LIke every child, Demola Adeleke, 26, from Oluyole Local Government Area of Ibadan in Oyo State, had good dreams while growing up. These include: to go to school, graduate, get a good job and enjoy the luxuries that come with life.
“Growing up to me was the same experience every child would have: being cared for and protected by their parents, sent to school, having a peer group one can play with and inculcating the fear of God and the teachings of the Holy Book into the mind of the children. I once fantasized on becoming a doctor or lawyer just like any kid would.” Demola told Sunday Sun.
Being the only male child in a family of six, many saw his birth as the answer to the prayers of his parents for a male child. And truly, it was. At home, he was the pride of his parents for his charming personality. At school, he was the cynosure of all eyes as he often dazzled his teachers and friends with his intelligence. With such potentials, none doubted his ability for greatness.
But unknown to him, fate had other plans. His dreams would not come on a platter of gold. At seven, his whole world was already crumbling when he developed an eye defect. “One unfamiliar experience I had was the eye defect that struck me when I was seven and because of that, I could not see the chalkboard directly in school and would have to depend on friends’ notes before I could copy mine. I would get mocked over my bad sight at times if I had a quarrel with my classmates and that made my growing experience a bit problematic when compared to that of the able-bodied children,” he said.
Beaten and battered by fate, he never expected anything good again. “After the incident, I had no particular dream or expectation for the future. I was always expecting the worst from my waning sight and I knew a day could probably dawn when my bad sight would vanish finally because my eye problem kept deteriorating everyday. So, I never put any interest in the future since I knew my life would be a waste once I could not see again,” he told Sunday Sun.
But then, fate wasn’t done with him yet. At nine, he got the saddest news of his life when he was confirmed visually impaired by the doctor. His eye defect had graduated into glaucoma – a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and results in vision loss and blindness.
“When I heard it from the doctor that my eyes had gone really bad and could not be redeemed, it felt like the heaven together with all the heavenly bodies in it were all falling on my head. I cried bitterly and my mum followed suit. I thought the end had come and I was going to stay indoors for the remaining days of my life. I once heard someone say once a person’s eyes go blind, the person can never go to school again and that was the first memory that came to my head when the doctor broke the news. I would lock myself inside my room throughout the day and weep profusely.
“Everything around me was completely dark and the only thing I could think of was to die. I started making out plans on how I could kill myself within those first two weeks of receiving the saddest news of my life. My siblings weren’t around at that time, they were all in school. So, once my parents had gone off to work, I would get the knife from the kitchen and try to stab myself, but I wasn’t finding that method easy at all. So, I resorted to trying out the preparation of a poison, using the black content in dry cells mixed with water. But I wasn’t bold enough to drink it either. My parents later found out about my attempts to commit suicide through a pastor that saw a revelation while praying. I was later counselled against losing hope by my parents, siblings, my girlfriend at that time and also some close relatives,” he said.
However, with the help of a rehabilitation centre and people around him, Demola renewed his interest to achieve his dreams. Explaining the factors that helped him overcome the psychological trauma which blindness brought, Demola said: “How I overcame the challenge is something I can’t really remember clearly. But I can say my girlfriend at that time was very supportive and encouraging in spite of everything and which really helped in holding my shattered heart together again. Also, my parents and siblings really stood by me and tried as much as possible to grant every of my request. I started composing songs out of idleness and later graduated to a song writer and singer. My dad would give me money to go to the studio and record my songs. All those helped in dissolving my sadness too. I was later persuaded to go for rehabilitation so I could adapt to world as a blind person and also start school again. When I got to the rehabilitation centre, I met other blind students who could already read and write using the braille. I also heard from them that a blind person can as well go to the university to study any course under the arts department and since then, I became determined to not only to finish with my secondary school education, but also proceed to the university to study just like my friends. All those ambitions and determination filled up my mind and compressed the depression which had for long been in my heart since glaucoma made me blind.”
Today, Demola is a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), where he studied Mass Communication and came out in flying colours. He is currently undergoing the compulsory one-year youth service scheme in Ibadan, Oyo State.
With his experience, Demola believes other disabled people can also overcome their depression and pursue their dreams instead of going into the streets to beg for alms. He recently created a Facebook platform called Blind Chronicles, where he is pushing a campaign to discourage disabled people from taking to the streets to beg for alms.
“I condemn those who resort to street begging and blame it on their disability. It is one very indecent means of earning a livelihood. It’s so un-dignifying to depend totally on the mercies of pedestrians and motorists before you can put food on your table, especially when there are more decent ways to make money. As a disabled person, there are various trades or handiworks one can engage in and which do not require the use of their lost body parts. Most times, these disabled beggars are just too lazy to follow a reputable career path, considering it ‘too demanding’ and maybe not as lucrative as gathering alms from passers-by which usually sum up to a huge amount at the end of each day.
“Gone are those days when the blind are strictly natives of the street, begging for alms with those pathetic songs which will draw some coins persuasively from pedestrians’ pockets. We are now in schools and vocational centres, we are now armed with the personality to command respect in the society, we are now dream achievers and goal getters,” he said.
Explaining the idea behind Blind Chronicles, Demola said: “Blind Chronicles shares some funny stories of some blind persons in order to entertain its readers and equally to tell them about some difficult and unpleasant situations the blind go through as a result of their blindness. In all this, Blind Chronicles gives inspiration to those who need it, encouragement to those who have been discouraged and entertains those who need to relax their muscles through its episodic stories. Those sharing the same disability as me need to exhibit their native potentials for the world to see. Don’t get shy for being blind. In fact, blindness can be a source of your relevance if well harnessed. The society must accept us and regard us as being significant whether they like it or not!”