He was met on a wheelchair donning a sky blue guinea brocade top. A victim of a mysterious disease that left his right leg amputated from the thigh. He described as “cancer” what infested his leg leaving his careers with the only option of amputation if he must continue to live. Abdulahi Garba is his name.
The Warri-based beggar commands the respect and loyalty of other beggars as their chairman. He superintendents over other beggars plying their trade at the popular Igbudu Market in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. Without his express consent, other beggars would give no audience to anyone.
“I’m Abdulahi Garba from Zamfara State. I came to Warri 20 years ago. My wife is in Warri here. I have one wife here and another in Zamfara. The one in Zamfara has seven children for me. The one in Warri has two girls,” he said proudly.
Surrounded by his loyal colleagues, Garba exuded some air of humour and pathos. He’s not enamoured with his peculiar situation. He loathes begging, but cannot help it. In spite of this, his choice of two wives with its attendant implications are of less concern to him.
“I beg to survive. My children are in school. I had cancer on my leg and it had to be cut off. That’s 15 years ago. I’m about 50 years old,” the dark-complexioned Hausa-born disclosed.
Being the leader of other beggars at Igbudu Market, Garba appeared to have learnt the ropes of diplomacy. He displayed this skill when he was asked which government he preferred in terms of good life between outgone President Muhammadu Buhari-led regime and the present one. He waxed diplomatic and stood on the fence.
“For me o, between Buhari government and Tinubu’s, I can’t say which is better. They’re trying. I was a beggar during Buhari’s regime and I’m still a beggar now. Any difference?,” he quipped.
He, however, gave an insight into how he lost his limb and why sympathisers sought funds from the society to have his battered leg yanked off in order for him to live.
“My family had no money to help me further with my leg being eaten up by cancer. I begged from people and my brothers then solicited money from the public to pay the medical bill. I was billed to die, but help from people saved my soul,” he reminisced.
For Garba, ending up in life as a beggar could be averted as he’s not completely invalid. He said rather than roaming the streets on his wheelchair begging for alms, he could be more useful to himself and his family if he had a business he could do with money.
He speaks: “I can do business like selling provision in a shop if people help me.
“ Sincerely, I’m tired of begging. If I have money to start a business, I’ll stop begging. Allah is my witness. I don’t like begging.
“I believe that if all beggars here in Warri have money to start a business, the streets will be empty of beggars.
“The thought that we’re lazy and love begging and depending on others is not true. We don’t like begging.”
‘Warri’ resonates in the mind and lips of most beggars plying their trade in Delta State, perhaps because it’s the commercial nerve centre. For an average panhandler, besides being peaceful, the people are not only lively but very generous.
“Warri is peaceful. They give a lot. Warri people are good people. I’m chairman of all the beggars, so I can say authoritatively that the people are good. As for my people too, they do not make troubles,” Garba noted.
According to him, destiny helpers “can provide artificial limbs for those of us with none or one limb. We will be happy and live well. Who doesn’t want to live a complete life?”