As he celebrated his first birthday, his parents abandoned him and went seperate ways after a huge fight just because he was an albino.
He was not what they wanted, but Mr. Abdullahi Obafemi still suffers from the pain of abandonment just becuase of his condition fourty years later.
He was moved from father to mother until the grandmother came to his rescue to provide him a stable home.
Obafemi in his own words said: “I am my parents’ only child. I learnt their marriage ended abruptly the moment my mother gave birth to me as an albino. In fact, I learnt my mother screamed, Eh! Afin ni mo bi (Ha, I gave birth to an albino) when she saw me.
“While they were busy denying me and fighting over who would take care of me, my grandmother took me away from them.”
Obafemi during his teen years endured endless insults and discrimination from people around.
Albinos are not strange in Nigeria but due to lack of melanin, their skin and body parts are different from the mass populace.
Most Albinos are sometimes afflicted with bad sight vision, Obafemi revealed that this affected his education despite sitting in front of the class.
He said: “I wasn’t seeing things clearly and I couldn’t afford to buy reading glasses. I had to rely on my classmates so I could copy from their notes but they often treated me with disdain. Nobody wanted to move close to an albino.
“Thank God I was brilliant, it was when they saw that I was very good that they came close to me, not because they liked me but they knew I would always solve questions for them so they could pass.”
Despite studying Building Technology at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, his search for a job has proved futile as he has been rejected by interviewers who have also abused and humiliated him due to his condition.
“The pains, humiliation and rejection I went through before I could graduate are things I don’t like to remember. It is now more painful that nobody wants to employ me because of my skin and some employers even make jest of me.
“There was a time I applied for a job, and having seen my application, I was invited to write a test. When I got there, one of the interview panel members said, ‘So you are an albino, don’t worry; we will invite you some other time."
“When I later got a job as a civil servant, I had to learn painting to augment my meagre income and even when people want to give me job, some people would say I wouldn’t see very well because of my eyes. They say I would paint green instead of blue. I lost many jobs because of that too but I got few on compassionate grounds.
“There was a day I went to apply for a security job, I was asked by the company officials how I would see people coming in and I told them I was not blind. But they told me that I was the one who needed security instead, not for me to be a security man.”
Obafemi talks about his relationship with a woman, whose parents rejected him because he was an albino.
He said: “Thankfully, I have a nine-year-old son now, who is not an albino, but the family of his mother didn’t allow me to marry her because I was an albino and they said I wasn’t rich enough. However, I am happy I have one already, but I wish I was not an albino, because life would have been easier for me, like others.”
Tola Banjoko is an albino who has suffered from bad eye sight causing her to drop out of school.
She was born into a family of 10, being the only albino of the family.
She had to abandon school to run a kiosk as she could not afford money for the recommended eye-glasses.
She said: “When I complained to my mother that I didn’t see things on the board, she didn’t really know what to do. My mother went to plead with my teacher to allow me to sit in front but that didn’t solve the problem.
“I was able to finish primary school because one of my teachers would sit beside me and read the questions to me during exams, but there was no such help when I got to a public secondary school that my parents could afford.
“In JSS1, one of my teachers would always tell me to go and sit at the back because she said I was too tall to sit in front. Even when I tried to explain why I needed to sit there, she wouldn’t listen. And my own sight was so bad that I could put number one in two sometimes. When I became so disturbed about everything, I stopped schooling, more so that I couldn’t afford the pair of glasses that would have aided my sight.”
She told reporters that having quit school and look for a job, due to endless standing under the sun, her skin began to get worse.
“While I was going out to look for job, it was like fire was burning my skin each time I was in the sun until I was forced to start selling things. I still want to go to school and I don’t want to lose hope, but I feel very bad that I am an albino because my education has suffered for it and that is a huge loss for me. I wish I was not an albino but what can I do?” she lamented.
Another Albino, Chiamaka Chikwem, 26-year-old Second Class Upper Division degree holder of Microbiology from Michael Okpara University, Umudike, Abia said:
“Even when I know I am qualified for a job, I don’t get it and some even say it to my face that an albino cannot do their kind of work. Albinism does not affect our intelligence, we are not blind, it is just the skin colour and our sight. I believe in myself and I know I will make it because I won’t give up”.
There is over six million people living with albinism in Nigeria.
Psychologist, Prof. Oni Fagboungbe, has described some albinos of having inferiority complex because they see themselves as who people say they are, which tend to result in low self-worth.