Agege underbridge

03.03.2023 Featured REPORTER’S DIARY: Trying to Know How Lagos Beggars Would Vote, I Encountered ‘Area Boys’

Published 3rd Mar, 2023

By Abimbola Abatta

“Do beggars vote during elections? Who will Lagos beggars vote for tomorrow?” Those were the questions on my mind as I set out on Friday morning, the eve of Nigeria’s presidential election.

A friend had told me there was an influx of beggars in the Agege area of Lagos State, but he could not ascertain the exact place I’d see them. I got there around 9:45 am.

At Agege Underbridge, I did not know where to turn. I decided to move around the area to see if luck would smile on me.

I walked towards the car via the railway. With wares displayed on tables, and nylons mats on the floor, sellers advertised their goods to passersby. I was not there to buy but to work, so I scouted around for beggars. I saw none at first.

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Agege || Photo Credit: Abimbola Abatta/FIJ

In an attempt to see if I would see beggars who were of voting age, I circled round Agege. I almost gave up, but then I saw Kabir (not real name).

“Sister, please, help me,” he said as I drew closer. I held a N50 note in my right hand. Before I gave him the money, I asked if he would be at the spot tomorrow, but he replied with a ‘no’.

When I asked why, he said, “There is election tomorrow.”

Then I asked if he was voting, to which he said yes. Kabir, from Kano State, said he had a permanent voter card.

“E dey for house for Sango. Na Kwakwanso I wan vote for. My centre dey Sango,” Kabir disclosed in Pidgin.

Kabir a beggar
Kabir|| Photo Credit: Abimbola Abatta/FIJ

There was no other potential interviewee in sight, so I continued my walk without a clear-cut destination. After a few minutes, I stopped at a clothing stall by the railway.

My intention was to window-shop and then gather tangible information on where I would see beggars. The seller, who later introduced himself as Ugochukwu, and I had some idle talk for a few minutes. When it was time to take my leave, I threw the question at him.

“Just after those umbrellas, you will find many beggars. They are always there,” said Ugochukwu as he pointed to the direction.

Agege || Photo Credit: Abimbola Abatta/FIJ


I had learnt to expect unforeseen circumstances while on the field, but nothing could have prepared me for the extra ‘price’ I had to pay to speak with some of these beggars.

The beggars were not really in a secluded place. There were traders all around them and teeming residents moving to and fro. So, it never occurred to me that some people could be observing my moves.

Besides, I wasn’t doing anything illegitimate. If I had sensed what was to come, perhaps I would have been more careful. Or I would have appeased the ‘gods’ of Agege before making my next move.

They were visible from afar. Not one or two. The beggars were seated on rail lines in their numbers. Men, women and children of diverse ethnicities and colours.

I moved towards the nearest group of four beggars. They were men. I initiated a conversation and two of them responded with enthusiasm. The other two ignored me.

Eji and Yemi (not real names) were eager to tell me who they wanted to vote for. But like Kabir, they were not with their PVCs.

I was engrossed in the conversation, but I noticed that some people had gathered around. I did not make anything of it at first.

The beggars' 'space'
The beggars’ ‘space’ || Photo Credit: Abimbola Abatta/FIJ

“You dey take pictures! Why you dey take their pictures?” One of them bellowed while standing in front of me.

I could feel palpitations in my chest. I was afraid my thumping heart would fall. A thousand thoughts travelled through my mind within the twinkle of an eye.

I would later learn that the dark-skinned, thin guy among them was addressed as ‘Number One’. He was one of the area boys in the area. Area boys often constitute gangs of street children, teenagers and youths.

He tried to seize my phone, but somehow, an inexplicable force made me tighten my grip on the phone. It was like a tug of war as we both held on to it.

After I had ‘settled’ him and his cohorts, he told me he was in charge of all the beggars there. But before then, I revealed my identity to him. I even showed him my ID card, but he insisted on being ‘settled’.

You get mind o. You for ask us before you start anything with them. I be the chief of this place. If you need hundred people to speak with, you will ask us first,” said Number One.

I thought I would only give those guys N1000 and they would leave me alone, I did not know they’d ask for more. After a long negotiation and plea, they pegged their ‘payment’ at N3000.

While we negotiated, I realised that they did not understand what I had come there to do. I explained to them that I simply wanted to get the perspective of Lagos beggars on the presidential election and voting in general.

Agege || Photo Credit: Abimbola Abatta/FIJ

However, it seemed they had a different interpretation of all I had said. Or maybe their uneducated minds could not fathom that a journalist has the right to ask questions. They thought I had been bankrolled.

To say that the unplanned expenses caused me pain would be an understatement. But then, it was the price I had to pay to get what I wanted. Sweet talks and pleas alone wouldn’t have afforded me a chance to speak with the beggars.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: In Osogbo, I Paid N500 to Get 5 New Naira Notes


I went back to Eji and Adeju, and we resumed our election talks.

“Are you voting tomorrow?” I asked the duo.

They both chorused ‘yes’, even though they could not show me their PVCs.

In response to who he would vote for, Eji mentioned Peter Obi, Labour Party’s candidate. And when I asked for the rationale behind his choice, he explained that he was voting for him because they are both Igbos.

“Na Peter Obi I wan vote for. Na the person wey I like I go vote. E be Igbo like me,” said Eji.

Yemi is an indigene of Abeokuta in Ogun State, and he also wanted to vote for Obi just like Eji. His reason stemmed from the apparent fact that Nigeria needed competent leadership.

“The country no good, so Peter Obi go help Nigeria. Obasanjo don tell Buhari to give power to Peter Obi. Obi go rule Nigeria,” he noted.

“I go vote for Peter Obi tomorrow morning,” said Yemi. When I asked for the location of his polling unit, he said it was in Agege.

I spoke briefly with another male beggar, and he seemed to be a supporter of Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But when I asked if he had his PVC, he simply said INEC official never came to register him.

I spoke with two female beggars, but language barrier impeded our interaction. They simply stretched their hands as I asked them election-related questions. They thought I had come to give them money or food.

The word PVC seemed strange to them. The only thing I understood from what one of them said was ‘Sokoto’. Perhaps she meant that she was an indigene of Sokoto State.

The other woman who managed to speak Pidgin was only concerned about her welfare. She kept telling me that she and other beggars were homeless while she pointed at a building that was close by.

“Na there we dey stay. We no get house,” she told me.

When I asked if she had a PVC, she said, “I no get. He no come do am give me. He no come fast.”

I could not decipher her intended message, but I assumed she meant no one had bothered to register them ahead of the election.

In the spirit of love and humanity, I gave some of them what I could afford. But as I left their world to return to mine, I wondered how it felt to beg for alms just to survive daily. I also wondered if they had big dreams and wishes.

Published 3rd Mar, 2023

By Abimbola Abatta


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