Disability day: Lift a soul

International Day of People with Disability – Thank you Faith Jegede for this inspiring Tedtalks.

Growing up in Nigeria, I must have laughed hundred of times at people with disability because that is what everyone around me does. Faith brothers if her family are in Nigeria would be called Dindinrin (stupid). Her mother would have been blamed too many times for the boys’ condition – all that God created were good so whatever we do not understand, the mother in most cases get the blame.

Alhaja is looking for a job and lucky me got to be her interviewer, as we chatted along, she mentioned her village to be Abata Egba in Ife. I was excited as that is my brother-in-law’s village so I ask if Alhaja knew my sister’s in-law’s family. Alhaja knew them too well. Apparently Alhaja used to date my brother-in-law so I was super-patience listening without revealing my relationship with the Baba Tope. She revealed my sister’s mother-in-law told her it was a mistake that her son did not marry Alhaja because the wife (my sister)  her son ended up with had an iwin (goblin-like) for a son

By this time Alhaja was having fun telling the tale so I asked to describe how this iwin looked like, the description – Gollum from The Lord of the Rings is far more attractive.

“That boy you just described is my nephew.” I said to Alhaja. She was dumbfounded, worried she would not get the job she came for. I told Alhaja all about Emmanuel’s condition and that I was living with his family when he was born, he looks nothing like Gollum, I added.

The truth was Alhaja at the time had bigger fish to fry and I wasn’t going to sink to her level. She got the job.

Emmanuel is 21 now, still the stigma from around his home in Lagos is as rife as it was when he was 5 years old. My niece, a few months ago when home from school took Emmanuel to a three-day church retreat just to enjoy the beautiful world around him as he doesn’t get around much. I was speechless and grateful that Tope is not shy to be seen with her brother.

Emanuel had Hydrocephalus as a child, as a result had learning difficulty and because his case was not treated early, the pressure of his big head affected muscles in his legs to fully develop so now walking that I take for granted is nightmare for Emmanuel.

One of the reasons for alienating disabled people and family in Nigeria is that we sometimes think if anything isn’t the way we thought it should be for a new-born child, it must have been that someone has done something wrong or the gods/witches are at work.

Now with the world is connected than ever, we can see that we are not alone in this and a show of understanding toward disabled people around us will go a long way to lift a soul.