#BounceExclusive: Are These People Begging For God?
Lagos is now replete with all types of beggars as the trade has become the fastest 'legitimate' way of getting easy money.
From a time when the majority of beggars were those with physical infirmities, the state has witnessed a wave of heterogeneous groups that includes children under the age of 10 and the elderly.
Lately, able bodied men and women strapped with babies have joined the bandwagon of the Lagos hustle.
Among these able bodied beggars are those that are usually deck in white garment- white iro, buba and white sweaty shawls to match.
From Motor parks to major bus terminals and busy markets, they roam strategically soliciting for alms.
They appear to be in degrees as some are seen either standing or walking around with some calabash covered in cowries and white cloth.
They work as groups and utter some prayers to passer-bys and ask for money.
Some have been spotted in residential areas soliciting for alms from one compound to another and from shop owners.
They Profile 'Customers'
On sight of any potential giver, they "code read" the person. This involves a quick glance at the individual to ascertain his or her social status. Clothes, shoes, bags and accessories.
Once the individual passes the short test they would immediately launch into eulogies, chanting praises while offering prayers for protection against real or imagined enemies.
These ‘spiritual beggars’ have repackaged the art of begging. They plead with your emotions and isolate the individual as much as they can to make you think you have no option but to give them something substantial.
They don’t do it like the regular everyday beggars but they don’t wear pitiful looks on their faces.
Bounce News surreptitiously tailed many of the white-dressed beggars as they looped the streets of Lagos. It was observed that almost half the people they approached dropped money into their calabashes.
Our correspondent spoke with a group of three women in Kairo Market in Oshodi but not without first giving money.
The women were cagey, but polite. They smiled blankly. They didn’t try to break away, but occasionally shook their calabash in front of our correspondent, as if to remind him of their mission.
Asked how they should be addressed, they said they are Iya Osun ((Priestess of the Osun deity).
Osun is a deity that derived its name from River Osun which flows through state of Osun, South West Nigeria. The Osun deity is believed by the natives to be their goddess of love and wealth which resides at Oshogbo, the state capital.
“We are not beggars as some people think. We are not out to rip off the public, but to invoke the protection and blessings of our queen and goddess on them; the money is a sign of appreciation to the goddess,” they revealed.
They noted that the money they collect are not all theirs as some are given back to the deity whom they have given up their souls to serve and worship throughout their lives.
Terms and Conditions Apply
They added that there are processes and conditions one must fulfill before getting the approval to go into the streets to beg in the name of Osun.
They were, however, not ready to disclose the conditions but said one must be consecrated before coming out to beg.
Though, they did not disclosed how much they make, it seems there is a high rate of return.
In Ketu area of Lagos just under the pedestrian bridge, Bounce News observed another set of the Priestess of the Osun deity.
It was gathered that this category do not beg but only sits at strategic locations with their calabash or white bowl. It was furthered gathered that people who know them particularly those seeking solutions to their problems make supplications and put their money in the bowl.
People, who believe in its potent astro-physical powers derived from the water are said to be regular customers.