THE WARRIOR AMIDST THE XENOPHOBIC WAR

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South Africa is much more developed than Nigeria but complacency and laziness seems to be a cross SOME South Africans carry. However, some of them are so large hearted and display the direct opposite of the word XENOPHOBIA. Nigeria on the other hand is blessed with a high percentage of hardworking citizens who try to improve themselves at the slightest opportunity but Nigeria’s burden seems to be in its underdevelopment. This has become a very big issue in Nigeria such that a lot of Nigerians travel out of their country, seeking greener pastures at the mercy of other countries.  Canada, United States of America, United kingdom, France, Australia, South Africa (amongst others) are countries that have experienced the after effects of this phenomenon. You find a lot of Nigerians doing exploits in other countries but not being able to be so impactful in their own countries because of the plague of underdevelopment. Therefore, given the fact that South Africa is more developed than Nigeria, a lot of Nigerians travel to South Africa for better opportunities.

So did I, years back, in the name of seeking educational and medical greener pastures, especially as I am a sickle cell warrior. Hardly did I know that I was in for an unforgettable experience. It took me time to adapt to the weather and to discover that most South Africans are more receptive when you speak their language. They never consider that they have 8 official languages which include English. So many times, on the road when I lost my way and asked for directions, every South African I asked for direction responded in another language apart from English. This was despite the fact that I asked for directions in English and they could tell from my accent that I wasn’t South African, they just didn’t care.

During a seminar at a certain university where I applied for my masters, they all began to speak Afrikaans not caring that I was present and I didn’t understand the language. A large percentage of them hate foreigners, especially Nigerians and I find this so appalling that it makes me pray for Nigeria’s deliverance more than before.  If Nigeria were as developed as South Africa, there’ll be no need to travel to countries like South Africa; where Xenophobia is rampant. What they don’t understand is that it is wrong to use a few people’s sin to represent a whole race. Yes! SOME Nigerians are bad, corrupt, drug dealers, yahoo plus but not ALL Nigerians are bad, some of us fear God and keep his commandments.

I remember the last xenophobic attack they launched on all foreigners. I was in the taxi and I kept hearing Nigeria! Nigeria!! Nigeria!!! Fear gripped me and I kept observing while hiding any clue of my nationality. When I got to my bus stop, I jumped out with a sigh of relief. There was chaos around me. You could see that some of these people are sick. They seized the opportunity to go into people’s homes, and shops to rob and beat them for no just reasons.

If you’re a Sickle cell warrior, you’ll know that fear is a powerful catalyst for crisis. Minutes after I dropped from the taxi, I began feeling a strange sensation coursing through my body and spreading very fast. That sensation was familiar!!! Fear gripped me again. I grabbed and swallowed the pain killers in my bag fast. Ten minutes later, not sensations any more but pain. Full, fledged pain, unleashed from the bottomless pit of sickle cell. There and then, I knew the “heartless pain crisis” had arrived amidst a xenophobic attack and I feared what it was about to do to me. Eish!!! The wrongest time for crisis. I prayed hard: “Lord, please let this cup pass over me”. Right there, I felt a jab inside my bones and I stopped in my tracks as the pain reached another peak. It was killing me already, I couldn’t walk, I suddenly felt dizzy and everything became dark, gross darkness on the road…, Mon Dieu! C’etait tres mal. Wrong timing, wrong location and fear; three very bad combinations; if you know what I mean as a sickle cell warrior. I could feel death reaching out to me with its cold hands. I had no strength left in me as I gave in to the” heartless pain crisis” and collapsed.

Hours later (can’t specifically say how many hours), I regained consciousness and saw a drip attached to my hand as a Doctor approached me. He gave me a thorough look, asked a few questions and wrote something for the Nurses. The Nurses came back with some giant capsules for me to swallow and took my blood samples; puncturing my veins severally. The following day, the Doctor came back with my results; I had been transferred to another hospital where I would be closely monitored because they could not comprehend “my kind”. I left the hospital the following day, partially recovered but decided not to go to the hospital I had been transferred to. After all, most of these people hate foreigners and I wasn’t ready to be used as a specimen for their research nor an instrument for vendetta.

They did their best and helped to tackle the “heartless pain crisis” but their knowledge of Sickle Cell was limited as it wasn’t a common disease in this part of Africa. Sickle Cell Disease is more common in the western region of Africa than the Southern region. As such, the medical attention I received was limited. From my personal experience, I can say South Africa has one of the best medical services in Africa, they follow the western standard and they keep updating their knowledge by investing in thorough research. However, sickle cell disease is not on their list of priorities.

What South Africa doesn’t know is that despite the fact that sickle cell disease is not common in South Africa and most South Africans don’t have it, countries like Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, e.t.c, have it. Unfortunately, they are too embittered to realize that Indigenes of these countries live in South Africa, they fall in love with South Africans, marry them and procreate. What is the result of the procreation? Will it produce another victim of sickle cell? What if it does? Will there be another xenophobic attack. I say No! To whom much is given, much is expected. You’ve got a lot of medical facilities and give priority to research. Yes, there is the bone marrow transplant and stem cell but you can do more. I urge and implore the government and leadership of South Africa to focus on more important things like finding a cure to SCD, rather than wasting their energy on acts like xenophobia. Continue research on sickle cell disease, encourage your indigenes to do a genotype compatibility test and stop finding faults on your fellow blacks through xenophobic attacks.

Oluwafemi Ajayi – The WinningWarrior as she calls herself lived in South Africa and has battled with Sickle Cell Disease all her life. She is the founder/president of the ‘Gail Sickle Initiative; a foundation that unites Nigerian Sickle cell patients (warriors) in diaspora in order to assist other Sickle Cell patients (warriors) back in Nigeria. She also advocates against the stigmatisation of warriors. She has a Master’s degree from Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa and she is currently trying to process her Doctorate degree.                                                

Email: femiquaint@gmail.com

 

The Sickle And The Stigma

Career

I was touched when I read this story from a sickle cell warrior. I feel I should share it with my readers, here it is:

I go down memory lane, years ago before I traveled to South Africa. I had been working in this company for some time, had built my career to a managerial level but I felt something was missing. I wanted more; I had this youthful exuberance that wouldn’t settle for complacency and so I took a leap and went on an adventure. It was a cold, rainy day and the weather was not encouraging in any way. Unfortunately, I had given some lame excuse at work in order to take the day off because I had been called for a job interview somewhere in Victoria Island. So, I had no choice, despite the unfriendly weather, I took off.

When I arrived at the venue of the interview, I noticed that very few of us had been invited for the interview. I was glad because I knew this would save me a lot of stress. I was directed to the reception where I sat with the others and barely ten minutes later, they began calling us one after the other into an office. From this, I was able to detect that it was a “one on one” interview. Hhhmm, I sighed.

Forty-five minutes later, I was called in. “How are you today, Miss?” The woman conducting the interview asked me. “I’m fine ma’am.” I responded courteously. As she kept talking to me, I looked at the paper she was holding in her hand and I discovered it was the result from the previous interview I had with the same organisation. “You seem very intelligent and that is very impressive,” She said to me. “Thank you ma’am” I replied. “I am confident that you have the required character and skills for this job.” She said as she shook my hands and walked me towards the door.

She was just about to open the door when she took a good look at me, after glancing intently at my eyes, she stared at my shoes. “Why are you dressed like this?” she asked me. “Because of the weather; It’s very cold” I responded. (I was wearing a pair of jeans, a very thick jacket and a pair of Nike trainers). She shook her head and asked, “You mean you’re feeling cold in this warm weather? “Our bodies are different, ma’am.” I answered. “Ok, we will get back to you,” she said quickly as she hastily opened the door and waited for me to leave.

Two days later, I was informed via a text message that I had not been chosen for the job as I didn’t qualify. As I read the message, I wondered what went wrong. Where had the switch come from? The same woman who shook my hands and told me “you are confident and you have the required character and skills for this job” was the same person who asked me “you mean you’re feeling cold in this warm weather?” And hastily opened the door for me to leave. As I kept reminiscing, I suddenly remembered the intent glance at my eyes and I understood. The slight yellow colour had given me away.

I had planned to outsmart that company by keeping quiet about my health. The Salary was going to be much better than my current place of work, the benefits were yummy and I could use the exposure that came with it. Alas! Sickle cell had a way of announcing itself without you doing it. So, I guess the woman who interviewed me found out on time and kicked me out. Wow!

When will this stigma stop? When will the courage override the fear? Fortunately for me, I continued in my place of work and pretended as though nothing had happened. So many warriors had experienced what just happened to me, some didn’t even have another job waiting for them, but kept praying for a miracle. I recently read a post on Face book about a warrior who was seeking help to establish her catering business; she got tired and depressed from being jobless and dependent. It’s time to go the extra mile. Why keep hoping and waiting for the stigma to end? Who needs a job when we can be our own boss? Warriors are very intelligent people, we are good at what we do and if given the opportunity, we make impacts. Are you a warrior and you sing beautifully? Or you are creative and you love to draw? Send us your contact details through our email address: info@gailsickleinitiative.org and we will get in touch with you.

 

Oluwafemi Ajayi – The Winning warrior as she calls herself is the founder/president of the ‘Gail Sickle initiative; a foundation that unites Nigerian warriors in the diaspora in order to assist other warriors back in Nigeria. She also advocates against the stigmatisation of warriors. She has a Master’s degree from Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa and she is currently processing her Doctorate degree.

Website: http://gailsickleinitiative.org/

Email: info@gailsickleinitiative.org

Facebook: ‘Gail Sickle Initiative

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