Mama Ose sits down in her smoke covered kitchen with mud walls and thatched roof. She has been awake since 4 am. She is packing food in various sizes of the cooler box before she will leave the kitchen and prepare for another day struggle. She is the mother of five children. Ose, the oldest is in SS2. He is helping his mother to prepare her wares for today’s market. She is a mobile food vendor who sells food at the popular Oba Market in Benin City. The proceeds from the food business have been the only source of income for the family of seven. Her husband is invalid, he was formerly a bus driver.
But his fate changed when he was picked by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Force renowned for extortion, extrajudicial killings, harassment and abuse of human rights as a suspect in a kidnap case. He was detained and tortured through crude means by the notorious and lawless unit, he lost his lower limb and has become paralyzed since then. His wife became burdened with catering for the responsibilities of the family. Her family has been dealt with a cruel blow by the government. She was selling clothes previously in the east-side of the Oba market before her stall was destroyed by government town planners, and they failed to provide new stalls for those affected as initially promised.
Her day starts at 4 am when she starts cooking varieties of food for her business. Around 7 am, she sets out to Oba market on foot, 7 km away from home, with her food arranged perfectly in a wheelbarrow. When she gets to the market, she is stationed near Ewuare’s Park to sell her food around 11 am when the park becomes scanty, she heads to Police station road and sells to other customers. Her wares finish around 2 pm every day and she enters the market to buy foodstuffs to cook for the next day. She hurries home around 4 pm to tend to her husband and change his beddings which he may have excreted on.
The business has been fair to her though the struggles have an adverse effect on her health; she is always on painkillers and anti-hypertensive drugs due to constant high blood pressure. Few times in a week, she and other vendors try to evade market taskforce constituted by the government to checkmate roadside businesses. The task force has warned them to get a stall and stop selling their wares by the roadside. However, the vendors with the majority; the victims of the government’s high handedness and insensitivity, when they destroyed their market without a plan for them, have pleaded with the government to find an alternative place for them. Rather than listen to their pleas, the corrupt officials took advantage of the poor women like Mama Ose and continuously extort them.
When Mama Ose got to her spot, she was dishing food to a young customer when she saw a group of boys rushing to her stand. She didn’t see them on time. Therefore, before she could arrange her wares to escape the fury of the boys, they caught up with her. One of them held her, while their presumed leader, in a hoarse voice, hurled abuses on her. He told her that nemesis had caught up with her, and she will be taught a memorable lesson. Mama Ose fell on her knees and made passionate pleas to the group of boys who were thirsty to display their power. Many persons in the park joined her in pleading with them; she held the leader’s shirt and begged with all her breathe.
The more she begged, the more irritated the chief becomes. He shoved her away angrily and ordered his boys to do their job to enable them to get other perpetrators quickly before they escape. The boys, acting like dogs let loose from their leash, turned the wheelbarrow upside down and knocked over Mama Ose’s sweat. Her jollof rice, fried plantain, boiled eggs, etc. covered the ground. She rolled on the floor crying uncontrollably, her only crime was being a poor Nigerian. Why will she be dealt with such a punishment? Her wares could have been seized or ordered to pay a fine. Why throw away well-prepared meal that has been the only source of living for her family?
Many will argue that she knew the law, but still disobeyed it; then, she should bear whatever punishment that comes from it. However, we always forget how the insensitivity of government has pushed many persons, especially the poor to the wall, where they have to devise unconventional means to just survive. Mama Ose’s stable business of selling clothes was crumbled by a government without a plan when they destroyed her shop without providing an alternative for her. Her husband became a victim of a notorious security agency that was supposed to protect him. The Nigerian government throws its poor citizens off from a moving train, and the strong who dare to survive are crushed for trying to survive. It is a crime to be poor, but it is a bigger crime to be poor in Nigeria because all the laws and policies are simply created to stifle you and remove your human dignity.