Former governor, Gbenga Daniel’s physically challenged son, Debola Daniel, shares his story about living in Nigeria as a disabled person.
To be a disabled Nigerian is a lonely, scary and isolated place. I have often struggled to articulate my Nigerian experience in a way people could understand.
There’s never a place for you. Not in the infrastructure, not in social settings and increasingly not in society. It’s a feeling of constantly being made to act grateful for the being included as an afterthought.
Everything in my life requires pre-thought and planning. If I get to Maison Fahrenheit and the lift isn’t working. Where do I go? If I get to The House/Danfo Bistro and I get met with endless steps. What do I do? If I buy a table at a concert and can’t get in, what do I do?
How do I let my friends know that it’s cool, we’d catch up another time. How quickly can I mask my disappointment and sadness with “omo it’s cool”? Can I handle my driver telling me that Gods time is best and not to be so downcast as we drive back home?
I cannot count how many times I’ve been made to feel less human at Murtala Mohammed Airport. To feel like a ‘thing’ to be handed off to the next person down the line. Like a suitcase.
“Put him there” “park am for there” “can he talk” “sign this for him”. It’s endless and incessant. Your voice is constantly being stripped away. Your presence eroded. You know the ironic thing?
I’m a rich, powerful Nigerian. Someone that my mere surname commands respect. I am the privileged few. I am the disabled Nigerian that they should respect. The one they recognise. The one they must treat well.
If my voice and my very being can be marginalised, what then of the voice of the average disabled Nigerian out there? What then of the Nigerian who doesn’t have the power to walk into a location with an army of armed escorts?
I have been to hospitals that have flights of stairs to get into. I have been to banks without ways to get in. Residential buildings are inaccessible. Pavements cannot be wheeled upon independently. As a fiercely independent person, I can’t live a life in Nigeria without help.
This lack of inclusion, the lack of access and the systemic exclusion from society has been simmering inside me for years. It’s strange that what has tipped me over the edge was reading about the events that occurred at that concert last night.
I saw clips and read tweets from the safety of my couch and was horrified at how much planning I would have had to undertake to attend that concert yet still end up unprepared for that.[ruby_related heading=”More Read” total=5 layout=1]
How would I have gotten in? How would I have gotten out? Where could I go pee? If it’s true that they were shooting tear gas and there was a stampede, what would I have done?
Then I realised that I’m going to the same artiste’s concert in London in a few months and I have zero of those worries. I am privileged. I can just attend in London.
But don’t I owe it to the average disabled Nigerian to say that with the global visibility Afrobeats is getting, maybe, just maybe someone will remember that disabled Nigerians exist?
That we have a right to be included in the planning and execution of the vision of Nigeria. Not just at an accessible level but at all levels?
I would like to one day see accessibility and inclusion made a priority not just as an afterthought. I deserve to see myself as part of Nigeria.
To see myself being included in planning and infrastructure. To see myself positively in Nigerian stories not just as the cripple that Patience Ozokwor poisoned on Nollywood. I am more that a stereotype. I am human. And it’ll be nice if you saw that too.
See tweet below:
To be a disabled Nigerian is a lonely, scary and isolated place. I have often struggled to articulate my Nigerian experience in a way people could understand.— Debola Daniel (@DebolaDaniel) January 2, 2023