Your Brief Bio:
I am Rufus Muyiwa, I am currently a final medical student at the University of Ibadan. I hailed from Omuo-Ekiti, Ekiti State. I live with mother and my two other siblings. I love writing poems, short stories and articles for publications. I also enjoyed public speaking and listening to music. I have tried singing but not my thing. I love honesty. I dislike cheating and deceit,
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
Do you know that albinos are hunted down like animals in some part of Africa? You probably will not know because they are the minority. In Tanzania being an albino is a terrible crime. if you escape death from the midwives, you face your parent if you escape death from your parent then you fall into the hands of kidnappers who want only part of your body for fortunes. The story is about the ordeal of an albino, he never survived the persecution!
where are the human rights for these people?
The Fight for the Black “Whites”
Some memories fade and become difficult to reminisce on, while others, though distant, stick like glue. Sam’s memory was one of those I could not let go. It was the 5th of May, 1997; exactly two decades ago, yet it seems just like yesterday.
It was the first day of the long awaited final examinations in the college. Of course, only a handful of us had managed to get to the examination hall thirty minutes earlier than the scheduled time. Everyone kept to themselves, occasionally moving their lips and drawing up last minute mnemonics. Once in a while, you could hear someone throw random questions as a check on how much they know and of course as a scare for their average colleagues. The tension in the air was gripping as we approached 10 o’ clock, that morning. We had taken different positions, some sat on the desks, some on the staircase and others just roamed as they memorized their notes so intently. The examiner walked in quietly and demanded that we organized ourselves and took our seats, which we did. The roll call accompanied the distribution of questions. I noticed that my best friend and seat partner was nowhere to be found. What could have happened? Did he forget? Did he sleep off? I was very worried. He was hard to miss, anyone would notice unless nobody cared, which of course, was obviously the case, nobody cared. This was not the first time I would be sitting alone, but I would know where he was, especially, on Tuesdays, when he would go for his medical checkups and medications. I did not hear my name being called as the question papers were distributed. I was drowned in my thoughts!
Sometimes, he overslept and missed classes when he took his analgesics. Had he slept off, nobody would wake him up. Sam’s roommates, John and Idris had left the room since the beginning of the semester. This was an unexpected backfire of their initial plan to send him out of the room. He was made to sleep outside the room for a couple of times under the pretext that he was responsible for their incessant nightmares, poor school performance and some other outrageous beliefs. I reported the case to the school authority immediately I got wind of it, this warranted their dismissal from the hostel. I subsequently became an enemy to many for this but I did not care. My dad had taught me to always stand for the right cause even if the whole world was against me.
I looked around with frank anxiety, wondering if for some reason he took someone else’ seat or was sitting outside. Sam was nowhere to be found. Perhaps, I could have known where he was had I been his roommate, only if my father had allowed me to enroll as a boarding student. I had always wanted to be his roommate but my father objected and would not let me live in any boarding house not even for a day, since I was the only child of my parent. My mum nearly died trying to bring me into this world, an experience she never liked recounting. She seemed not determined to deliver again.
I stared blankly at the question paper; I was deep in thought. I made a bold step to approach the supervisor, Mr. Ajayi, for permission to check him in the hostel. “Oh, our white boy, I didn’t even notice,” he exclaimed. How could he not have noticed his absence? I was moved to pity for my friend. Even a blind man would have noticed!
Samuel was very famous because he has albinism. Albinism is a rare inherited genetic disease which leaves its victim with no melanin - the dark pigment responsible for our dark skin colouration. Obviously, our Yoruba teacher, Mr. Ajayi, had a different theory. He explained (during one of his classes) that albinos are cursed by the gods and anyone who relates with them is likely to be unfortunate. This fuelled the already existing prejudice, my classmates had against Samuel. In class, he was always picked on and was a focus for ridicule.
“No, you are not permitted to leave until the exam ends.” He replied. Since we had commenced the examination, his response was not unexpected; also considering the fact that many students in the past had used this style among others, to carry out examination malpractices. As I returned to my seat, I made eye contact with Sam’s roommates, their uneasiness made me suspicious. Ever since that incident occurred, when I reported them to the authorities, they vowed to retaliate.
“Who knows what they have done to Sam!” I was confused. I thought of previous horrible things they had done to him. They ostracized him from their social activities, but that was nothing to worry about since he had me. About the name-calling, he was getting used to it; although the molestation and ridicule reduced after I filed a report to the school’s head. I became even more pained and sorrowful as I walked to my seat. Have they not done their worse?
I remembered the first day I saw Sam. He came during the mid-semester. He would not look up; he was as timid as a mouse. When the Principal introduced him to the class, we all could not help noticing that he was the first and only albino in the school. His first challenge was where to sit. No one would allow him, we made it so obvious that he was not welcome; some moved their bags to occupy where he would sit, and some shifted swiftly to fill the space. It seemed my seat was his only choice and I probably would have done like the others if I had not been the class representative. I needed to set the right example for others. A decision I later regretted throughout that day. I had never been close to an albino before; he looked terribly ugly to me. His pungent smell was horrendous; he had sores all over his body, especially on his lips. The large dark freckle-like spots on his face were hideous and repulsive. He turned to me and said “Thank you.”
I forgot to respond, his eyes were funny to me. They were pink and would not focus on a point, they were jerky. It was indeed appalling.
His eyes were moving rapidly, I felt every strand of my hair standing, I felt goose bumps, but I wouldn’t believe it. I feared my skin was in transition as if I already had what he has, even though I had shifted to the extreme to avoid any contact. I might have hated Sam more than anyone for this, but we soon became very good friends. My dad had explained his condition to me, at least everything he wanted me to know. I could remember crying to him that day. “I think my skin is going to peel off, I am going to be an albino.’’ I had lamented in my ignorance. I narrated all about Sam to him with so much exaggeration, in an attempt to make him realize how badly I needed treatment or at least to earn some tons of pity. My pathetic story was not getting the appropriate response. He smiled at my naivety – that same smile he usually gave, the minute my mum threatened to give me over to a ghoulish masquerade when I was much younger. He had decried all my superstitious beliefs about Sam. “Sam is sick and sick people need…” He paused like he always did for me to complete the line; he had taught me that since I was five. When I would see a sick person in his hospital and run “…love, care and empathy,” I replied reluctantly, not what I expected. I thought he would ask me to stay away from him like some parents did. My dad told me that the sores could have been from physical assaults and that people like him are vulnerable to the harsh effect of the sun because of their sensitive skin. This could cause a skin burn and chronically resulting in a skin cancer. For Sam, both factors came into play. A constant punishment in my school was standing in the sun and Sam was always a miscreant because of his poor performance. In addition, two times, I witnessed some students throw stones and sand at him because they thought he was a ghost and they wanted him to disappear. I stayed to watch, I thought he would actually disappear.
Sam and I later became close friends and even closer when he was tested positive for a skin malignancy at my dad’s hospital. Dad had connected him to a government health insurance which had taken responsibility for his expensive drugs and sunscreens. I was always there to encourage him to take his medications as prescribed and more importantly how he must not give up.
“Hmmm” I signed deeply. I was still deep in thought. My eyes shifted to the answer sheet. I had written nothing, I could not bring my mind to focus on anything else. The first question was to write on “The British Colonial Rule”, nothing was coming to mind, not even the meaning of “British”. I was full of hatred. I had developed a great contempt for everyone including the examination supervisor who couldn’t spare me five minutes to wake my friend up.
What if Sam was not sleeping? What if something bad had happened to him? I was having an expansion of thoughts, terrible ones though. Sam and I had talked a lot about his pasts. I called him Sam because his real name was not easy to remember even much more difficult to pronounce. He came from Tanzania, his torment started on the first day he was born. His parents were astonished; never had such existed in their family before. The first death threat on his life was from his father, who could not believe he gave birth to a white boy. He accused the mother of infidelity with a nonexistent white man in the family, and he wanted the abomination gone for life. His mum stood strongly against him, she would die before she allowed anything happen to her son. The birth of Sam erased every iota of peace in his family. Mother and the son were victims of constant physical and verbal abuse by the father.
“3 fingers” was a popular nickname Sam was called in my school, his little and index fingers were maimed. This was when his father realized his abomination could fetch him a fortune but only in bits. In Tanzania, an albino has no right to live than an animal. The persecution against them is not equaled in any country, based largely on propagated superstition and misconceptions that some albino’s parts bestow fortunes and wealth. Therefore, they are sought for like gold and hunted down like animals. These evil perpetrators cut the part requested and leaving the other parts. Some bury the albinos, safekeeping their bodies in a marked grave in case other parts are needed especially the bones, which the gold miners used as their luck charm.
So Sam’s dad connived with some men in desperate need of albino fingers, it was after this incident that his mother moved him away from his home to a special school founded by the United Nations, this school ensured the protection of albinos from harm and offered some formal education. Sam was moved to the school when he was just seven, and he spent eleven years in the school. In the later years, the school got compromised and some of them were kidnapped. He was part of those kidnapped; they were all taken far into a forest, the albino black market, a notorious centre for lucrative trade in albino parts. There, he met many of his kind locked up. Most were children. They believed the younger the albino, the greater the potency of the magical power. Almost all of them had been amputated with at least one limb gone. They cut the parts of live albinos; they needed their victims to scream for the witchcraft to be effective. The young females among them were sexually violated by men with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). It is a popular belief among them that these could cure their HIV. They were given little food, no care or treatment at all. Sam described his time there as his worst experience ever. Every night, they would go to their cells to harvest the parts they needed. He had only been lucky not to be disembodied because of his age, he was eighteen then, nobody knew if such parts were potent for rituals. Witch doctors, their business partners, preferred the younger ones.
“Such is not a place for animals.” Sam said. Fortunately for him, they were rescued by the Tanzanian police force. They had been searching the forest for days. The United Nations declared the country unsafe for albinos and moved some of them from Tanzania to other African nations believed to be relatively safe for them to live in. That’s how Sam got to my country and my school.
Midway into the examination, I felt a hand on my left shoulder, it was Mr. Ajayi’s. He asked me to sit upright. I had wet the table and the examination papers with tears. He could not say anything; He checked my answer sheet and found, I had written nothing. “Five minutes, just five minutes” he agreed to let me go. I jumped up from my seat as I ran to the hostel; I was very excited at the same time worried. In no time, I was in front of his room, I started knocking. There was no response. That was the only place Sam would be. He would not dare go out at that time, with the sun at its peak. I tried peeping inside through the window maybe I would see him but the curtain obstructed my view. I went to the door again to knock, at this time I realized the door had been locked from outside. Clearly, he must have left his room. I noticed I had stepped on a sticky fluid; it couldn’t have been water because it was viscous. I had only one guess, blood! Spontaneously; I screamed “help!” I continued screaming as I banged the door. It was as if I was still knocking but I intended bringing the door down. I guess I was not as powerful as I thought. Some guys from other rooms came around and we were able to break through.
It was the most horrific sight of my life, I saw Sam on a chair beside his bed in a pool of his blood. He must have cut deep enough to split the wrists open, judging from the source of the bleeding. His eyes were wide open but they were not moving rapidly as they normally do. It was a terrible image; it haunted me for years. “Let’s move him to the hospital” I shouted.
The room was already full of people, all at a distance as I made effort to lift Sam off his chair, everybody could hear me but nobody was responding, even when Sam wasn’t in this state they wouldn’t dare touch him. How would they touch him now?
“Get out all of you, out! if you wouldn’t help…” I cried.
At this time, some teachers rushed in and we carried Sam out of the room. Mr. David, our biology teacher had agreed to us using his vehicle. As we moved Sam to his car, one of the students gave a letter to Mr. Michael, our vice principal. It had fallen off Sam as he was being moved. I knew he had written it to me but, I was not interested, and he was not dead yet. The car started, other students were asked to go back to their different activities, but none of them dared send me back. I was in a dreadful mood. The journey to the hospital seemed to be taking forever; it felt like the car was being pushed. I had enough time to check if Sam was still breathing, his heartbeat had stopped, he became cold to touch, his skin is usually cool but this was different.
“Sam, you aren’t dying” I whispered into his ears, Mr. Michael must have heard me as he looked back.
“He will be fine”, he responded.
I have a sixth sense that helps me to know when adults are lying. He had just read the letter, at the moment I was dying to know the content. We got to the hospital and the medical team attended to him. I asked the doctor if he was alive.
“He is not dead, we just need to resuscitate him, and he will be fine.”
I believed him, doctors are not supposed to lie. Sam will be fine.
Mr. Michael walked towards where I was seated,
“Take, this is for you.”
It was the letter, I was not eager to read, at least, not in front of him, I put it in my pocket. He returned to his seat. I gently brought the letter out with so much eagerness and great curiosity.
I woke up this morning and I found out the hope I had held on to for many years had gone. I must have woken up late because I read through the night. I reached out for my glasses, then the nightmares began, the pieces of lens were gone, only the frame was left. It seemed like a dream. Looking up, my wardrobe was open, with all my clothes gone, who would rob a cursed man? I rushed to the door to see if I would get help. To my ultimate amazement, the door was locked. I looked through the window trying to reach people outside for help. I watched them pass by acting deaf. Some just laughed. I felt unbearable pain as memories of my bad days at Tanzania flooded back. I felt exactly what I felt there, except I had enough space and time and I could end the pain once and forever this time. I had made several death attempts. I could only wish this would be successful. I have a lot of questions to ask my maker.
I know you will feel so bad, but I don’t want you to. Turn your pain into strength. You have stood up against many people to defend my rights and annul their misconceptions, now you have to stand up against the world to defend the course of thousands of me. You have to raise a voice for us, a voice people like me are too weak to raise. Young and adult everywhere must know that albinos are humans and nothing less.
You have to create a world where people like me will smile and never cry again, such world I would not mind coming to again even as an albino. If you could get to my mum tell her, never does a day pass without me thinking about her. I love her so much… I appreciate you for everything.
The doctor could not resuscitate him; he had lost too much blood. It was getting difficult to find someone to donate blood to a dying albino, and mine would not just match. I heard Sam had taken all his analgesics at once to numb the pain as he slit his wrists.
“Perhaps, if I had been allowed to see him earlier, he might still be alive.” I lamented.
That was it, his last voice that rang continually in my head; I would never get to hear from him again. But his message was enough to set me on a cause; I now have something to stand for, something to live for. This is where I find happiness and fulfillment. Sam’s words turned me into an activist for albinism, I could not think of any other cause to fight for. I promised Sam every albino in Tanzania and other African countries would be cared for with love care and empathy. I had sworn to fight his cause throughout African as I watched him descending into the grave during his burial.
I hope to create such world he desired, a world in which albinos are not only protected from attacks or abuse but are reintegrated into the mainstream of the society. A world in which, ignorance, myths, and superstitions about albinism are replaced with adequate education and full awareness about albinism. A world in which social, cultural and educational marginalization against albinos would not exist, violation of their rights would be a criminal offence with the swift prosecution of the offenders. Parents would be mandated to educate their wards rightly like my father did. No albino child would have to go through what Sam went through in school. Such world I have been building for two decades, going from one African country to another, establishing different institutions to fight against the massive violation of human rights against albinos. I could only hope Sam would see this world and smile wherever he is now.
Today is 5th of May; it was when Sam, my best friend, died and it still feels just like yesterday.