FRESHWATERS’ FACE OF THE WEEK
Waking up to rejection, intimidation and stigmatization was a routine for the intelligent lad called Olajide Funso. The lad, though physically whole from birth, became crippled after being wrongly injected in a local health center. The flawed medical treatment given by an ignorant and unskilled nurse in a bid to heal an ailment he had resulted into a swollen leg and in a short while, a dysfunctional limb.
Due to inadequate medical attention and financial resources he became physically disabled at a very young age. This unpleasant occurrence set a new course for Olajide’s future.
He was stigmatized against by both individuals and corporate bodies. Neighboring kids could not play with him because their parents had warned them against the idea saying that the disability was contagious.
After many rejections from a number of prospective educational institutions, he began primary school at a very old age. Even when he started to school, he had to change school severally anytime his dad, who was a teacher, was transferred to another school.
Despite his tough challenges, Olajide was determined and hardworking, and consequently he topped his classes in all the schools he attended. Many times he represented the state in school competitions and won graciously. He kept the flag high throughout his academy sphere. People began to admire and respect him because of his high intellectual capacity and this in return boosted his morale to do more excellently.
Nonetheless, Olajide still continued to experience stigmatization in so many ways even as an adult. On a particular occasion, his car battery developed a minor fault, and he decided to borrow car battery from a man on the street standing beside his car.
With the aid of a walking stick, Olajide approached the man and was about greeting, when the man suddenly reached into his pocket, brought out a tattered N50 note and rudely handed it over to Olajide as if he was begging for alms. Olajide felt very bad, he smiled as he brought out N10, 000 notes out of his pocket and threw it at the man. The man was shocked, realizing who Olajide was, he started apologizing.
On another occasion, he was denied job in a reputable company in Lagos even though he performed excellently well in the oral and written examination. Late in the evening that same day, he received a call from the HR manager of the company pleading for forgiveness. The man acknowledged that Olajide’s performance was outstanding but the panel disqualified based on his physical disability. He said all his effort to convince the panel otherwise fell on deaf ears.
WHAT KEPT OLAJIDE SURVIVING?
In an interview with Freshwater crew, Olajide said he was only able to survive against the odds of success by applying a few life principles; putting God first, never relying on man, pursuing knowledge, harnessing opportunities and living selflessly.
Seeing diverse abilities in his disability, Olajide founded DISABILITY NOT A BARRIER INITIATIVE (DINABI) in 2011, aimed at promoting inclusion, equity, and justice for persons with disability through sensitization, training, empowerment, research, capacity building and advocacy services.
He is also the general secretary of the Joint National Association of Persons With Disability, Ekiti state chapter.
He is now a Computer Engineer by profession and happily married with kids.
Olajide has shown the world that no river is to wide to cross and no mountain is too high to climb. A life lived with diligence, faith and goodness will surely pay of, no matter how great the odds are.