It is sad, the level of discrimination and gross neglect of Nigerians with disabilities

It is sad, the level of discrimination and gross neglect of Nigerians with disabilities

Mr. Gboyega Ibukun Alesinloye is an assiduous person with disabilities with an impeccable achievement. Four two years ago Mr. Gboyega in Ebute Meta area of Lagos State was born into a humble of Mr. J.K Alesinloye and Late Mrs.M. M, Alesinloye with four other siblings Mrs Funmilola Joesph, Pastor Olakunle Alesinloye, Olasupo Alesinloye and Sunday Enitan Alesinloye. This happily married man who grew up around Agege/Ikeja Lagos have a degree in Microbiology and master’s degree in International Health and Development.,  In this interview, we try to dip into his life and how he managed to achieve so much in the face of disability.

TQ: What is your Educational background?

I actually had my first encounter at a school at the Atundaolu Handicap Primary School, Surulere but had to stop when my family moved away from the neighbourhood, including other family matters. After three years, I resumed at a different school, State Primary School, Iloro, Agege which was the beginning of my mainstream educational experience. From here, I went to St. Joseph Secondary School, Mangoro, Agege for my Senior Secondary Certificate and later attended the University of Ibadan for my first degree (BSc.) in Microbiology. After working for few years, I applied for and was awarded a Ford Foundation International Fellowship for my master of public health, MPH, degree in International Health and Development at America’s only school of tropical medicine – the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans.

TQ: How did you fund your education?

I would like to state that I had a very rough and financially-challenging background, hence, I am a product of the generous care of Catholic’s Daughters of Charity who largely took care of my secondary school support and that of my first degree. Perhaps, I’d share more on this with you some other time/avenue. My second degree in the U.S. was through the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program award.

TQ: To you recall when your disability occurred and how it happened?

No, but I was told I had Polio when I was less than a year old.

TQ: Did your disability affect your education in any way?

Yes, it affected the early years when I had to stop and stayed at home for three consecutive years. I only had some physical barriers/challenges afterwards since my subsequent schools were not special schools.

TQ: Do you recall facing problems of discrimination during your school days and now that you are working?

Not really but well, due to my personality and background, I am never so sensitive to picking up discriminatory attitudes and not good at reading meanings to attitudes and gestures. So, I won’t be able to highlight many discriminating cases/instances I faced personally during those days except those meted by structural barriers and peers; most of which had to do with being kept out of the loop of things pertaining to social gatherings, discussions and engagements. But I’ve not been able to pick up any from my work setting.

TQ: What are the other challenges you are facing presently in carrying out your daily activities?

This would be being looked down upon on the virtue of just living with a mobility disability by default, until they get wind of my status and personality.

TQ: Going by your peculiar experiences of discrimination and challenges you faced, proffer solutions in your own understanding how the lives of people with disabilities can be greatly improved?

I believe persons with disabilities can greatly protect themselves by having more positive disposition to life and having very strong and high level of self-esteem.

TQ: Please outline your achievements so far that you are living with disabilities?

Since I had Poliomyelitis as an infant, I’ve lived all my life with a disability. Except the grace of God, I’m not that good nor perfect nor with the affluent background to have achieved the much I have till date. I can’t really recall/outline all you would term “achievements,” but will try to the best of my understanding and view.

Most importantly, my education, and present status, has been a huge achievement for me considering my humble and challenged background. I remain the only one with a tertiary educational certificate in my family. I’ve had to go to school with empty stomach many times, walked tens of kilometers, and didn’t experience any post-class lesson/coaching. I’ve had to also do without some level of social engagements with peers in exchange for my studies which contributed immensely to passing my SSCE at a sitting. I also did something I never thought I’d do to raise money for my JAMB form – no, it’s not bad nor harmful but painful. Eventually, I entered and studied for my first degree without a strong backbone but a consistent support to cater for the major funding required from the Daughters of Charity.

In my final year, expected of every final year student, I started hunting for after-school opportunities such as post graduate opportunities. Then, I stumbled on a poster on Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program, Ford IFP, but wasn’t qualified as it required three years of post NYSC work experience. After working for about two and a half years, I decided to apply for the fellowship in 2007, though primarily to just get experience and prepare towards the following year. Little did I know that that was the chance God had kept for me. I applied, and among about two thousand other applicants, I was one of the cohorts of 16 that got it in 2008, had a year of Pre-Academic Trainings in-country and left the shores of the country for my dream of having an international degree in the U.S.A.

In order to honor the commitment I made to the Ford IFP, I returned to Nigeria after my studies. It wasn’t so easy readjusting to the system after staying away and enjoying the best of civilization, care and provision for people, and persons with disabilities in particular, for so long. But I had to constantly remind myself of the need to stick with and honor my commitment towards contributing my quota to the socio-economic development of the country, and specifically, the disability community.

As you’d expect and wonder, it has been so challenging and getting engaged professionally wasn’t so easy as well. But eventually, I reaped the benefits of networking and being nice to all when a friend of mine and fellow Nigerian in the U.S. (at Tulane) helped in securing a dream job here with one of the leading international organizations in public health having a tie with one of the past presidents of America.

TQ: What are the factors responsible for you recording so much success in spite of the enormous challenges?

I’d say strong belief in myself and my abilities, while being mindful of all my actions and activities in the past. I relate freely and fairly with everyone I encounter irrespective of age, economic status, education, gender and disposition about me. The climax of all these is my trust in God and His good plans for me in granting my expectations.

TQ: Are you married?

Yes

TQ: How did you find your wife?

At a function in Lagos to celebrate Christmas with Orphans and Vulnerable Children.

TQ: What are the challenges you faced in getting her to marry you?

Having to be together irrespective of disability considerations and discrimination

TQ: As one who has been able to shake off disability, what advice do you have for persons with disabilities?

Have a positive disposition to life and see beyond your disability (ies) for the inherent opportunities, skills and abilities in you. Concentrate more on developing yourself and skills to stand out and be a marketable asset in our challenging and competitive society at large.

TQ: What is your reaction on the state of a person with disability in Nigeria is it improving or declining, the bill, security and other national issues as it affect PWDs?

Well, compared to the stone age, I’d say it’s improving, but far from it in today’s age of modernization, especially amidst the enormous wealth we have as a country. Having experienced and enjoyed the kind of care and protection persons with disabilities get in a caring and responsible society and as a strong disability advocate in Nigeria, I can’t but remain sad about the level of discrimination and gross neglect, and violation of human rights persons with disabilities face in this country.

On several occasions, we have toiled and labored so hard, with enormous support from development partners, to develop, summit and garnered support for successful passage of the Nigerian Disability Bill by the National Assembly only for our former and incumbent presidents to blatantly refuse assenting to it. With the signing and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD, by Nigeria, we thought that would automatically translate to better lives for us through enhanced livelihood, employment cum social security, and importantly to the passage of the disability bill. Instead, we continued to be disappointed, ignored and treated as insignificant, unfortunate and inconsequential entity within our own country.

In cases of emergencies, including insecurity, political unrests, riots etc, we, persons with disabilities, are mostly affected, and we remain the most vulnerable and at risk. People and authorities completely forget about persons with disabilities but focus more on women and children, without any regard for those among them living with disabilities. At a time, I approached the National Emergency Management Agency on the inclusion of persons with disabilities but nothing was done and no PWD was even employed nor contracted on this, to the best of my knowledge.

It’s a well-known and acknowledged fact that the passage of any law or policy does not automatically translate to better lives. Yet, it’s about the most important step towards such good life as it establishes and enshrines existence to such entity covered for protection, provision and correction. The existing of a Nigerian Disability Act, with an implementing commission, will enlist us as one of the progressive societies in the world and further stamps our mark on the path of greatness and as a leading example of a country truly worthy of a seat on the UN Security Council, and will in no time make it permanent.

TQ: What is your career aspiration or rather life aspiration?

Hmmnn….I wish to get the needed support to earn a PhD in my career path as soon as possible.

TQ: Parting words/Final words

Adegboyega Ibukunoluwa Ajani Ebenezer Alesinloye is very passionate about seeing a Nigerian society build upon equity and justice, caring for the vulnerable groups and respecting the fundamental human rights of her citizens borne out of a strong, proactive and responsible democratic values, virtues and willingness.

I’d love to reiterate the fact that “Basic Life’s Troubles and Problems are Mere Challenges to Test the Sincerity of One’s Purpose in Life

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