To what extent can poverty be a setback towards the success of blind persons? Our correspondents, Nanna Selkur and Rose Owota Adah, tell a moving story of the blind living in Karmajiji, Abuja.
As one approaches this settlement, feelings of fear, insecurity and doubt begin to grip you because of the massive sight of rusty zinc and wood houses characterising the settlement, which create an image that the people living in the area may be as crude in their behaviours as buildings they occupy.
Then the sight of the lame, the blind, the cripple and the hunchback. While some categories of deformities are barely visible, others are beggaring description.
But, on a closer look you come across young and elderly men or women, who are visually impaired and they have a king: Sarkin Makafi, (king of the blind), who himself is blind-Abubakar Umar, 50.
Apart from taking care of his 22 children and four wives, his duties as the king of the blind include, settling disputes, gathering information about cities and educating the blind about cities, which they wish travel to.
According to Umar, “Education to the blind brightens their hearts; we have greater advantage in learning than those who have eyes; you see, eyes can be a great evil and positive thing.
Take for instance, you place a person who can see and a blind person in a classroom, the one that can see may be busy looking at a beautiful lady, while the teacher is teaching; but the blind man is busy, learning things that will brighten the darkness in his heart. At the end of the day that blind man outshines those that can see”.
Umar told LEADERSHIP how they have been deceived by many politicians who have visited the place on several occasions, promising to give them the necessary social amenities and the much awaited empowerment they have long been asking for.
He added: “In the past some first ladies have visited this place; they made some promises, which they have not fulfil until today; I am a craft man; I specialise in making tables, chairs, hand bags and so many other things; but there is no market to sell our goods; sometimes we are under charge, when compared to the labour we put into the manufacturing of these things”.
Reiterating the need for empowering the blind, the secretary to the king of the blind in Kamajiji settlement, who does want his name mentioned in the print said, “Begging is our last resort. Sometime ago, we were taught some soap making and other hand skills but today they are no longer relevant in the market.
We need to be taught contemporary things like computer and skills in the communication industries. It is shameful to go about begging; nobody likes begging; if you see anybody begging, it is because the person has no job to do”.
However to some, begging is their major occupation; it has afforded them the huge opportunity to travel to some parts of African nations, like Benin Republic, Cote d’ Voire and Cameroon seeking for alms without any encumbrance. Mr Ruyuwa Abdullahi, a visually impaired man from Zaria, Kaduna State is an example.
Narrating his recent struggle in Abuja after leaving his wife behind in Zaria, Abdullahi said he joined his daughter, who is also married to a blind man in Kamajiji Village, with the hope of asking for alms to take care of his four dependent children. For him, begging is the only option.
He said after losing his sight to measles in early 1960, he was taken from a “normal” school to study Arabic for some times, which did not give him the opportunity to go to a regular school. But today, he is on the street to see that his three boys go to school.
“These children lost their family in auto crashes that took place in Kafanchan, Zaria and Kangaroo parts of the country. I want to see that they go to school; that is why, I have travel to cameroun, Niger and back at home here in Nigeria; I still go out to some suburbs to seek for alms to take care of them, only one among them is schooling at the moment”, Abdullahi stated.
On her part, the assistant head mistress, FCT School for the blind Jabi, Mrs Ann Ekandem said there is a considerable increase in the number of pupil being admitted into the school, despite the stigmatisation.
She stated, “We have 97 pupils in this school compared to previous years. Most parents hide their children at home, on the ground that they are protecting them. I am a blind person but a graduate of special education from the University of Jos with a second class upper degree and am married. How can these children attain such success if they are not encouraged to go to school?”
True, there is a famous maxim that in the world of the blind, the one eye-man is a king. But has anybody ponders in a moment over what this statement means? Those who know say it simply means that in the world of the blind the one with knowledge, information and skills is a king.
While interacting, with a number of blind persons in some parts of the federal capital territory, it was observed that though they may be blind, all other senses in their body including their brain are normal. And like normal individuals, depending on how much knowledge they are exposed to, they may end up being successful or unsuccessful in life.
Most visual impaired persons have blamed their parents and partly the government for not providing them with the opportunity to become successful and celebrated.
But in spite of these challenges, there are those who are not losing hope. For Laman Usman, a 44-year old blind disc jockey (DJ), who works with African Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power FM Station, his disability is not an excuse for him not to achieve the goal he had set for himself.
Narrating his touching story, concerning his journey to success even as a visually impaired, Usman, said he was not born blind but the circumstances in which he found himself cost him his eyes.
“At the age of five, measles claimed my left eye and I was using only one eye back then in my primary school days. One day I got into a fight with a class mate while in school; he gave me a punch on my right eye and that became the genesis of my problem”, he said.
According to the popular Abuja based DJ, his sad story started when all efforts to restore his sight by an Indian doctor failed.
On the Indian doctor’s advice, his parents transferred him to a special school for the blind in Gindiri, Plateau State.
He added: “From there I proceeded to Faith Tabernacle College and later to Kaduna Polytechnic, where I read media Arts, which has been my strong desire right from childhood, because of my constant practice of listening to radio”.
With a magnetising and captivating voice for six years, Usman has been ruling the air waves with his programme; in his adaptability, Usman controls the console, selects music, mix sounds and answers thousands of callers, who have always, find his programme entertaining. Although he is still a bachelor, Usman is currently shouldering the responsibility of taking care of his four relatives.
While pointing to the bases of his success, he said, “My parent took some major steps by taking me to school, knowing that their son has a life ahead of him and cannot end up a liability; they exposed me to knowledge acquisition and the challenge of life right in time, today they are not alive”.
He however laments that poverty is the major reason why some blind persons have been unable to record more success stories in terms acquiring knowledge through education.
According to Usman, “Back then we were given typing machines and tapes to communicate with our lectures and now you can see my phone and laptop have voice software, which makes it easy to operate normally like any other person.
But some of our things are expensive; like the brail type writer goes for about N200, 000. How many people can afford to buy these things? So poverty is the greatest disability”.