Nov 26, 2012

Undaunted by disability, this beggar takes care of four brothers * At 40, he looks like 10-yr-old

He arrives the Oshodi, Lagos under bridge every morning from Ifo, Ogun State, where he lives with four of his siblings in a single room. Here, he plies his 'trade' begging for alms from passersby and commuters waiting for the arrival of buses going to Obalende and CMS at the LAGBUS bus stop end of the bridge.

Anu Akinyode has congenital medical condition referred to as phocomilia (which is characterised by an absent or underdeveloped upper section of a limb; a normal-sized hand or foot attached to the trunk by a short, broad, flat limb).

A native of Abeokuta in Ogun State, Akinyode has not only been able to make ends meet so far, he has also sustained his siblings on the proceeds of begging for the past four years.

He could easily be mistaken for a 10-year-old child, his growth having been stunted by his medical condition, but Akinyode, who has perhaps been more appropriately nicknamed Agba (elderly one), is 40 years old, and is the first born among five children of the same parents.

Agba told Saturday Tribune that he started begging for alms because he had no one to help him, apparently owing to his physical challenge.

According to him, in order to survive, he devised various means to turn his disability to advantage, including performing at local parties around his neighbourhood, where he was usually given food and, sometimes, money.

"Begging is the major thing I do for a living, though once in a while, whenever I get wind of any party in my neighbourhood, I go there to dance. Despite my predicament, I am very good at dancing. Usually, that fetches me a meal, while I also get the opportunity to make some extra money," he said.

"My younger brother acts as my manager, and he is the one who brings me to and from Ifo and Oshodi everyday in public buses. It is very difficult to really say for certain the amount I make from begging on a daily basis, but conservatively, I make an average of N4,000 per day.

"What is made is shared with my brother, with whom I have an agreed sharing formula. The rest of the money is always used to take care of my other siblings as well as meeting other daily challenges such as paying my fares.

"It is not as if I enjoy begging, but when you have a government which seems uninterested in the plight of people like us, one has to resort to begging for survival. I have been using the proceeds made from begging to take care of myself and my siblings so that they don't end up on the streets."

When asked if any lady had shown interest in him despite his challenge, Agba responded by saying, "Won ya pa" (meaning, they are numerous), while also boasting that "these are all normal ladies who have no physical defect whatsoever.

"I don't have time for marriage now, though I have quite a large pool of ladies to choose from. When the time finally comes, I will make my choice from among them."

Moving from one point to another on the terrace could be a herculean task for Anu, who often depends on his brother to lift him to any place where there are many people waiting for buses. His brother usually does this not by carrying him as one does a baby, but by lifting him with one hand tucked under Anu's jaws and the other fixed firmly at the back of his head.