11 Nov 2009
As we celebrate the International Day for the blind on November 13, I thought it would be nice to share this story.
I remember this peculiar incident in the early eighties on the streets of Jos, Nigeria. I found myself trying to resolve an employer/employee conflict of a special type. I was walking along a not-too-busy road when I saw an elderly man hitting the head of a little boy with his folded fingers. The boy was around eight and the man who was blind was probably in his sixties. What surprised me was that the boy was not making any effort to run away from the attacks of the elderly man. He stubbornly stood his grounds and bitterly argued his case. I approached them to understand what was going on? The little boy told me that he has been guiding the old man since morning (as he went about begging) and the man does not want to advance part of his daily wage so that he can buy something to eat. That was the first time that I knew that the people guiding the blind were doing a paid job. I had always thought that they were family members. Even though the question I was to ask the blind man seemed odd to me, I inquired from him why he has not paid his employee. The man told me that the young man did not take him to places where he could get something substantial and besides, they have not covered enough ground for him to be requesting advance salary. Back then, I was a local trade union leader in the factory where I work. I tried to employ my negotiating skills to resolve this conflict but to no avail. I told the blind man that in this type of situation, he should not employ force because the guide can abandon him and it will be difficult for him to find his way home. “If he likes he should abandon me… Allah will guide me home”. He retorted angrily. I soon realized that I had achieved nothing after spending about twenty minutes negotiating.
I finally decided to pay the advance salary to the boy from my pocket before he resumed his duty guiding his employer in search of alms. As I walked away I understood better how conflict resolution could be a complicated affair.
Related blind people’s stories
1.Three Hours With a Blind Couple in Douala
2. A Little Bit of Compassion
Njei Moses Timah