Sweeping solace on pedestrian bridge


By Shafihi Abdulrasheed O.

On a sunny afternoon on the streets of Abuja, vehicles hustled and feet pattered the Gwarinpa pedestrian bridge, overlooking this familiar frenzy and tireless hands which move with quiet diligence. There goes a black but shining dude who sweeps the pavement, gathering piles of discarded papers and dirt in his worn broom.

One hand holding the broom and the other firm on the ground to move an inch or two forward. Beneath it, are his legs and his feet well shod in improvised flip-flops to protect twisted toes that never found footing.



As a corp member attached to Environmental Protection and Sanitation CDs, today is the third time I’ll be meeting this selfless man sweeping the pedestrian bridge on my way home from Monday CDs. I moved closer and asked what the guy’s name was. He couldn’t answer, I guess he couldn’t speak in English, but in Hausa. On my side, I couldn’t speak in Hausa, but in English. What a dilemma I had on my hands. All I could do was ask for his name in Hausa. Menene sunan ka? I asked. Abdullahi, he responded. I tried to make gestures to affirm if he sweeps the pedestrian bridge everyday, and he said yes. I was wowed!

I looked at Abdullahi again and this time more closely. His feet may fail at the tread, but Abdullahi’s spirit stands tall ensuring a safe and clean pedestrian bridge. For a few hours each day, I discovered he made his way to this little cut of community that has become his own. While I was with him, walkers passed us by, barely a glance at the cropped sweeper giving his all.

Amidst all of these, Abdullahi pays no mind, instead, he finds solace in this simple act of caretaking, keeping the pedestrian bridge clean for fellow feet. The fact remains this sliver of concrete has given him purpose, but pitying eyes only saw disability and disbelief.

So, Abdullahi sweeps on. His broom is whisking as the cars zoom below. From his diligence springs the lesson that no one is too infirm to contribute their quota in tending to society’s little needs. His quiet unsung service rekindles inspiration and reawakens our duty of care for the environment we each walk through every day. Though the bridge users or crossers may rarely show thanks, their accessibility owing in part to Abdullahi’s faithful service.

If I may ask you, in what way do you think we can celebrate Abdullahi for his wonderful service? Of course, Abdullahi had every reason in this world to join millions of other Nigerians scattered across zones on the streets to beg but he’s decided to be impactful and fruitful for the community. Celebrating Abdullahi will put a smile on nature and we all should be down for it.

Shafihi Abdulrasheed is a corps member. He writes from Abuja. He can be reached via [email protected]


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