Disability, they say, is the inability to see ability but a hero, according to Christopher Reeves, is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
Twenty three-year-old Muhammadu Buhari Gwarabe was not born with any form of disability but along the line, as a child, he became deaf and mute after surviving meningitis attack. Despite his disability, Buhari is not disabled in spirit as he never allows his condition to deter his educational pursuit and personal development.
Deeply passionate about creative arts, he studied Fine and Applied Arts and Special Education at the Federal College of Education (Special) in Oyo State. He had his secondary school education at Abdulrasheed Adsia Raji Special School in Sokoto State and his primary education at the Demonstration School for the Deaf, Kawo, in Kaduna.
He started developing interest in arts, drawing and painting since he was in primary school. To strengthen his passion, he represented Sokoto State in the ‘Talent Hunt Programme’ organized by the National Gallery of Arts in Abuja in 2012 where he emerged the national winner in textile drawing, junior category. He also participated in the national painting competition for physically challenged children in Lagos State organized in 2008 by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in collaboration with Shell Exploration and Production Company where he also clinched the 3rd position. His performance at the competition earned him three years scholarship from Shell.
He also represented Sokoto State at the North-West zonal national painting competition for physically challenged children organized by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in collaboration with Shell Petroleum Development Company in 2010 and emerged first in the zone. All of these were driven by his passion for creative arts.
While pushing very hard to achieve his dream, Gwarabe says he has had both sweet and bitter experiences because of his special nature. According to him, many people tend to sympathize with him and act nice when they discover he is deaf and mute, adding that in most cases they show willingness to help and support him. On the other hand, however, he finds it very difficult to relate with people who do not understand his situation.
“My major challenge is communication because many Nigerians cannot understand sign language. I attended a mixed secondary school for both normal and hearing impaired children. Majority of the teachers don’t understand sign language, so, when they teach me, I don’t understand at all because I do not hear what they say except for the notes I copy from the black board and read. In the tertiary institution however, my problem was minimal because the school I attended was a special school where sign language is used in teaching.”
“But even the sign language has limitations because it doesn’t explain many words and expressions; as such, we find it difficult to comprehensively understand what we are being taught by our teachers,” he said, noting that he was taught by his teachers and lecturers not to see disability as a challenge or impediment to his success in life.
“As a Muslim, I believe that Allah has reasons for making me the way I am, so I accept my condition in good faith. I was not born deaf; I became deaf at age two as a result of meningitis attack. Although, at a time in my life, I entertained a lot of fears and worries over what my future will look like after graduation from school because I am aware that most organizations don’t employ people with disability even if they are able to do the job better. It is however my ambition to establish a modern arts studio and gallery which I will use to promote Nigeria’s culture and tradition,” he said.
Buhari Gwarabe does paintings of nature including realism, impressionism, abstract and clouds among others. For the few works he has done, he sourced his material and equipment locally with financial support from his parents.
On whether he has sold any of his works, he said, “I have sold a few of my artworks including the portrait of the Emir of Zuru which I sold to my father’s friend for N20, 000. I also did an art work for a couple for N15, 000. But I have quite a number of works which I do and keep for admiration and for people who come around me. I wish to go far in creative arts and if I am able to get sponsorship, I wouldn’t mind studying further,” he said.
Children with disability, he said, face a lot of challenges especially in the area of financial support because many of them come from poor backgrounds. He therefore appealed to government at all levels to make education free at all levels for persons with disability, urging government to employ or empower them to become self reliant after graduating from school.
He also advised persons living with disability not to see themselves as second class citizens, saying they should strive to explore their potentials and aim high to become great. He appealed to Nigerians not to discriminate against people with disability but treat them like every other citizen. (Daily Trust)