Moses Ogbaji is 29 years old, but his three-foot height sharply belies his age. However, his face and mannerisms show the maturity that is seemingly lacking in his tiny frame.
Ogbaji is a dwarf, but this did not stop him from fantasising about being a pilot, particularly in his childhood. Even as a grown man, Ogbaji said he sometimes wishes he was taller, so he could have a shot at fulfilling his childhood fantasy.
He speaks on life in Lagos and how women are fighting to have themβ¦
I wish that I could be a pilot; to be up in the air and travelling everywhere. I remember dreaming about it, especially when I was younger, but a person of my stature cannot be a pilot. So I will have to miss not having the opportunity to become a pilot in my lifetime.β
Dwarfs are generally considered to be at a disadvantage in a world dominated by relatively tall people. They are often bullied, cheated and jeered in educational, work and social settings.
Mr. Moses Ogbaji, who hails from Oju Local Government Area of Benue State, said people sometimes call him βCongoβ on the streets of Lagos. Some people call us βCongoβ; they will say that we are from the Democratic Republic of Congo and not Nigeria,β he said.
Basically, dwarfs face stigma and discrimination because of their stature, so they consequently withdraw socially and tend to associate more with fellow dwarfs by clustering together.
In Lagos, Moyosore Abiodun Shopping Complex, Oshodi and Ebute-Ilaje in Bariga area serve as base where dwarfs of various ethnic groups from across the country are found.
Chibuna Emeka, 20, who is the only dwarf in his family, said most of them are into film making to survive the public ridicule they face, along with the limited opportunities available to them. Even with that, Emeka claimed that they are often cheated by other people in the movie industry, and therefore, resolved to the marketing of CDs themselves.
People look at us and laugh but I know that I didnβt create myself. We gather here in the morning, and then we go out to market and converge here in the evening,β Emeka said.
He is married to a tall woman, Chinasa, and they have a daughter who is not a dwarf. Emeka said he was pleased that his daughter, Happiness, did not take after him and so, saved from the pains that characterised his childhood. Emeka, who grew up in Abia State, only had elementary education because according to him, much of his childhood was spent as a lonely boy.
He said, I was always alone and I had no friends; it was how my mind wanted it.β
But unlike Emeka, Ogbaji considered himself a βyuppy dwarfβ and his dressing bore testimony to his claim. While speaking to Punch, Ogbaji had two earrings on his left ear, one on his right and another ring to adorned his nose. His permed hair, combed backwards, was black and shiny.
Ogbaji drinks, goes clubbing and even asks women for a dance, although he admitted that his advances are not always successful and that dancing with a tall woman could sometimes be awkward. He said dwarfs are good in bed that women often fight over them. Ogbaji reveals that he has two tall girlfriends, one of whom might become his wife later in the year.
I have two girlfriends and they are tall. I wooed the first one but it was the second one who wooed me and now, they are fighting over me,β Ogbaji said, attributing his love βluckβ to his βdress senseβ and βsweet lovingβ nature.
A consultant family physician, Dr. Gbolahan Abideen, said dwarfsβ intellect is intact, in spite of their small size. What they need is for the society to support them so they can blossom and reach their full potential. They do not need dole-outs or peopleβs sympathy, what they need is empathy,β he said.
Victor Udochukwu Nwaogu, a dwarf, is a Theatre Arts graduate from the University of Ibadan. He is finding it difficult getting a job. He said:
People tend to look down on physically or specially-challenged people, but an able-bodied person can become physically challenged tomorrow, so it is important that issues affecting people in the society are addressed.β
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