David Shehu from Ogbagba village of Kogi State has had to live with the stigma of being born to parents, who, though dark in complexion, birthed him and his elder sister as albinos.
In a village, where the inexplicable is often attributed to “forces” beyond human comprehension, the stigma is palpable. They are from impoverished backgrounds, so travelling the nearly 450 kilometers journey and paying the medical bills at the National Hospital, Abuja, comes with its own painful challenges.
He has had his surgery shifted once for reasons of getting the required pints of blood, but his sister and mother refuse to give up. The sight of him with a bulging bandage over the cavity of his right eye moved a medical consultant who shares blood group with him, to offer the pint required for use this Tuesday, if they are not sent back, again.
It is with this background that the complaint of stigmatisation by the Chairman of Board of the Albino Foundation, Dr. Douglas Anele, listing skin cancer, visual impairment, poverty, social exclusion, discrimination and stigmatization as the challenges being faced by albinos in the country, resonate with sympathisers, including Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Anele called for the intervention of the National Assembly in efforts to alleviate the sufferings of albinos through the quick passage of the Albino Bill presently before the legislature.
The bill, if passed he said, will empower people with albinism through free and compulsory education, poverty alleviation programmes and protection of the rights of albinos.
Saraki has, however, reiterated the commitment of the Senate to bring to an end all forms of discrimination against people with albinism, known as Albinos.
Saraki, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Mohammed Isa, further promised to provide equal opportunities for the albinos to enable them contribute their quota to national development.
He gave the assurances while addressing members of the Board of the Albino Foundation that paid him a courtesy visit on Thursday, in Abuja.
Saraki said: “I want to assure you that our meeting today is to send the message that we are with you. We will make sure that we defend you. We will make sure that we give you the opportunity necessary for you to be able to achieve your potentials.
“I want to assure you as you said, we will be waiting for the Bill to come from the House of Representatives, and we will definitely give it all the necessary attention to ensure its prompt passage.
“Your visit today has further exemplified what we represent; we represent all Nigerians, particularly what I will call the vulnerable groups. It is our responsibility to ensure that you are given a sense of belonging and equal opportunities to maximize your potentials, and to ensure that you are not discriminated against,” he said.
The Senate President was at the occasion nominated as an advocate and face of the albinos in Nigeria.