There’s something common in almost every sector, company, or places in Nigeria: there are people lurking around trying to stylishly beg you for money. If you go to a supermarket, the salesperson showing you around will ask you to “roger” them, the person at the gate at that restaurant will smile at you and tell you to “drop something na, big man.” The security guard at the bank is hailing you and telling you to “do weekend for us, madam.” It is worse in places like airports, event centres, hotels – places where “big men and women” are envisaged to be.
There’s something worrisome about our begging culture: it is now ingrained so deep that it feels like people can no longer do their jobs unless they are being tipped to do so. More worrisome is that it used to be subtle, but now, it is so blatant. Before, they would whine softly into your ears like mosquitoes. Now, they not only beg with their full chest, some will sabotage your efforts until you learn to grease the right palms: the receptionist will not let you see oga until you “stylishly” bribe your way through; PA will refuse to let you see madam until you drop something.
Is this rampant culture of begging borne of greed or poverty?
Millions of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, which means they live below a dollar a day. A lot of employees are also underpaid. That gateman who is ‘scoping’ you for 500 naira probably earns 25,000 naira monthly and has a wife and children to take care of. That salesgirl is probably being paid 40,000 naira monthly and by the time you calculate her transportation, feeding and accommodation, she has nothing left for the month. Stylishly begging people for money is the only way she can stay afloat financially.
There’s hunger, unemployment, poor salaries, poor work environment, and many more. But do all these justify this culture of begging that is now so rampant? Because even the person you are begging from could be just as broke as you are. Laslas, we are all just managing.
If we can excuse this as poverty, how do we explain the civil servants who are being paid their salaries but will still make sure they extort other citizens? To process and collect your passport, you have to tip, tip, tip. Failure to do so and you will “sleep dia.” To do ordinary affidavit, you will pay about 1500 naira and 250 naira is what will reflect in your receipt.
We may claim that the system is corrupt but this system is not machine-operated or filled with faceless people. It is humans – like you and I – that are behind the “system.” So what is the problem? Greed? Poverty? The eagerness to reap from where they did not sow? The need to trample on others? Power-hungriness?
Beyond trying to identify this problem, how can we stop this? If that security man at the gate begs you for money and you don’t give him, is that not wickedness? If you give him, are you not encouraging the culture of begging?
If you refuse to bribe your way through at the passport office or in your university, you probably will not get your passport or transcript when you need it. If you do, you are also part of the people fostering the system of begi-begi and corruption.
So, what to do?
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