From the Streets, Back to the Streets
I awoke abruptly to the sharp sting of a cane on my back. “Stand up! Give me all you have! Now!” But I had nothing.
I almost passed out from the consequent beating.
I was not always on the street. My father, a Muslim priest, had four wives and 26 children. My mother’s inclination to Christianity made my parents separate. This situation was tough on my younger brother and me. We were never sure of our next meal. Staying hungry for the whole day became a custom. One day, I saw some children in my neighborhood scavenging and making money. I followed them and was able to make enough money to fill my belly. That’s how I began collecting waste and selling them for a living.
At the age of 10, I started living on the street. My first night there was hell. After finding a place to stay with other street children, I was not aware of the night raids by the older boys. They came demanding money. Since I had nothing, I was beaten to a point that I almost passed out. One boy pleaded on my behalf promising to have money ready for them the next day.
I was left with two options, run away or steal. Running away would postpone the trouble as the same thing will repeat as long as I’m on the streets. Stealing was the only option for me.
I robbed a beggar and found a lot of money in his bag. That night I was made the king of the street because I was able to pay off all the older boys with the money I stole. The street welcomed me!
This experience introduced me and a few others to another craft, stealing from beggars. We formed a gang, of which I became the leader. I became so violent. I fought and stabbed people even at the smallest provocation. Many of us were introduced to drugs and street fights. I remember my first time taking drugs. The world turned upside down, I couldn’t move my legs. That was my last time. But this was not the case for all, some continued taking drugs, and many went into armed robbery and rape.
Our gang was often hired to fight for people. Once we were invited to a school to fight a group. That was a dark day for us. We were beaten mercilessly by another gang, and I sustained several injuries. I couldn’t even get these wounds treated. I tried to cover the wounds with clothes but flies hovered over me.
We moved from one place to another hiding from the people we fought. Staying on the streets became tiring. Despite knowing my family’s house I did not go back as there was nothing left there. My mother had left, my siblings had shifted, and my younger brother and I were on the streets. To date, my brother refuses to leave the street.
I hated my existence, I wanted to end it all. I cannot forget the pain and loneliness I felt at that point. When I saw other children being pampered and cared for by their parents, I thought to myself, ‘Why couldn’t I just be a child and have a loved one care for me? Instead, I’m all alone.’
During one such day, a man walked up to me, talked to me for a long time, and asked if I would like to return to school. I quickly accepted. He took me to his house.
For the first time in many years, I slept in a room with a closed door and had someone cook for me. Because of the man’s financial situation, he was not able to finance my education.
At 22 years of age, I could not read or write, not even my name. I decided to relocate to Lagos. I rode an auto bike in the morning and attended classes in the evening with private teachers. Later, I was able to settle down.
During this period I could not bear seeing street children. I easily connected with their struggles, and I made up my mind to create a platform where they can all discover and explore their potential. Helping street children and youths find their purpose became my passion.