A beggar and a labourer had a chance meeting with a man from “dreamland” and their stories changed dramatically. JOHN OFIKEHNUA reports
IT LOOKS like a fairy tale from a fiction book, or a folklore, told by a talented storyteller. It is the story of an Abuja beggar, Fatima Adamu, and an itinerant labourer, Usher Titus. Ordinarily, it sounds too good to be true, but it is real! It began on a cloudy afternoon at Wuse 2 area some three weeks ago. For five years, Fatima has been eking out a living as a street beggar, choosing a particular location in the highbrow district as her “duty post”.
The 41-year-old widow and mother of seven had set out as usual, with her little daughter for the day’s schedule of a typical mendicant. Since she started begging after her husband’s death, collections usually come in trickles of N10, N20, N50, N100 and N200 on very rare occasions. She usually raked in an average of N400 as daily take-home or N500-N600 on a good day. Then suddenly, this unusual alms giver appeared from nowhere. Fatima reeled out her practised chants, focusing on the well dressed prospective giver with expectation.
But instead of giving out his alms and walking away as others do, the strange man started asking Fatima questions. There was, however, a language barrier as the man could only communicate with her in English Language. Fatima, who had never stepped her feet in any classroom all her life, could not understand what the stranger was saying. Ba n’da jin turenchi ( I don’t understand English) was her response.
An itinerant labourer, Usher Titus, was sitting a few metres away, watching the unfolding drama. He couldn’t get anyone to engage his services all day, so he had plenty of time to play with. The man beckoned to Titus to help interpret what the beggar was saying. And Titus joined the two who could not understand each other. That was how Titus, a 34-year-old native of insurgency ravaged Gwoza, Borno State, became an interpreter. He attended secondary school and speaks Hausa fluently so he could understand what the two were saying in their different languages. And with the help of Titus, the man got to know the pathetic story of Fatima and how she came about begging.
After listening to her story, the man decided immediately to change Fatima’s life for good. Speaking through the interpreter (Titus), the man promised to give Fatima N1million to start a business. Then he looked at Titus and said, “I will give you N1million also.”
Although Titus, unlike Fatima, knew exactly what a million naira is, he considered the strange offer a ruse. Then the man gave out his complimentary card and asked Fatima and Titus to come and collect the N1million each he promised them. It took them three weeks to respond to the invitation, apparently in doubt of the man’s sincerity. With nothing to lose, Titus linked up with Fatima and they proceeded to the address indicated in the man’s complimentary card.
So, on September 8, 2019, in the afternoon, the two arrived at the Abuja office of Belema Oil Producing Limited where they met with the “strange man”, Mr. Jack-Rich Tien Jnr, Founder/President of the company. Tien, an Engineer, received his visitors with open arms and was delighted that they honoured the invitation. And like play, like play, as it is said in street parlance, the oil magnate summoned his staffers and ordered them to arrange the cash in two parcels of N1 million each.
On sighting the raw cash, the beggar and the labourer started to quiver in disbelief. They became nervous. Their dream became a reality when the oil magnate handed them the money. There was, however, a mild drama as Fatima had no bank account to deposit the cash. As she was informed of the risk of handling a huge amount of cash by herself, she became momentarily disillusioned, thinking that the oil magnate had changed his mind. She suggested that the money be placed in the bank account of her 25-year-old son, Bashiru. But Tien initially expressed misgivings over the trustworthiness of today’s young men, fearing Bahiru might end up squandering the money.
But Fatima vouched for her son’s integrity and was able to convince the oil chief to get the money deposited in Bahiru’s account. With goose pimples stringing all over him, Titus could not believe his luck as he narrated his story and how he stumbled on Tien. “I finished from Government Secondary School, Gwoza in 2004. I wrote and passed the Senior Secondaey School Certificate, but since all my siblings are in school and my father is not capable of sponsoring all of us. I had to do menial jobs for sustenance. On that fateful day, I was on a site in Wuse 2, where Senator Philip Aduda had just bought a house that we were refurbishing. I was taken as a labourer there when we met. I had worked with construction companies before now”
Asked whether he knew Jack-Tien before the encounter, he said: “No, he didn’t know me. It was just God’s doing”.
Titus said the gesture has taught him some lessons about giving. According to him, when the CEO asked him how much he required to start his own business, he requested for N600,000. Now he has got N1million from a man he just met by chance. On what he intends doing with the money, Titus said he was going to rent a shop where he would be selling bags of cement.
Fatima said Tien has made her realise that differences in religion and ethnic groups are no barriers to philanthropy. She promised to manage the fund prudently to avoid returning to the streets for begging. “Allah, I thank you, Tien, I thank you. I will continue to pray for Tien for the rest of my life,” she said.
Titus thanked the Belemaoil chief profusely, saying he will ever remain grateful to the man who has touched his life and changed his story.
Tien’s company also has a Foundation that runs a charity. Its Programme Adviser, Mr. Obinna Nwaneri, said the Foundation stands for charity and service to humanity.
Nwaneri said Tien has always demonstrated a strong passion for business support and fighting poverty.
Tien, who is the Foundation’s President, said in addition to the cash gift, the Foundation will organise an entrepreneurship training for two beneficiaries in the Hausa Language.