Dinner From A Lagos Dustbin

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

It was a very beautiful evening in Lagos. I was in the car, waiting for my wife to get her bag from her office so we could go home together. Then, I saw him, as he passed, looking very hungry and haggard. The general consensus here is that he is not mad. At least, not yet. He is clearly traumatized by the impossible condition in which he struggles to exist each day.

Suddenly, his hungry eyes caught the dustbin, outside the office complex, a few meters away from where my car was packed. He appeared so elated at his find. His face creased into an awful gesture, which he probably meant to be a smile. Then, with a quickened pace, he made for the dustbin, and began to desperately rummage in it, among its decayed, putrid, stinking contents. He seemed afraid that someone might come out to drive him away before he was through.

An idea occurred to me immediately. Nigerians ought to share this heart-rending image with me. Yes, my camera was at the backseat, I remembered. I quickly reached for it, and with a greater part of me hidden behind the windshield, I took two shots of him while he was still busy searching and collecting some items triumphantly. Then my third shot caught him as he made to move away with his booty. And within a few minutes, he went down the street and was gone.

This, too, is a Nigerian. Like you and I. Like Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Like David Mark. Like Patricia Etteh. Like Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (the founder/father of Modern Nigeria). Like National Assembly Members. Like former State Governors. Like former ministers and Super Special Advisers. Like some Local Government Chairmen. All now incredibly wealthy after just a few years of “self-less service to the nation”!

If this hapless Nigerian had heard that houses are renovated and/or upgraded in Abuja with a mere “ paltry sum” of N628 million, he didn’t show it. He was just content to invade the dustbins, to fill his stomach with its putrid contents, until life, his life, reaches a T-junction, where, his candle would be cruelly extinguished by the violent wind of the unspeakable callousness of Nigerian leaders.

By the way, is Umaru Dikko reading this?

That is the reality of present day Nigeria. And make no mistake about it, there are several others like him out there, who would never have anything to eat today, until they are able to find a dustbin rich enough to yield them a meal.

Perhaps, this fellow voted in the last election. Perhaps, he did not. But those who are supposed to take care of him are out there in Abuja and other points of power engaging in unspeakable profligacy, with the commonwealth, from which they have carefully insulated him. While he dies slowly, and miserably.

What a nation.

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Placid September 19, 2007 - 12:25 pm

Excellent writer. This is a fact of today's Nigeria. What a shame. I am glad you blurred his face to avoid his public identification. Very good journalism.

Anonymous September 16, 2007 - 7:43 am

The truth. Nigeria needs to stop claiming that giant of Africa rubbish. Clearly we are not.

John September 15, 2007 - 7:35 pm

Black African leaders especially Nigerian 'leaders' are morally and intellectually a disgrace to humanity this is why they do not have the guts to put strong institutions in place to genuinely touch the lives of fellow citizens in a positive way. There is no where on this planet that such a greedy elite exist other than Nigeria. For almost 50years now only the masses that have always sacrificed when it should have been the opposite in societies where there is decency. Isn't it insulting to all Nigerians that these people keep recycling themselves and we sit and the whole country being driven to oblivion? There is nowhere on the face of the earth where a government is run the way it is in Nigeria. These bunch of criminals in the National house are suggesting no inventory was taken when the former speaker vacated? the former speaker should also be interrogated and be made to furnish it as it was when he lived there. Where public funds should be used to build mosques and churches in civil servants residencies? How can we allow our bureaucracy award contracts worth hundreds of millions all of Naira in the manner it was done by the thieves at the National house? how much was going to get back to the primitive idiots at the house? I need to take a deep breath because my heart is skipping bits as I write……I am beginning to doubt the sincerity of the President, the AGF is distracting the EFCC and nothing is being said?, all he was alleged to have said on the beautician’s shallowness is for her to be allowed to defend herself?, this is a president serious about fighting corruption? Is this not a financial crime? why the EFCC was not called to investigate the matter right away? In the light of all these questions how does the minister of external affairs think he can bully others to respect Nigeria & Nigerians when the same law enforcement agents of these countries arrest and prosecute Nigerian Governors, senators, 419ers, drug pushers etc? As far as I am concerned, our so called leaders have equally and are still bringing disrepute to Nigeria and Nigerians alike. Everything about the stinks and it is up to us to work towards changing the status in order to earn our respect back. Normal human beings around the globe are not stupid. Drug pushers are given only 6 months when caught, public servants caught stealing billions are given a pat on the back and celebrated, a country where 90% are destitute yet dubious contract awards are the norm, who will ever take us seriously given these picture?…I rest my case before my heart stops beating.. May God help us if he/she has not given up on Nigeria.

Paul September 15, 2007 - 7:16 pm

This write-up said it all. Most Nigerians are really dying of hunger because many are without jobs, decent accommodations, electricity, good roads, etc. To make matters worse, many are without any means of livelihood and the only alternative left to many is to indulge in scavenging with the hope of finding something for the belly. The other options are for many to rob, steal, or kill in order to survive the painful situation that the country has provided them. The leaders are to blame for the deplorable situation prevailing in the country today. When Obasanjo was there, he behaved as if he was possessed. This man banned the importation of all the staple foodstuffs, like Rice, Beans and Chicken to mention a few, in a country where local production has never been adequate to meet demand. He wanted all Nigerians to rely on his OTAH Farm for food even where it was obvious that he stole Nigeria's money to resuscitate his farm. In Nigeria, you're always on your own, unless you're fortunate to have a family member in government or you have a relation abroad, otherwise, survival becomes an impossible mission. There is no reason why many Nigerians should live in abject poverty in a country that is so blessed with oil. President Yar'Adua, the ball is now in your court to turn the situation around for the benefit of every Nigeria, home or abroad.

Bubbles September 15, 2007 - 3:28 pm

One doesn't need to search hard to find Nigerians are suffering. As far as I'm concerned the country is being enjoyed by the top 15% of the population.

Thank you for pixellating his face.

Rosie September 14, 2007 - 5:08 pm

I like the write-up. I am uncomfortable with the fact this man's image is posted on the net without his knowledge.

ifeoma September 14, 2007 - 3:02 pm

they say we are the gaint of Africa yet i see no strength in our country. our country is rich enuogh to take care of both the poor and the homeless but our selfish leaders think about themselves and their families alone and let the ordinary nigeria die in hunger and shame.

may God give us a leader and not a ruler. Amen


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