PWD’S AND SPIRITUAL MYTHS.


Studies have shown that a sizeable number of persons with disabilities rely heavily on spirituality as a coping mechanism for the diverse and unique issues they face

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For years, persons with disabilities have been used as fodder to attract pity for monetary compensations and alms. The earliest memories I have of persons with disabilities would be the beggars that I came across to and fro Primary school.

There was a particular beggar that always caught my attention. He was physically challenged and had a very interesting mat-like machine with tires that reminded me of Aladdin’s mat. This beggar always shared heartfelt prayers after he received alms from passers-by and it was not a surprise that he became a favorite amongst the inhabitants and workers around the Ojuelegba axis.

One fateful Friday afternoon many years later, I alighted from a bus at Ojuelegba after my NYSC Orientation, I saw this same man, my friend Aladdin, older but chubbier, uttering the same prayers he said years ago. I began to narrate how I knew him to my friend who was with me and one of the bus conductors told me matter-of-factly that Aladdin had 3 wives and had acquired 3 houses in his hometown from his “Begging Business”  and that he was not a “small-fish” at all.

Some beggars have revealed that they were scouted by certain “agents” who came to their villages in search of persons with disabilities, willing to come to Lagos to make money and on getting to Lagos they were given daily targets and had to remit a certain percentage of their “earnings” as commission.

With the consistent state of conflict in Northern Nigeria, there has being a persistent rise of Persons with disabilities as some of the victims of this violence have been maimed or affected in one way or another, the World Disability Report of 2011 states that of the 84 million persons living with disabilities in Africa, 29 percent of these live in Nigeria.

Although the disability act prohibits persons with disabilities from begging for alms or being used as charity cases paraded around the state for alms, the bigger question is what are the alternatives, and where are the employment opportunities for PWD’s in Nigeria??

Over the years, I’ve come across people who had been given spiritual instructions from their spiritual leaders to give alms to PWD’s to gain a particular favour with God, getting answered prayers, some people have said that certain prophecies given to them by persons with disabilities had come to pass.

Do we choose the angel narrative because it makes us feel good to think that we receive a certain form of dividend for a pending prayer request and when it’s time to establish a proper structure, to ensure that persons with disabilities are treated as bona fide members of our society, with the right to education and good employment we tune off?

 

Many Nigerians have a general disposition towards giving exclusively to persons with disabilities and the rationale is that able-bodied people have no excuse as to why they shouldn’t work  therefore, this leaves the percentage of beggars largely to Persons with disabilities.

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Several Nollywood movies have portrayed PWD’s as angels in movies, where you see an old visually impaired woman limping in a particular scene it becomes easy to predict that the only person who will gain favour from God is the one who stopped to give alms to her hence this belief is prevalent in the Nigerian society.

However, it is baffling that despite the popularity of these ideas, persons with disabilities are still treated with such disdain in our society today, and I say to myself why would an “angel” be treated this way?

Parents take their children with disabilities from one spiritual doctor to another because it must be the work of the enemies that their children are deformed?

Do we choose the angel narrative because it makes us feel good to think that we receive a certain form of dividend for a pending prayer request and when it’s time to establish a proper structure, to ensure that persons with disabilities are treated as bona fide members of our society, with the right to education and good employment we tune off?

Disability rights can no longer be excluded from Human Rights in Nigeria, our nation has ratified numerous conventions to this effect and even after passing the Disability act as law, we still have a long way to go and it starts with first and foremost the simple truth that persons with disabilities are entitled to all the rights that an individual should be regarded with, they are not “less than” and can perform at the same capacity if the right resources and opportunities are provided.

 

           

 

Written by:

Moyinoluwa Adelakun Esq.

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