The Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind (FNSB) celebrated its annual fundraiser May Ball last Saturday in Lagos amidst pomp and splendor, with the presence of prominent Nollywood stars. Draped in the red, black and white colour scheme of the event, the Shell Hall of the Muson Centre Onikan, Lagos came alive with star performances from the VTC Choir, a blind dancer and interactions with some of the blind students. Ranti of Iwe Kiko fame also performed. There was a fashion parade of designs made from fabrics designed by VTC students. And raffle draws and other competitions held where guests won various prizes.
Particularly adding glamour to the event was the presence of influential persons in the society and particularly Nollywood players including Tade Ogidan, Sola Sobowale, Foluke Daramola, Fathia Balogun, Iyabo Ojo, Bimbo Akintola, Ronke Oshodi Oke and Lepa Shandy.
But the glamour was missing to the blind students for which the event was all about. They sat at specially designated tables decked in their usual black tops and black trousers or skirts for men and women respectively, with white canes, some decked in dark eyeglasses. They were like other people, except for them, it was dark everywhere.
FNSB Chairman, Asiwaju Fola Osibo, complained of lack of funds to run the organisation’s activities and reiterated an institutional neglect from government saying, “We receive no subvention from the government. We are absolutely a voluntary organization and depend on generous givers to run this organization and we have been doing this since 1955.”
Though an anonymous donation of two million naira amidst other donations was announced, it represented a miniscule sum in the 40 million naira needed to run FNSB’s Vocational Training Centre (VTC) located in Oshodi, Lagos annually.
Actress Iyabo Ojo said the plight of blind people in Nigeria was a major concern to her.
“Going into several homes, I discovered a lot, parents do abandon their children,” said Ojo who thinks parents and other members of the society must care for the blind. “They have their own special gifts and blessing, that’s what I think. When you care show them love, God in return will shower his own blessing on you”
Sola Sobowale, another actress who is seriously spearheading the initiative, said, “In other countries abroad, people with special needs are given optimum attention but back here in Nigeria, they are neglected and treated with disdain. And as a result this set of people do not have confidence in themselves”.
Lamenting further, she said, “We should not make them feel unwanted. We should not make them live in misery. We should try and support them and make their lives more meaningful and useful to the society. A lot of them have great ideas and untapped talents even though they are physically impaired.”
She also appealed to corporates organisations as well as government agencies to stop discriminating against the physically impaired.
“A lot of organisations out there discriminate against them by not offering them job opportunities even when they know many of the physically impaired are very intelligent and are full of great ideas. So what we are saying is that the physically impaired should be given the attention and opportunity they deserve.”
Speaking further, she said, “That is why I am taking it up as a huge responsibility to ensure that my colleagues in the movie industry join hands with me to ensure that this course is pursued logically. I want people out there to know that it is not the end of the world for them when they go blind. There are a lot of talents in you, which you can use for your good and that of the society at large. I am equally appealing to organisations out there to give them jobs because some of these physically impaired people can do better than those with sight. I am also calling on government to come to their aid by providing all amenities that these special people require to live their lives with as much comfort as they could.”
Established in 1956, the Vocational Training Centre has trained over 2,000 people, empowering them with skills to make them useful to society and themselves.