We all have some values in us, whether disabled or not – Ademola Adeleke
Ademola Adeleke is a Nigerian from Oyo State, the fourth-largest Nigerian state also known as the Pace Setter State.
Born over 2 decades ago, Demmy, as fondly called by friends, has always been bright and cheerful from a young age until life punched him with an unexpected disability. Glaucoma came knocking on his door at a tender age of eight (8) without prior permission.
This unexpected twist initially gave him a hiatus of three years in his pursuits but being an innately positive lad, coupled with the fact that his girlfriend at that time already gained admission into a university, he picked himself up and decided it was time to go to a blind school.
There, he learnt many fascinating things that gave him enough courage to pursue his academic dreams. He firmly decided to push himself to be whatever he desired to be in life.
He said, “Many of the blind students in the school I attended simply settled for mediocrity, but I felt giving excellence a try wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
Guess what? He graduated with a solid second class upper with a CGPA of 4.44. Who would think a blind guy would be 0.06 away from a first-class CGPA?
Did I tell you he went to the studio to try music? Of course, he did; hoping to be another Cobhams Asuquo or Stevie Wonder but the cost-implications of recording songs were a bit pricey. He had no choice than to let go of his budding interest in music.
Here is an in-depth interview that sheds more light on his personal life and quests. I strongly hope that this will encourage someone not to think less of himself but to develop a positive consciousness in the face of a life’s unpredictable events.
Enjoy this interactive session and learn.
1. Can you recall the exact occurrence of your blindness, did it start as partial blindness or you just woke up one morning and realize your sight was gone?
No, I lost the sight gradually.
2. Was there any sign or symptoms of impending glaucoma in your early years before you totally lost your eyes?
Yes, when I was 7, I started experiencing what my parents mistook for Apollo; i.e. reddish eyeballs and a slight blur in my vision. So we trailed on that ignorance till it became worse. By the time I was in JSS 3, just before I started my junior WAEC exam, my sight had gone really bad that I could hardly walk independently. So, I told my parents about the sudden decline in my sightedness and they brought me to the hospital.
Meanwhile, I had been going for appointments at the eye clinic since that first time I made a complaint about the blur in my vision, but the hospital I was going to, Adeoyo hospital in Ibadan, couldn’t categorically tell what was wrong with my sight.
So, after the drastic decline in my vision at JSS 3, a friend of the family recommended UCH in the same Ibadan for us and I hence started going for treatments there. There, the diagnosis they ran showed that I had glaucoma, an eye defect that increases the eye pressure’.
Unfortunately, I eventually lost the sight after like 2 years of frequenting UCH for appointments. That was in 2009.
3. If you were to compare the activities in your life before and after you lost your sight, which aspect of your daily life as a person do you miss the most?
My adventurous personality. I used to go fishing and hunting for crabs at the stream. It’s something I enjoyed so much, but I can’t do that anymore. I also enjoyed visiting friends. Those days, I could just wear my clothes and decide to visit a friend without prior planning, but now, mobility isn’t something I find so easy. I really miss those times.
4. How did you manage to achieve such an outstanding CGPA even as a blind student?
It’s very simple. I was only determined since the first year, that I must come out as one of the five best students in my class, and I finally did it. As a matter of fact, I felt if I would live in this world without my sight, then I have to do it remarkably. I was always serious with lectures attending and the submission of my assignments was always prompt. It’s a decision I made since the day I decided to go back to school after the three years break I took when my disability struck.
5. Would you say you had more or fewer friends in your school days due to your condition?
I had many friends. I’m an outgoing person, so friends making was very easy for me. Although some persons preferred to keep me at arm’s length, perhaps because they thought friendship with me might come with some burden.
6. Within these years of disability, what has been your greatest lesson?
We all have some values in us, whether disabled or not. No-one is born empty. When I just lost my sight, I thought I would hence become useless, but if I start counting my achievements over the years, you will get tired of listening. In short, being disabled doesn’t make you useless.
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7. What’s the hardest part of being blind?
I will say it’s mobility. Going out at your own will is not something very easy when you’re blind. You have to depend on people before you can do that. In my undergraduate days, my attendance at lectures was absolutely dependent on my friends and sometimes, passers-by, so if my friend was late for the class, I would be late as well, no matter how early I had dressed up.
8. What does your typical day entail?
I seldom go out, so, I’m often times indoors with my mum. On a typical day, I sleep, read stories online, write if there’s an inspiration to, chat with friends online, watch some movies, then sleep again. I manage to hang out with friends once in a while though, but I don’t really find it interesting. Love my quiet moments a lot.
9. Do you have a personal mission or vision statement?
Personal mission statement? Yes, I do. I aim at letting the Nigerian populace into the world of the blind and expose them to the challenges, welfare and some experiences of the blind. I’m hoping to develop my facebook series into a TV series where all these issues about the blind will be acted as movies.
10. Are you in a relationship and what attracted you to your girlfriend?
Yes, I am. The girl is smart, brainy and supportive; I think those qualities of hers aroused my interest in her. A blind man doesn’t need a dumb wife/girlfriend, he needs someone smart you know.
11. How often do you get insulted and how do you handle such?
Surprisingly enough, I don’t get insulted. I think it’s because of the way I relate with people. I’m not a loud person, and I don’t give room for people to insult me. Although they may be insulting me at my back, no-one does that to my face. Except for a lecturer who scolded me openly with my blindness when I was in my 2nd year at the university; and I didn’t let it get to me. When you insult me by calling me a blind man, you’re only stating the obvious because that’s who I am 😆
12. Is travelling boring for you as a person?
Yes, very boring, unless I’m in a company of friends. What makes a journey interesting is the scenes, spectacles and landscapes you come across on the way; but for a blind person, it’s always a blank journey with no windows on the vehicle.
13. What would be your advice for a disabled person that’s about to give up on life?
It’s too early to give up. Search within you to discover those special values you have. Then explore them and make yourself useful in the little way you can. Death sure liberates you from life challenges, but that doesn’t make it the best option.
14. A man of God once prayed for blindness because he couldn’t control his thoughts whenever he sees certain things. As for you, are there certain things you’re happy not being able to see?
The man of God is a joker. Nothing is as good as seeing the beauty of nature and the things inhabited in it. I’ll rather have my sight and see everything, I mean everything in the world. Wait, has the man of God lost his sight now? If he hasn’t, he can hand it to me instead of wasting it (smiles).
15. How did you manage to master the locations of the keys on your keyboard?
I was trained to type during my rehabilitation, so I’m acquainted with the arrangement of the keys on the keyboard. Besides, even the sighted typists don’t look at the keyboard while typing, so typing without sight is no big deal.
16. Do you find people more condescending to you because of your condition?
Some people try to act that way towards me, but I don’t give room for such. I’m bigmouthed, so it helps me a lot when people come up with their superiority nonsense. I simply say a word or two, reflecting that pride I have in me, and they all feel my swagger 😀
17. What kinds of music do you like listening to?
Naija hip-hop. Especially Davido’s and Eldee’s songs, I don’t joke with them. I listen to R&B once in a while too.
18. Some blinds sleep with their eyes open. Do you practice this too or you have to close your eyes before you fall asleep?
This is the first time I will hear this; blind person sleeping with the eye open. I’ll like to believe it’s a product of mere imagination, I haven’t come across such before. And if at all it does happen, then it’s not just peculiar to the blind because there are some sighted persons who also leave the eye half-open while sleeping. The eye is blind doesn’t mean the lids wouldn’t cover it during sleep. Personally, I close my eyes while sleeping.
19. What are your hobbies?
Swimming, reading odd news, watching/listening to movies and fantasizing. I enjoy kissing too. Lol.
20. Who or what is your biggest motivation in life? What keeps you going?
My parents. They’ve done so much for me when my life was crumbling down, so I’ll make it up to them by all means. I plan to do this by becoming great in life so I can spoil them with care. Meanwhile, I have my dreams too, I want to become successful in life, have a family and live comfortably in spite of my blindness. In short, having a good life is my greatest motivation.
21. Was there any time you failed in school or any time you were not happy with your grades? What was the experience like?
I didn’t fail any of my courses throughout my four years at the university, but there was a time when I wasn’t really happy with my result. It was my 2nd year, 1st-semester result. I had Bs throughout and just two As, totalling my CGPA to 4.0. I was disappointed. If I had had a better result that year, I could have made a first-class in my department.
22. We rely on our vision to know how clean our clothes and dishes are? How do you manage this when you wash?
For my clothes, I wash, wash and wash till I’m convinced they are clean. I simply focus on the collar, wrist and armpit. And sometimes, I show the clothes to a sighted person around. For dishes, I dip my hand inside after washing to confirm if it’s still oily or not. But most times, I don’t wash plates, someone else does.
23. How do you know what the time says?
My phone talks, so I check the time on my phone whenever I need to.
24. Do you have a favourite game?
Yes, but not an outdoor game. It’s an audio game; the name is ‘A Blind Legend’. You can find it on google play store.
25. How do you check for expiry dates of the things you buy?
Smiles. You’re just reminding me that there’s something like ‘expiry date’. I don’t check, that’s the last thing on my mind whenever I buy a product. I’ll try checking henceforth.
26. Is/are there any habit(s) you are working hard to break?
Yes, biting my fingernails. I’m an addict. I’m working on it though.
27. During your undergraduate days, was there a mistake you made and wish you could undo?
Yes, in my 2nd year; I paid more attention to girls than my academics. If I hadn’t, I might have had a better result.
28. Do you sometimes feel like you relate to people differently because of your blindness?
No, I don’t think so. I’m a very forthcoming person, so I talk and relate with people enthusiastically. Nothing has changed over the years in the aspect of my relationship with people.
29. What would be your dream job if you were to choose one?
Movie scriptwriter or public relations officer.
30. If you could just give everyone in the world one piece of advice right now, what would It be?
Whenever you make a promise to someone, ensure to fulfil it.
31. What has been the best time of your life so far?
When I made a post about my undergraduate results and everyone was calling to congratulate me. Even some of my lecturers called to congratulate me. Some educational blogs also made a thread out of my result/graduation, and BBC news was also at my house to interview me. I felt so honoured.
32. What seemingly insignificant decision have you made that had a massive impact on your life?
Making a post on facebook about my undergraduate result. I just made the post hastily and before I knew it, it had gone viral. I was able to connect with so many influencers online just because of that mere post. To crown it all, I got not less than 200k from well-wishers online who felt my convocation party should be in grand style.
33. In your experience, what would you call the most essential part of friendship?
Understanding each other. Whenever I react in a particular way, maybe not very appealing, my friends do understand me and hence, they wouldn’t judge me. I understand them also, so it has been greatly instrumental to our friendship.
34. What’s the most thought-provoking fact you have ever known in life?
Aircraft and ships disappearing into the Bermuda triangle. Still wondering what the cause is.
35. What exactly do you somewhat like but are kind of uncomfortable to admit?
Romance. I enjoy it a lot, but I’d rather not admit it openly or I’ll be tagged one who doesn’t know what’s next. Besides, people don’t expect someone like me, a blind guy, to indulge in something like that. But I live my life to please myself anyway, not for anybody.
36. What are you looking forward to the most in the next 5 to 10 years?
Becoming one of the greatest scriptwriters of all time.
37. If you are given a huge sum of money to start a business, what kind of business would you do?
Movie business. I have so many interesting ideas I’ll like to make into video clips. So if I’m given a huge sum of money now, I’ll just create a platform and stock it with my videos; I’m positive that it will attract so many followers.
38. What is the worst advice someone gave you?
That I shouldn’t bother myself on getting a 2nd class (upper division) in my department. The lady was my senior at the department then and was convinced no blind student could make such result because she had witnessed many intelligent blind students who couldn’t break the jinx, so she advised me not to bother myself. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to her.
39. What are the top three topics you love to talk about?
Aviation, oceanography and movies.
40. What exactly do you never get tired of?
Watching movies. I can do it all day without eating. Although I don’t get the whole gist in movies as I have to make do with only the characters’ discussions without seeing their actions.
41. What is the most spontaneous thing you have ever done in life?
I picked up my phone, logged into Facebook, wrote a flash fiction and posted it immediately. I never planned to write neither did I have a plot prior to the writing. The story was nice and eventually got published in my departmental magazine. Today, such a way of writing has formed a habit out of me.
42. What new thing did you try that took you so long to figure out?
Playing the audio game ‘A blind legend’ on my android phone. I was frustrated and had to e-mail the game developer, complaining to him that I couldn’t figure out how to play the game but he didn’t reply me, so I kept trying and eventually got it. It took me more than a week before getting to know how to play the game.
43. Do you have any plans after NYSC?
Yes, I do. I want to go for my masters immediately.
44. Do you have any fears?
Yes, I do. I want to be rich so I can live comfortably amidst my blindness, but it’s also possible that I might not have that life I crave for. So I’m always fearful anytime I try to face that reality (imagining myself living poorly).
45. Would you still go into the music industry if you had the financial capacity?
Yes, I will. I like music a lot and I think I’ve got what it takes to be outstanding in the industry.
46. Have you been considering an additional degree?
Yes, I have. But it won’t be a sequel to my first degree, I’ll like to try something entirely different. I’m considering Creative Writing.
47. What advice would you give someone who is newly blind and having a hard time?
Go for rehabilitation immediately and set your life back on track. Sucking over your blindness wouldn’t help you at all, it will only waste away some of your precious years instead.
48. How do you plan to vote during the 2019 election?
I might not be voting. I registered my permanent voter’s card in Nsukka but I’m currently in Ibadan. There’s no way I can travel down to Nsukka just because I want to vote. I think the Nigerian electoral commission needs to do something about this issue
49. What method do you think is best to approach a visually impaired person to offer assistance?
Don’t just assume they need help and start helping them with what they are doing. Ask them first if they need a hand. Many of us don’t like it when people meddle uninvitedly with what we’re doing.
50. What’s that thing you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Go for checkups to confirm if all their body organs are working perfectly. It’s very important. Many people don’t even know they have glaucoma as we speak.
If Ademola Adeleke could successfully cross several hurdles and still make the best use of every other sense organs he has in the best possible way, then I don’t think anyone has an excuse to settle for less. So, strive and be all that you can be!
Is there a disability you are struggling with? How do you scale through challenges?
Was there a time you lost all hope but you made a decision that changed your life?
Have you once thought it’s over for you but something incredible happened?
Drop your comments. I would love to hear from you. 😉