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July 2, 2003

Mid-Week Features : Lamentations of the deaf

From: Vanguard, Nigeria - Jul 2, 2003

"NIGERIAN journalists are wicked. They don’t want to help the deaf by reporting our plight. They discriminate against us because we cannot hear" charged Olu Ajayi, the president of Brotherhood Society of the Deaf (BSD) in an interview he granted to Vanguard Midweek Features (VMF) recently.

He continued: "We have written and posted different letters to radio, television and newspaper houses but they have refused to reply."

Ajayi believed the press has been hypocritical in the manner it has handled issues concerning the welfare of the handicapped in the country.

Done with the press, Ajayi turned his attention to the federal, state and local governments in the country. He accused President Olusegun Obasanjo and the 36 state governors of ignoring the fate of the deaf in the society.

"I object to the attitude of the President and governors towards the plight of the deaf in this country. This is because they have failed to take care of the deaf since 1999 up till now despite all their promises."

He also criticised local government chairmen as being insensitive to the plight of the deaf. Ajayi condemned the attitude of the immediate past chairman of Ndokwa West Local Government in Delta State and Surulere Local Government in Lagos for their alleged apathy towards the deaf.

The BSD leader told VMF that the organisation plans to embark on some activities to emphasize its displeasure over how the deaf in Nigeria have been treated by various tiers of government.

Apart from their displeasure with government’s apathy towards the deaf, BSD is also unimpressed with the way the federal and state governments have handled general administration of the nation’s affairs. The group was unhappy with the protracted strike by university lecturers which kept students at home for six months; high level of unemployment, rampant cases of armed robbery and ritual killing and the inability of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to provide steady supply of electricity.

Raise funds

The group was also concerned that various levels of government have not been able to raise enough funds to cater for Nigerians infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Narrating how he became deaf, Ajayi stated that he was born as a normal child at Ikate, Surulere, Lagos in 1975. He has since lived with his parents in various parts of the metropolis including Ijeshatedo, Olambe, Iyana Iba and Lawanson. He fell seriously ill when he was five years old and the sickness resulted in his deafness.

Undaunted by this physical handicap, Ajayi attended the Wesley School for the Deaf and State Grammar School, all in Lagos. Later on, he attended a computer college and became computer literate.

After completing his computer studies, he gained admission into the South-West Collegiate Institute (SWCID) based in Texas United States of America. He also gained admission into the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) also based in New York, USA. But he has not been able to travel abroad to continue his studies because of lack of funds and sponsorship.

Explaining the aims and objectives of BDS, Ajayi who was accompanied to Vanguard by two other members of the group stated that BDS was established towards helping deaf Nigerians realise their potentials.

Waxing philosophical Ajayi stated that being handicapped did not mean that deaf people were useless to the society. He continued: "Neither Monday Gorzoh nor Philomena Mordi (BDS Adviser and "Senior") chose to become deaf. So, there is nothing we can do about it. "If your son or daughter suddenly becomes deaf, blind or handicapped in any other way, what will you do about it?," he asked.

The BDS leader stated that his organisation presently has more than 1000 members adding that the group was dominated by youths. Ajayi stated that many of his members were qualified in several professions but could not find jobs because of discrimination perpetrated against them by normal people. He further stated that he would have loved to attend a university in Nigeria but decided to seek for admission into a foreign institution because the multifarious problems associated with university education in Nigeria which he believed was compounded by the last lecturers strike.


The BDS leader expressed disappointment over the strike embarked upon by members of ASUU and how the Federal Government handled the situation.

Ajayi further accused the Federal Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of dishonesty over the manner in which the last general elections were conducted.

Before Ajayi could be convinced that Obasanjo and the governors are concerned about the plight of the handicapped, government must be actively involved in their rehabilitation and training. The BDS leader leaves no one in doubt that his group is conversant with dominant issues in public discourse. Ajayi also identified with Nigeria’s past heroes and social critics.

"...The late Obafemi Awolowo, Ken Saro Wiwa and Fela Kuti told the truth about Nigeria," he declard.

His hope is that Nigeria’s children of today should become leaders of tomorrow and lift the nation and its people to greater heights. He was full of gratitude for the co-operation BDS has received from RSESA of Kenya, DEAFSA of South Africa and Deaf Friends International of the United States.

© 2003. Vanguard Media Ltd.