How I rejected street begging for Lagos Bus Conductor – Enugu man

In the face of life’s challenges and navigating through the rough waters of hardship, CHIDIOFOR FELIX, a 34-year-old physically challenged man from Ebonyi State, now works as a bus conductor in Lagos. In this interview with Lilian Edward, he opens up about his journey since losing his right leg in an accident.

Tell us about your family yourself and background.
My name is Chidiofor Felix. I am an indigene of Ebonyi State. I am not married, and I am the first in a family of seven; four boys and three girls. I attended Baptist Primary School and Ojota Secondary School both in Lagos. However, I couldn’t complete it because of the incident. When the incident happened, I had to stop school. I didn’t stop just because of the incident but because there was no money to further my education.

Can you describe the incident that made you disabled?
The accident happened when I was 12 years old. I went to the school and when we closed in the afternoon, I left the school. We live very near to the market and between my school and house there is a major road and I must cross over before I can get home. I was about to cross the road when a truck swerved to my side and climbed my leg. It was a terrible experience. I didn’t know what happened after that. But only to find out later at the hospital that my right leg was cut off. Just as I said earlier, I was very young and it was a terrible experience.

Was it at the hospital that the leg was amputated?
No. At a point, I traveled to the village, hoping that my leg would not be amputated. I believed that something positive would come out of the journey but as fate would have it, this is the situation. I later came back to Lagos. The government supported the amputation process.

Did you get support from your family and friends?
No friends at the time that the incident happened. I was always secluding myself from people when it happened. I would not talk to anyone and always sit alone. Also, I was living at my aunt’s place. My family and my aunt were supportive but refused to support the amputation.

How did you become a bus conductor in Lagos?
I am an athlete but there are several challenges and having seen some of my teammates who also engage in conductor jobs to sustain their families. They go for the job after training. Initially, I couldn’t because I was doing a shoemaker’s job until the CDA (Community Development Association) shut my shop. Then I decided to give the bus conductor job a trial. I can’t be asking people for money, or begging on the street.

Why was your shop shut by the Community Development Association?
I don’t know the reason. They usually lock it when am not around and I also break the keys but I realised I couldn’t continue to break the key, so I left. I was hoping that by October when I raise enough funds, I will find how to settle the issue of the shop and continue my shoe cobbler work.

You said you are an athlete and a shoe cobbler, tell us about it.
I played amputee football (Para-athletics), and like I said earlier am a shoemaker (cobbler). But it wasn’t fetching enough money and again the shop was locked. My shop was locked up finally when I went to a competition in Asaba. I was hoping to get some money from the competition but I was not paid. When that happened, I began to stay at home, go for training, come back, and sleep. That became my daily routine. Sometimes, I would be at home without anything to eat. I slept most time without eating except when some friends supported me. So one day, I told myself that cannot be living like that. That was when I decided to join the conductor job.

How long have you been a bus conductor and what has been the experience with passengers?
I started the job in September 2023. There are different types of passengers, some passengers could make you angry while some others are understanding.

Some people become street beggars when they are disabled. Why did you decide to work?
 Honestly, begging is not an option for me. That someone is crippled does not mean he should be a street beggar. There is no dignity in that. I give beggars money. It is not good for me to be begging.

Do you experience any form of discrimination among people because of your condition?
Discrimination is everywhere. But Nigerians are beginning to understand lots of things. You may want to enter a place and you are not allowed because you are physically challenged. Some levels of discrimination we experience are killing. That notwithstanding, we are loving people. If you stay in their midst when they are together you will enjoy yourself. We work conveniently with those who are not disabled. For instance, most of our bus drivers are not physically challenged, and we get along so well.

If you had the opportunity to turn back the hands of time, what would be your heart’s desire?
My heart desires would be to have my two legs and be able to walk around again without crutches. If I have a dream tomorrow to turn back the hands of time I will take my feet back. Because If I have that foot, I am a goal-getter. I pursue my goals till I get them.

What is your plan now and how to do plan to achieve it?
Currently, I plan to have my Bus to be able to effectively run the transportation business to have a good quality of life.

About Lillian Edward

Lillian Edward is an Reporter with National Telescope Newspaper. She specialises in writing health, education, politics and general news. Email: Edward@nationaltelescope.com

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