- Politics and Social Issues
Plagued by the Anti-Albinism Virus in Africa
Albinos in Africa
Our historical archives are replete with a plethora of events that led to the tagging of Africa as the ‘Dark continent’ by the developed Nations. This conclusion was indubitably drawn from the anarchy, greed, corruption, poverty, nepotism, shallow mind set, lust for power and the stronghold of cultural and superstitious beliefs enhanced by black magic which negated advancement in all spheres, despite being in the midst of plenty.
The ‘suffering and smiling’ doctrine has indeed been transferred to this present generation as the deadly virus continues to wreak havoc in the minds of millions of Nigerians, with survival instincts dangerously surging at an alarming rate.
Being a ‘normal’ human being is the norm in the eyes of the society and abnormality is treated with disdain as the victims have large doses of its venom sunk into their very being. Abnormality in the sense of being physically challenged, medically challenged (HIV positive), culturally challenged (Osu, widows) who are subjected to terrible dictates of customs which are repugnant to natural justice, equity and a good conscience and not forgetting victims of sexual abuse. Each has its long drawn battle of tales to tell against society who continually dictates the tune and forces them to dance to the merciless drum beats of mediocrity, low self-esteem and psychological trauma.
Albinism, a hereditary condition affecting one in twenty thousand people, aforetime lurked in the shadows of societal menace, silently bearing the grave consequences of abnormality. However, in recent times a wave of re-orientation is gradually sweeping through the land, gathering momentum and hopefully would emerge as a mental antidote in getting rid of this clog in the wheel of harmony and peaceful co-existence. It is ludicrous to note that acts of ostracization, stigmatization, abduction, bullying, are meted out on persons living with albinism otherwise known as Albinos, in the country and in certain parts of Africa.
Can a person decide which race, tribe, and family he or she wishes to be born into? Absolutely not! Then why deride another for being born without melanin, the pigment that gives the skin, eye, and hair its colour?. I can’t understand the basis for looking at an Albino and seeing yourself as being superior and pass a judgment of mental death upon such a one and in some cases actual death orchestrated by Albino hunters in collaboration with family members as evidenced in some countries in Eastern Africa with Tanzania flying the flag at full mast for the highest killings. Other affected countries in which killings occur include Kenya, Burundi, DR Congo, Senegal, and Zimbabwe.
In Lagos, Nigeria, Albinos move about freely and there haven’t been incidents of murder for rituals and the gory likes. It’s hard to say for certain if such has occurred due to our poor record keeping culture. However Nigeria shares the common denominators of rejection, discrimination, denial of access to jobs, unavailability of entrepreneurial empowerment, quality education, inadequate health care facilities for their health issues among others.
Albinos live with the constant staring and ‘afin or oyibo’ chants by society. They suffer mental isolation, which sadly is a breeding base for suicidal thoughts and eventual action as seen in the case of the August 2015 suicide of Ugochukwu Ekwe. Whether it was suicidal or murder still needs affirmation. Do we know how many Albinos have taken their lives, have gone missing or have been killed within our shores? It takes us once again to the door steps of ineffective monitoring, poor record keeping or perhaps it could be the family’s choice to remain silent knowing society won’t flinch.
Everyone looks forward to the day when they’ll have the first crush, first date, first kiss, first love, settle down with Mr/Miss Right, become parents, nurture, train the children and look forward to the period of having an empty nest. Sadly an Albino can only day dream about that as the possibility of such coming into fruition is infinitesimally insignificant especially with the average life span pegged at forty among other strong contenders. Truth be told, how many coloured folks want to date Albinos or better still have a serious relationship with them?. Even coloured folks in relationship still contend with strong anti –relationship forces of ethnicity and social class fuelled by their parents and extended family members with many aborting the relationship, then what hope has an Albino with the glaring odds stacked against them?
Levels of discrimination vary from country to country largely hinged on myths, superstition, misconstrued notions about Albinism. The senseless killings of Albinos particularly in the Northern rural district of Tanzania are hinged on erroneous beliefs gleefully peddled by witch doctors and their ace card used in convincing the mentally bankrupt, blood thirsty assassins and famished pockets thrives on the bedrock of poverty. Cases of Albinos being killed and their hair interwoven into fish nets for a bumper catch, or their body parts chopped off to give dark fortune, make a mine produce gold, or sold to lift a curse, cure AIDS with the females being raped are but a few of the sickening acts carried out against albinos. Even the dead are not left in peace with their tombs constantly being raided and their bones stolen by Albino hunters for ritual purposes.
Besides the witch doctors lecture “Mammon 101 – the art of getting rich quick through the supernatural” to students in the unaccredited ‘University of Deceit’ the brain washing of some via superstitious beliefs enshrined in customs further complicates matters ; some believe Albinos come into being when wives have extra-marital affairs with white men, they bring disaster to the community, feel they’re retards, hence getting education is a waste of time and resources as being employed is non-existent or that it’s a punishment from God or bad luck, or that Albinism is a contagious disease, are all erroneous.
Why must Africans continue to have this mind-set in this twenty first century when the sun of enlightenment shines brightly?. It’s really pathetic as the whites continue to shake their heads in disbelief that in this modern epoch, such unwarranted practices still exist in this continent. Why wouldn’t they continue to feel superior to us, despite our abundant natural resources that give us access to the super power path, which we continuously fail to tow?. Ironically, Albinism exists in other parts of the world but Albinos do not undergo the deep level of hatred and murder unleashed by society synonymous with what their contemporaries experience in Africa.
Poverty a menace to society has seen many folks engaging in abominable and morally degenerative acts ‘to survive and live beyond one’s means’. The poverty rate is high in Nigeria and in Africa, thus any dark path that will lead to comfort is embraced by the foolish. The racism endemic which broke out during the slave trade era unto various generations was condemned, abolished, though not totally forsaken by some radicals and even today racism arrows are fired intermittently from pro-racism folks, a good example is evidenced in high profile International football matches. This certainly does not augur well with blacks who with one voice are swift to condemn same. If we as coloured folks feel this way because of such, then why do we do the same thing to the Albinos? Why do we educationally and economically marginalize, ridicule, treat them inhumanely and stall their advancement in every facet of life?
No one can deny that Albinos in developed countries do not feel troubled at the stares and possible rebuffs from society but the murder route is not taken unlike in Africa. Stephen Thompson, Diandra Forrest, Shaun Ross, Connie Chu, Darnell Swallow, Cano Estremera, Michael Bowman are Albinos in other countries who are doing well for themselves. Educated Albinos are intelligent and have great ideas that can move Nations forward. Tanzania can boast of having two Albinos as Ministers of Parliament, Al-Shymaa Kway-Geer and Salum Khalfani Bar’wani. There’s Mali’s Musician extraordinaire, Salif Keita, South Africa’s lawyer who’s also a model, Thanda Hopa, and Refilwe Modiselle. Douglas Opuruche Anele (PHD) is a lecturer in one of the top universities in Nigeria and Jake Epelle is the Founder and CEO of The Albino Foundation fighting for the rights of Albinos.
Who says Albinos in Nigeria and other countries can’t make it into the Three Arms of Government, become celebrities in Entertainment, Sports, Fashion, and of course renowned experts and consultants in Health, Aviation, Legal, Science and technological spheres?. Who says they can’t proffer solutions to National issues?. All they need is ‘opportunity’ which society has constantly denied them off. This is not peculiar to Nigeria alone but as usual to other African countries.
Barbaric acts against Albinos should be condemned in its entirety and the Government of these affected countries should take a stand to wipe out such acts and bring the perpetrators to book. Fundamental Human Rights is guaranteed for all Nigerians, and not black skinned Nigerians alone after all if we go by colour, don’t we have those who are fair in complexion?. Government should secure, uphold the rights of Albinos and treat them equally, and implement policies that would make life better for them rather than the usual empty promises that sadly connotes and thrives fruitfully in the political landscape. It should be more of action and less talk. Discrimination by employers should also be a thing of the past.
The Corporate sector boasts of an array of Blue chip companies and others worth its name in the economic market. It would be highly commendable where as part of their corporate social responsibility they can provide sun screen lotions, hats, sunglasses, magnifiers, scholarships, school supplies, access to dermatology clinics for Albinos. There should be special hotlines for reporting cases of anti –albinism practices and offenders should be made to face the music before mobile courts. Sensitization campaigns on Radio & TV stations in English, Vernacular and local dialect where stations are transmitting from should be carried out in earnest with trained volunteers going into the rural areas to further spread the word.
Celebrities can also support the cause by being part of the campaign and also letting their tweets, posts, pictures, tell the story. Safe homes and protection centres should be provided for victims and those who fear for their lives. Children who are the leaders of tomorrow should be properly enlightened about Albinism via school clubs and even be made as part of the curriculum under a social/health course to ensure that the wrong mind set is made right and that they see their fellow colleagues living with albinism as equals and not rejects to be bullied, beaten, insulted and kept away from.
The reason why many adults have a nonchalant disposition to Albinos, is hinged on the wrong ideologies and belief systems that were subtly inculcated in them when young and it is trite that it’s hard to change the mindset of such people. As it is said, it’s all in the mind. Educational books encouraging love and unity among Nigerians and Internationals alongside literary works for children such as The Quest For The Gem Of Arubia, in which an Albino child, the protagonist, endures the stigmatization from society but is later called upon to save the kingdom from impending doom, should be adopted. Harry Freeland’s ‘In the shadow of the sun’, ‘In my Genes’ by Academy award winner Lupita Nyong’o, Jean Francois Me’an’s ‘White and Black: Crimes of colour’ have created a positive impact via the visual audio media, so why can’t Nigerian filmmakers explore this path?.
It is imperative that all hands be on deck to overcome the menace that threatens the survival, mental emancipation, and peaceful coexistence of these wonderful folks, priceless gifts to our generation and successive ones. Let’s unite as one….love a person living with Albinism and always remember you could have be one.