LET’S FOCUS ON EMPOWERING OUR COMPATRIOTS LIVING WITH ALBINISM, ABANDON SUPERSTITIOUS BELIEFS – OSINBAJO
By Laolu Akande, Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President
As a people, and in our communities, it is paramount to have conversations around the safety and enablement of our citizens who live with Albinism according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
He made this known at a virtual event, attended by a number of distinguished personalities including diplomats such as the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, marking the World Albinism Day themed: “Strength Beyond All Odds”, on Sunday, 13th of June, 2021.
According to the VP, “there is a need to see it for what it is, a genetic difference not a contagious disease or a public health problem.”
In dealing with the various challenges faced by the albinism community, Prof Osinbajo stated the need to “have frank and robust conversations around the protection and empowerment of our compatriots that live with albinism.”
“These conversations will drive change on two levels – in the public domain, where sociocultural perceptions of Albinism that are rooted in ignorance and superstition can finally be laid to rest.”
The Vice President admitted that “this is not going to be an easy task because superstition and sociocultural issues take a while to deal with, but we must aggressively begin to present counter-narratives to the socio-cultural misconceptions about albinism.”
Secondly, interventions made “must be designed to improve the lives of people living with Albinism. The time is now to do more to reverse negative mindsets and socio-cultural stereotypes about albinism in our society. We must also go further to take deliberate steps as private individuals and public servants by giving them equal opportunity in the workplace and in social settings as well”, according to Prof Osinbajo.
While commending the convener of the event, Mr Jake Eppele, the Vice President noted that “he is one of the most eloquent and influential spokespersons for the rights, protection, and welfare of albinos in Nigeria and the world over.”
His words: “I think it is the hard work of people like Pastor Jake and in response to the numerous challenges faced by the Albinism community in the country that led to the adoption in 2012, of the National Policy on Albinism.”
He added that the objective of the policy was to assist persons with Albinism and provide them with as conducive an environment as possible for their self-actualization.
Subsequently, in 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the inauguration of a technical committee to review the policy in order to assess its success since implementation and facilitate the access of persons living with Albinism to social services, particularly education and healthcare.
In his remarks, Mr Jake Eppele commended the Vice President for making out time to attend the virtual event despite being on transit. (Indeed, the VP participated in the virtual event on landing in Lagos from Abuja yesterday, on his way to a number of events later in Lagos.)
Eppele told the VP “thank you for being a man of your words, even though you are travelling and in transit, you stopped over just to address us. It shows us how passionate you are of the less privileged.
“I also want to say that you have made history by becoming the first Vice President globally to address persons with Albinism on this day, and I have it on record.”