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Moses Obroku: An Encounter with Khadijah

Moses Obroku

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As I groped for the ignition switch of the car in the dark, I heard a rap on the window by my side and saw momentarily a girl with a tray on her head trying to sell me her wares.

I did not pay her any attention, but went right back to starting the car. She knocked again, louder this time, which irritated and forced me to look up, as I saw her lips moving. Having started the car, I wound the window down to hear what she was saying even as I spat out the words ‘I don’t want to buy mango’ –
seeing that was what she had on her tray.

‘Brother please I am hungry’ she said. It was about 9:15 pm on Tuesday May 3, 2017. I had just left the grocery store in my neighborhood, trying to get home when that young girl emerged from nowhere.

‘Why are you hungry’ I asked, ‘is that not fruit you have on your tray?’

‘I have not eaten since afternoon, and I have not sold today’. I noticed her spoken English was good, and she had started to cry at the same time; so I fired a couple more questions.

‘Do you attend school?’ ‘Yes’. ‘What class are you?’ ‘Primary six’ ‘Who do you live with?’ ‘My aunt’ ‘what time did you get back from school?’ ‘Around 3 O’clock’ ‘why didn’t you eat when you got back from school?’ ‘My aunt said there is no money for food that I should go and sell first’ ‘what is your name?’ ‘Khadijat’

As I listened and looked closely at ‘Khadijat’, I realized  she may not be more than fourteen years old. The mangoes she had on her tray were the black unattractive type that looked like someone couldn’t have any more patience for them to get ripe naturally. They were the type I would not give a second glance to even if they were offered me for free. As I listened to her story, my heart broke. I gave her some money and watched her walk away, as I swore under my breath.

The little money I gave to her would at best feed her, maybe her aunt and God knows who else in her house for that evening. I got terrified when I wondered about the many more days of hunger ahead that Khadijat may be forced to endure, the criminal child labour she is subjected to, and all the unimaginable dangers lurking in the streets that she gets pushed to daily to contribute to the family’s upkeep.

I wished there was something more I could have done for that little girl to improve her situation permanently. I wished I could have called an existing Government social welfare agency that could have come to rescue the poor child that night.

While it was not impossible, Khadijat’s answers to my questions may have been half-truths; contrived or not, her standing in the street begging, having failed to sell the mangoes on her tray was real enough for me.

Her situation was surely not one any child anywhere should go through. But the cash needed to fix the country to create social security for her and many more children like her are all turning up in some cabinets in flats in Ikoyi, or buried in some graves, storage tanks or abandoned in several bank accounts in and outside Nigeria.

This cash is held by people who were supposed to administer those resources in trust for Khadijat and everyone else. And what is worse? She may even knock on the windows of cars driven by children of those who had stolen her present and future away to beg for food and get ignored, or looked upon as less than human undeserving of any attention.

The abject poverty in the country is getting unbearable. As Nigerians groan under the unnatural hardship being experienced at the moment, more people are increasingly resorting to begging to feed and meet up other basic financial obligations. I fear people can remain hungry for so long before they eventually use every means necessary to assuage their hunger.

Khadijat feebly knocked on my car window to draw my attention. Her male counterparts who are slightly older don’t knock when they appear from nowhere like apparitions during traffic gridlock in Lagos. They smash all your car windows, grabbing and making away with any of your valuables they are able to lay hands upon during daring roadside robberies, brandishing knives or even local guns should you feel stupid enough to attempt to resist them.

As she walked away, I shuddered as I wondered if she would be on the street the next day, and the day after that still trying to sell her unattractive mangoes from the tray on her head, still knocking on car windows to beg to feed if sales were poor.

I wondered too, if she would ever go beyond primary school, and eventually make a decent living; even if it is from acquiring a skill from learning a trade, just to stop begging random strangers like me.

But why is living such a difficult thing in Nigeria? How come we still grapple with stuff people in other countries take for granted as basic necessities of life? I asked no one in particular as I pulled out of where I was parked and slowly drove home.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | DiversityStudio1

Aside from being a lawyer, migration management expert, security personnel and fitness buff; there are many other sides to me. I am also a self -proclaimed foodie (and oh yes, to complement that, I can cook!). Of course, writing is my passion and I have a mission to inspire my world, one person at a time. I can be reached on [email protected] Instagram: @mosesobroku

14 Comments

  1. Tosin

    May 12, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    wallai
    we all need to change

  2. Eko Kayode

    May 12, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    This is nice, wooow!!!

  3. Jacklyn

    May 12, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Really sad. Child labour……isn’t there a law against that in Nigeria?
    However,I wonder how the state of the aunt is financially? Perhaps she is in dire need of help.

  4. exceptionalstar

    May 12, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Hmmm… it is indeed a thought provoking experience and with the alarming rate of crime, I can only only hope and pray things get better. Also brighten the corner where I am. http://www.exceptionalstar.wordpress.com

  5. @edDREAMZ

    May 12, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said…
    .
    I must leave this senseless country….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

    • No Headaches Please

      May 12, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      Well Mr Obroku is a migration expert did you read that part in his bio, or you just saw 17 paragraphs, got brain fatigue and decided to utter the only thing engraved in your brain?

      Besides Jupiter should be an option? No?

  6. Emmanuel dike

    May 12, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    What a country, richly blessed in all resources call it human resources , natural resources etc but of course with so many negative side overwhelming d God giving gift

  7. Bridget

    May 12, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    ???. An excellent write up about the state of Nigeria. I pray we become passionate enough to stand against the rubbish. Its getting too much

  8. Ivie

    May 12, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    I’m hopeful, Nigeria will get to the point where basic things as little as food is no longer a problem to the average man. Amen!

  9. curious

    May 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks boss for such a wonderful piece. Issues like these have always troubled my heart…

  10. Joy Nandhego

    May 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    God takes care of them but like you rightly put it, the ones whole stole her future are quick to judge and disregard her. No one cares about meeting the public basics, selfish Africa

  11. Theresa Doghor

    May 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    We need a solution

  12. Anu

    May 18, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Very apt. It’s heartbreaking how many more beggars we have on Nigerian streets these days.

  13. Christy

    June 5, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Quite a touching story. One comes across these scenes regularly. Nigeria has a ministry for child’s welfare, but like every other thing we do in this county, we only excel in paper works. Every where you look, child labor is being practiced. Which begs the question: what will it really cost to take these children off the streets and arrest these child abuse offenders?

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