BY AUSTIN FAIR NWAULU
‘’There is nothing like being independent’’
Ebony black, tall, fast-paced and tolerably-humble, Mercy Achu is a typical example of a child destined to succeed in life. Hers is the thought-provoking story of an unnatural orphan.
Just 20 years old, this young girl who hails from Ogoja in Cross River State is a victim of the country’s imbalance state of affairs, poverty and deprivation.
Planlessness from the home front,[the family] whereby a father marries more wives and produces more children than he can cater for affected her too.
Her story; ‘’My mother died about five years ago when I was in JSS3 and the world turned upside down for me. Not only was I forced to withdraw from school but I became hopeless and helpless. My father would not look my way because the second wife and her own children are there. In fact things became so difficult for me that the only option was to leave the village albeit without a particular destination. But I found myself first in Ondo State first and finally in Lagos where I am currently.
‘’It’s only through God’s help and guidance that im able to survive today because I cannot say that this particular person did it for me. However, after trying my hands on some menial jobs, a Good Samaritan introduced me to a bakery where I started hawking bread. I would leave each day as early as 6 a.m, walk around the streets under rain or shine; [sometimes I would miss my way as a rookie in town] and continue.
‘’What I sold in a day was what I made do with; feeding, clothing and all others. As for accommodation, I made do with the open, hall for everybody,’’ she said
Mercy preferred being a hawker because ‘’Nigerian employers are nothing but slave dealers. They would want to use, exploit and yet refuse to pay you your salary at the end of the month. So, I decided to hawk and I must confess that I’m better off today, at least as an independent person now.’’
Determined to survive and succeed further, she has gone a step further albeit, still in the mould of hawking. Mercy has graduated from bread hawking to food hawking.
Every evening, at the Ikeja Under Bridge, she prepares quick takes like yam, indomie, jollof rice and eggs. ‘’I used my little savings to acquire cooking gas, pots and other utensils tostart the business. I make almost 2,000 naira gain a day after all expenses.’’
Just two months old into the new trade, Mercy says her ultimate plan is to secure anaccommodation for herself.
‘’it is not because I have got enough money but because I need to relax for once in my confine and review my life. I have been on the ‘’road’’ for the past five years squatting or sleeping at open spaces. Let me even sleep soundly for one night.’’
And from her myriad of confessions, most of the stories you hear about hawkers are true.
‘’Let me say, once again, that God has been with me. Otherwise, I may have done a lot of negative things out of frustration. For instance, I once thought of trying prostitution but resisted the evil temptation.’’
Men also wanted to take advantage of her plight; ‘’Men would promise to help but at the end want one’s body. I have been lucky not to fall victim anyway. On the streets also, they make the move everyday but I know what I want. I want to become somebody from nobody.’’
Mercy has more ambitions too. She wants to start a new business, nurture it and try the Nollywood industry.
‘’That has been my dream for long. I know I don’t have the basic requirements or somebody therein to help but I believe God will help out again.’’
She is not thinking of marriage now.