Mohammed Ibrahim is the President of the Oyo State Hausa Association of Blind People. In this interview with KANGMWA GOFWEN, he talks about some of their challenges, their expectations from the government and how they contribute in their small scale to nation building.
Your union, Hausa Association of Blind People is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) what is it?
The reason we started this association is because we have been here in Ibadan for a long time, we thought it would not be good if we were not a registered association. So we decided to register the association, I personally went to court and looked for the lawyer who took us through the registration process. All Hausa leaders know about the association; even our Hausa leader in Shasha, Mallam Haruna Maiyasin, said it was a good move. And that’s how we struggled, God helped us, and we got our CAC registration in 2020. We did everything according to government regulations. We even gave the presidents of the local governments of Akinyele and North Ibadan copies of the registration certificate. As I said, we felt it was good to have registered the association, which we did and I am the leader with others helping me. That’s basically the reason we registered the association.
How many members do you have now?
We have over 100 members here in Sabo and all of them have identity cards issued by the association and they are all registered on the electoral lists. This number does not cover other members of Moniya and other parts of Oyo State, but I can tell you that we have a large number.
Apart from begging, what other work do the members of the association do?
Before we left where we sat around the golf club, most of us weren’t begging on the street; we were just sitting. However, our wives and children who are not blind had small businesses there before the government moved us. As you can see we just sit here while our children do small businesses and other odd jobs and if someone decides to come here and give us alms, we take it, that’s all . But since we were displaced, our situation has really changed. We can no longer pay our children’s school fees for secondary school.
Does the philosophy of the association include the education of your children?
He is certainly part of it. We need help, we are not strong and you know how school is, you have to have money for that. We have a lot of children who are in secondary school, I have two but last term one of them couldn’t take his exams because I didn’t have the money to pay. Now he’s working with someone as a point-of-sale (POS) agent and he hopes to save some money and go back to school. You see, this place that the government has provided for us in Akinyele is an open room, not suitable for a family setting.
Do you have a health program to help members regain their sight?
It’s part of our desire, but you know whatever you wanted to do non-indifen, it would definitely be slow. We gave the lawyer who helped us register the association enough copies of the certificate because we can’t afford to reach the government, but we thought he might have access to it, so we gave him so we gave copies of the certificate to help us get it to the government as we hope it might lead to programs like this. But so far we just hope and wish that the association will be recognized so that we can get help like this. Since we registered the association, we only received support once and it was a person who sent us money, but we need more recognition, support and assistance from all sectors of government. Certainly, our health is important and we also want to have programs or partnerships in this area.
Are all the administrators of the association your members?
We are all blind except the secretary. We chose him because he will write for us; but we are all blind. The late Sarkin Hausawa here in Sabo and our leader in Shasha, Haruna Maiyasin, have signed as guarantors for the association. Mallam Haruna Maiyasin is the chief of all Hausa rulers in the Southwest; we met him before registration and after registration as well.
Do you have branches of this association in every local government in the state?
We haven’t gone to other local governments yet and that’s because everything we’re going to do will require money. You see, bringing our people together at the local level will entail expenses. We actually want to register our people in all local governments, but we don’t have the capacity to do so. Since we left the place where we were sitting, life has become very difficult for us, even if we go there now to sit, those who can see will dominate us when people bring us alms and that is the only way for us now to get few resources to pass. Before the government asked us to leave the golf club area, we were orderly and law-abiding people, no one was trying to overshadow each other. We even had contacts from the police who reported any oppression to us, it was much better then but it’s different now.
If we had a vehicle that would take us to these local governments it would have been much easier, and this is an area where we wish the government could help us as we have members in all the local governments from Oyo to Ogbomoso and all the rest.
Does this association also exist in the North and do you collaborate with them?
This association is one of its kind in the 19 northern states, including the FCT, and we are in contact with each of them. The 19 northern states have this association and they know we exist.
As an association, what are your expectations vis-à-vis the government?
You see, our northern counterparts have access to government; their leaders have access to the governor, president, and even local government chairs in all the northern states, but it’s quite different for us here. We wish to have this access to the government in order to be able to express our challenges, but it has not been possible. We don’t even know the president of the Yoruba extraction of the blind and he doesn’t know us either. And you see, whatever the government does, it will be for its people first. We would like to know the presidents of the associations of the blind from all the states of the Southwest in order to be able to collaborate with them.
We also have children here, and all of our children were born here and go to school here as well. We did not allow them to be inactive. This is an area where we need government support because we don’t want them to be beggars like us in the near future. We also need medical assistance, we also need a vehicle to allow us to transport the corpses to the cemetery whenever we lose a limb.
What are your contributions to the development of the state?
Our greatest contributions are our prayers. If you came here at night, you would meet over 100 of us praying for the government, for our businesses, our families and for the peace of this country. It is God himself who asked that we pray to him so we are confident that he will answer all our prayers, if not he will answer some of them. So this is our support for the government and in doing so we are peaceful and law abiding citizens under this government so we expect the government to help and support us in return.
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