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A Thank You Note To Our Unsung Heroes

The fabric of our society is made up of diverse people from various socio-cultural backgrounds. In one way or another, we all contribute to making up the whole that is Nigeria. And it is easy to get lost in the sea of people especially if you are not a celebrity, politician, or a celebrity.

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For International Workers’ Day 2021, we asked some Nigerians to write a thank you note to people whose contributions to our society are often overlooked and underappreciated.

Sweepers
Thank you to the heroes who wake up every morning to ensure we can live like sane beings.

To those women and men, with brooms, picking dirt, sweeping the floor, packing sands, and ensuring the roads are clean in all kinds of weather, even though they’d rather be in bed.

A Thank You Note To Our Unsung Heroes

The ones with long brooms, picking after children who still throw dirt on the ground while they are still working, the ones who transfer no form of frustration on erring passers-by, who you find even during rainy seasons, diligently doing their jobs while others are running from the hard knocks from each raindrop.

With no personal car, and often with no means of personal transportation, I wonder how they get to their duty posts before 6 am.

Despite the high risk of danger inherent in working so close to fast-moving vehicles, they remain dogged to make our city roads clean.

They clean the dust and grime off the city’s roads, bending over for hours which leaves many of them with debilitating aches and pains.

The dust of the dirt, exhaust fume released from passing vehicles, odour, and other dirt are not enough to make you forsake us.

Usually clad in orange or lemon jumpsuits – across Lagos roads with little or no health insurance, the hundreds of street sweepers are our unsung heroes.

Thank you for keeping our city’s road clean despite all odds! I must say without you, our city will be inhabitable! I mean, you were greatly missed when you were taken off the streets some years back but thankfully you are back and you are doing a great job! We appreciate your diligent work.

Food Vendors

A Thank You Note To Our Unsung Heroes

Thank you to the roadside vendor, the one whose titillating scent causes me to make a stop every morning on my way to the office. Jostling for a space on the queue of many other food lovers like myself, craving for a taste from the steaming cooler of porridge, the glistening whiteness of the white rice, and the winking stare of her party-jollof. For a bachelor like myself who cannot cook to save his life, the sight of your stew-soaked
ponmo, meat, fish, and egg is like finding an oasis in the desert.

Can I say thank you for the extra spoons you have scooped into my takeaway pack for being a regular customer? Can I appreciate you enough for the satisfaction you have brought my rumbling stomach or the sweetness my tongue has savoured from your food?

My thanks will not be enough if I fail to thank Mummy CY for the secret heaven on earth that is her shed where the most glorious swallow foods are consumed. Monday is for the mind-blowing melon soup that I like laced with okra soup. Tuesdays is a tasty one thanks to the aromatic vegetable soup while I look forward to a wonderful Wednesday because of the unforgettable Afang soup and goat meat.

My thank you would be incomplete if I fail to acknowledge the services of the traffic vendors, ever ready with their bottles of soft drinks and quick bites. Your resilience to survive while also providing for the needs of others is well appreciated.

To all the unsung food vendors that have been saving lives since time immemorial, this one’s for you.

Thank you for considering our safety, I do not have to purge out my soul just because you fed me.

Thank you for filling our bellies and making us forget the pangs of hunger. Thank you for replacing it with a mouthful of joy that leaves us yearning for more.

Humanitarians
“The next evolutionary step is for humankind to move from man to kind.”

Bad government decisions, armed conflicts, and natural disasters often lead to humanitarian crises that create a vacuum that the government may lack the will to fill.

This void is what aid workers and charity organizations fill taking it upon themselves to help people who are victims of war, natural disaster, catastrophe, hunger, disease, poverty, and orphans by supplying them with food, shelter, medical aid, and other fundamental needs.

Yet, it is unfortunate that in spite of the help that aid workers provide, they often become victims of attacks and kidnapping. Just last week, the United Nations announced that it has suspended aid operations in conflict-ridden Damasak in the Nigerian state of Borno after armed groups attacked aid workers and humanitarian agencies.

The spokesman for the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke reiterated that “humanitarian aid operations and facilities are the lifeline of people in northeast Nigeria who depend on our assistance to survive.”

2019 surpassed all previously recorded years in the number of major attacks committed against aid workers. It was the worst year to be an aid worker. A total of 483 aid workers were killed, kidnapped or wounded in separate incidents of violence, the highest on record, according to independent research group Humanitarian Outcomes.

One-third of deaths occur in the first three months of deployment, with 17% occurring within the first 30 days.

Aid workers are exposed to tough conditions and have to be flexible, resilient, and responsible in an environment that humans are not psychologically supposed to deal with, in such severe conditions that trauma is common. In recent years, a number of concerns have been raised about the mental health of aid workers.

The most prevalent issue faced by humanitarian aid workers is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Adjustment to normal life again can be a problem, with feelings such as guilt being caused by the simple knowledge that international aid workers can leave a crisis zone, whilst nationals cannot.

A 2015 survey conducted by The Guardian UK, with aid workers of the Global Development Professionals Network, revealed that 79 percent experienced mental health issues.

It is for the aforementioned reason and more that I am saying thank you. Thank you for wrapping that abandoned baby with love and warmth. Thank you for not giving up on those displaced people.

We would not have been in a better world without you, thank you for existing and for constantly struggling to keep up the outstanding work despite the hard economy and challenges faced in so many third-world countries.

The world is habitable because of you. Thank you for extending love and kindness to others unconditionally.

You
In a world where everything is changing, Nigeria seems to be at one spot with no visible growth and this has affected the growth of Nigerians in more ways than one. In August 2020, Nigeria made it to the news as the poverty capital of the world, and reports from the World Bank corroborated this. The report states:

“The macro-micro simulations show that more than 10 million Nigerians could be pushed into poverty by the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis alone. Were the crisis not to have hit (a “counterfactual” scenario), the poverty headcount rate—as per the national poverty line—would remain virtually unchanged at a little over 40%, although the number of poor people would be set to rise from 82.9 million in 2019 to 90.0 million in 2022 because of natural population growth.”

Therefore, to survive in a country like this, it demands a high level of determination. This is what most Nigerians have, a tenacity to survive despite all odds.

So many businesses sprouting up every day, from mini-importation, cryptocurrency trading, writing, social media management, to influencing and so much more. These different businesses show that an average Nigerian is hardworking and ready to earn a living despite the government’s failure to provide a sustainable livelihood for its citizens.

These actions you take for the sake of survival make you a hero. You are a hero for creating a source of living for yourself despite all odds, a hero for choosing to survive in a country where survival is a herculean task, a hero for never giving up, a hero for continually finding a way when it seems impossible.

Today, take some time off to appreciate yourself and all you do, you are a worker that deserves to be praised. Instead of beating yourself up, remember you have made it this far, and that itself deserves an accolade.

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