I was a beggar at Gbagi market in Ibadan, unlike most beggars I was different; I was the only beggar who didn’t dress poorly. On Fridays I wear my Jalamia and put on my slip-ons; and head to the market to beg. I was a rich beggar.
The day is always dark and wearisome for a beggar who came from the north; especially the hopeless ones. I was a famous Almajiri then in Gusau, Zamfara. We would carry our bowls and sing all around the streets until a rich man would stop us to give us fifty naira minted notes, then you see our face gradually phasing into a grin, then finally we smiled and begin to hail the rich man. We would sing behind his car as he drove away, but most times they don’t have a car; so we just sing behind them until the man is excited and hand us more money in order to stop tailing him as how a fly chases a boy who has defecated in his school uniform.
There were darker days; when we troll day and night and we would not see a rich man – to us rich men are those who give us money or food even if he dressed like us. With the agreement in our own caucus; to sleep at a beautiful building closest to us – as usual; everybody preferred Alhaji Usman’s apartment, not only for his jovial character but for that of his sons. We all would sit in his compound; including him and his children and would talk and laugh together until we all fell asleep. That night I wasn’t dozing off, I was attentive and was ready to learn from the stories he used to round off the discussion.
“Wealth is not someone’s property but the inheritance of the Non-complacent” He rounded the story and went into his room to sleep. My ribcage knocked me off times without number, and for the first time; the suya disturbed my tummy but until daybreak I kept on pondering on Alhaji Usman’s story.
“Once upon a time” he began, but we rather shouted ‘sannu baba nmu’ since we didn’t understand his language. His wife was running late for our night Kunus, “Matta! Matta! Ka y’isori mana, kaji ko?” “Na Ji” was the reply that followed. Alhaja rushed in with her Djeliba dragging off the earthen floor. We licked our tongue and stared with eagerness as she served the cold Kunu on tray. Alhaji grinned and it seems the story is starting. He conversed in Hausa.
“Once upon a time, there was an Almajiri who lived in the streets of Gusau. He is someone who didn’t dream of anything except to enjoy the aroma of every Matta in the neighborhood. He was famous among his pears and they sought him for wisdom even though he is a leader who enjoys the comfort of his dream than waking up to reality.
One day a man told him how to be a wealthy man even with his financial position and his situation; do you know what he did?” Alhaji asked with a grin – making sure we are following the story. What he saw were poorly dressed figures staring back at him. He knew we were clueless about how the event will unfold in the story, so he just continued with the most admissible grin.
“He didn’t believe the man, but one day when he got tired of his life and wanted changed, he squeezed inside a lorry heading to Ibadan, and endured the tumbling loads without grunting or bracing for impact. By the time he reached Iwo Road and passengers were offloading, he jumped off the lorry with a sprained ankle; swollen eyes; and no blanket for the night’s cold. From there, he………” Alhaji was interrupted by the heavy snoring like the bleating of tired sheep and the bellowing of a used cow, I had followed the story and I wanted to know the end of his story, but when I beckoned to Alhaji to narrate it to the end. He had smiled while folding his mat and told me to complete the story myself. After grumbling and a little ponder on a clueless word, I completed the story. I had saved from nothing to pennies; to coins; to daily thrift; to working as a sales boy and gradually learning the Yoruba tongue. Now I work as a part time cleaner whilst attending lessons for SSCE; all thanks to Mr. Adedigba who having seen me accepted me into their homes and promised paying for my Exam fee: even with that I had promised myself not to stop work gradually get the knowledge for financial intelligence in the hope of getting a good job and dreaming of a family.

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