter.It was soon discovered that her presence at Oshodi was actually staged. It came to light when her partners began to bombard her with calls when they reportedly discovered that she was about to return to her Kogi home state. She was said to have promised them various sums. Those people began to demand their own share of her fortune or they will expose her.Then, the tissue of lies she had allegedly woven together to elicit sympathy began to unravel. Popular online newspaper, The Cable, did an expose on Daniel by interviewing her aunt in Abuja, who literally unmasked hermasquerade. Named Blessing Adedamola, her aunt revealed that her real name is Ojonwa Onu not Mary Daniel, she had claimed. Of course, Mary, according to the aunt, later added Onu to her newly adopted name after she had chatted with her on the internet.Adedamola said the family was not interested in her money but only wanted to disprove the lies she had told that she had no family to cater for her. She said the family didnt know when Mary, who allegedly ran away from her grandmothers house where she was staying, became pregnant until she called to announce that she had put to bed.She said she had earlier brought a boy home and introduced him as her husband-to-be but her grandmother, Juni Abu, had advised her to take the man to her paternal family since she was only her grandmother.Her aunt, according to The Cable, dispelled her claim that she lost both parents in an auto accident. The truth, she said, was that her mother actually died on October 9, 2012 but of natural causes. Her father is, however, still alive. It was also not true, she said, that Mary lost her leg at age 10 in an accident in which she was a lone survivor.The truth, according to the aunt, was that she actually lost her leg on January 13, 2006 as a four-year-old in Makurdi, Benue State, when the tyre of a speeding vehicle hit her by the road side after a burst. She added that she had to be amputated after a fruitless medical battle to save the leg.Mary was said to have claimed that she left her child with her grandmother, whereas she allegedly left the child with a former neighbour in Asaba, Delta State, where she had also sojourned. So also was her claim that her younger brother was in the village and that she was the one catering for him, said to be a lie. The boy, her aunt revealed, has been staying with another of her aunts right from when he was in JSS1 till now that he is SS1.This is the extent she went to contrive her story. The Lagos State government, in an obvious attempt not to throw away the baby with the bathwater, decided not to scandalise her but, on the governors order, handed her over to the social welfare unit in the presence of the police and Kogi elders.However, methinks Daniel (or is it Ojonwa') didnt need to resort to contrivances to get herself noticed. As a matter of fact, remove all the contrivances, the constant, indisputable fact remains that she is an amputee! That alone is enough to evoke sympathy. She ought to have just told her story exactly the way it is and get her pictures into the internet all the same. She would still have achieved the same effect.But she is a metaphor for a class of people whose stock in trade is to take advantage of Nigerians humanitarian spirit and hoodwink people into parting with money. Among them are corporate beggars who contrive a lot of junks to get people to give out.A woman was arrested recently who had built three choice houses and bought four vehicles from what one could call hi-tech begging. She confessed how she had employed 12 able-bodied men and posted them to different Nigerian cities after schooling them. They evolved all manner of tricks to get money from people. They made returns to their boss, from which she settled them.There have been reports of ordinarily-looking people who have also built houses in their villages with proceeds from the begging business. The business is as old as prostitution.One immediate implication of resorting to this kind of subterfuge to make a living is to deprive those who are honest and genuinely in need. It becomes difficult to part with your hard-earned money to help someone you dont know and is desperately in need if you have been previously conned.How do we then sift the grain from the wheat' Very Herculean task!
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