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Left-Handed in Nigeria

I am left-handed.

And proudly, too. People stare (admiringly, I think … I hope) when I wield my left hand. Most are surprised my hand-writing’s neat (it is!). Others expect me to write from top to bottom… A few comment, “You must be smart.”

That’s the part I like best. And just to make sure it wasn’t some myth-turned-stereotype, I actually looked it up.

It was a great deal of medical-ese I had to wade through but the long and short of it is that most lefties are gifted in Math and art and have terrific organizational skills. We learn easily, are generally unconventional – and okay, it must be said – mostly precocious.

But do we get treated accordingly? No! Society doesn’t like lefties. It has been proved over centuries and across cultures. In French, to be left handed is to be gauche, from where we get the English word of the same spelling that means awkward or clumsy…

In Italian, it is to be sinistro, from where we get the English word sinister…

Oh, and yes, the word ‘left’ comes from the old English word for ‘weak’.

In Taiwan, less than 1% of the population is left-handed. In Nigeria, it’s probably less, no thanks to the prejudices!

All in all, the average leftie lives with an unconscious label of clumsy, evil and weak. Never mind that we’re supposed to be the smarter lot (all hail Einstein and Da-Vinci, Obama and Benjamin Franklin!). We are laughed at, ridiculed, punished, and blatantly discriminated against!

There was that old woman who hit the back of my hand with a wooden spoon every time I ate with my left hand. And the Primary 1 teacher who used a cane on me anytime she caught me writing with my left hand. And there’s the difficulty in using a pressing iron, a pair of scissors or a knife properly. The market women will insult you if you pay with your left hand. And guess who isn’t allowed to play polo, ever? The Leftie!

As if all this isn’t enough, I learned that holding my drink in my left hand in certain circles, issues a silent challenge to all (ahem!) strong men. Apparently, the only people who (should) drink with their left hands are strong native doctors!

I have a dream that someday, lefties will be allowed their freedom of expression, the freedom to eat, write, drink, pay, gesticulate, point etc. with their left hands.

I have a dream, yes, I have a dream that leftism will be encouraged, that our remarkable genius will be widely acknowledged, that one day we will be exempt from chores, menial duties, entrance exams and UTME because we are naturally gifted and so obviously over-qualified.

I have a dream that someday, we won’t even need to spend sixteen years of our lives in school like everybody else. Instead, we shall be given free rein to skip classes and be awarded doctorates immediately after college.

I have a dream that people will someday want signed autographs of lefties like myself, that one day a left hand will guarantee one a job (we have such terrific organizational skills, duh!)

In the mean time, it would be in my best interest to learn to drink with my right hand. No point looking for trouble, eh?


  1. Titi Oliyide says

    Love this note!!!!!!! yes oh, exemption frm chores will b a nyc one! lmao!
    Didnt actually feel there was a stigma or anything wrong wiv being left handed till secondary school when a teacher of mine refused to call me to answer questions because i was raising my left hand! Imagine such!!!! And people assume lefties are wicked too…pray tell y??

  2. Hafsat says

    Lol…that part of me that has always wanted to depart from the norm always wished I wrote with my left hand. At some point, I suffered a temporary lapse in memory, had to learn to write and walk again. I remember writing with my left hand before my memory returned. I was almost getting it…but oh well.

  3. Haba! You surpass Joseph and Martin Luther King in dreams. 🙂
    My brother is leftie and you’re right; he had to learn to use his right while I was learning to use my left (so I could proclaim ‘I’m ambidextrous’ Lol). The little ironies of life.

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