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Beauty Behind The Veil: The Mohammed Lawal Story

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About 2 years ago, I wrote an article about Mohammed Lawal, which was published on Nigeria Village Square.

I described him in that article, but I didn’t share the full story of my experience with him. I saw Mohammed again yesterday, and felt inspired to share everything with you here.

Mohammed Lawal stands on the curb of the service lane around the Town Planning junction of Ikorodu Road, and sometimes at the busy Maryland intersection, here in Lagos.

You might know him; he is an albino with a terrible skin condition. He squints at the road users as they pass by, using his towel or his hand as a shield to protect himself from the penetrating rays of sunlight which most likely,  is responsible for his condition in the first place.

Mohammed has pus oozing out of the breakages on his face, some hard and dried up after hours of building up. His eyes are watery pools of yellow liquid and his skin is red from the harshness of the sun’s effect on it.

With his hands held out, he shuffles toward the cars waiting at the intersection for the traffic light to turn green. And what a wait it is, where three minutes becomes like thirty to the driver and passengers of the vehicles, as they dread the moment when Mohammed will get to their own car.

By the force of my will, I command the traffic lights to change quickly because in all sincerity, Mohammed Lawal is definitely not a pretty sight to behold, or worse still to have hovering over your vehicle window.

Day after day, road users taking that route have to steel themselves for the short period that they will be confronted by Mohammed as he begs for alms.

As an observer of Mohammed’s routine, and people’s reactions to him, I have come to the conclusion that the hands he stretches out in front of passers-by to receive alms, is indicative of his primary desire; to receive acceptance from the world around him.

The need for acceptance is a legitimate need that we are all born with; our entire socialisation process is simply a machinery to serve the communal need of a people who need to be accepted.

Satisfying that need is harder for some than others; rejection, especially in childhood, creates a deep void which will take an almost impossible level of acceptance to fill.

This spurs us to search for newer and most times illegitimate means to satisfy this need.

For someone like Mohammed Lawal, who has such a condition that makes him repulsive to even the most tender-hearted of individuals, finding acceptance from people has most likely been his lifelong quest; the irony is that like a lot of us, he may not even know it.

That is one of the harshest tricks that life plays on us. The truth of our situation is often within us, but we are conditioned to believe that the answer to the question we don’t even know is somewhere out there, so we embark on a search in futility.

Rejection, in Mohammed Lawal’s experience, is possibly as normal to him as the sensation of pus dripping down his face.

It is the story of his life.

Daily he comes out reaching out again to a world that rejected him yesterday. With hands outstretched, he resembles an apparition from a bad horror movie, seeking acceptance from people who shrink back in fear and disgust as he approaches them.

Nonetheless, Mohammed is there the next day, and the day after, hoping that one day someone reaches out and takes his hand, validating him as a fellow human being sharing in the suffering that we all experience.

However, unlike you and I who may have either built a wall of defence around ourselves to protect us from the world’s rejection, or betrayed our own selves just to find acceptance, Mohammed comes out everyday just as he is; repulsive as even he knows he looks, and stretches out his hand.

For that reason, Mohammed Lawal is my hero.

People ask me all the time from where I get the ‘strength’ to allow myself be so vulnerable in my writing. I laugh; if only they know the way I shiver in fear when I’m writing about my weaknesses, my experiences, my pain, my shame, and every other thing that makes me a candidate for Mass Rejection.

God gives me the Strength.

His total acceptance of me in spite of me, gives me confidence that no level of affirmation or acceptance from people can contend with.

In Mohammed Lawal, I recognised a Brother; a Comrade; a potential Friend.

So I decided that I was going to be that person who would hold his hand. And I did.

I walked up to Mohammed, my heart pounding in the fear that up-close, I would see his face in its full repulsive state, or be infected by the pus from his face, which he touches, when holding his hand.

Every heart-pound of fear inspired my next footstep and soon, I stood right in front of my Hero.

I reached out and I held his hand. I squeezed his hand…it was soft.

I looked into his eyes, and he lifted them and looked right back at me. Then Mohammed smiled at me.

In that precise moment, I saw HIM. I saw his beauty; I saw the person the veil covered; I saw the child of God his skin condition and a lifetime of Rejection had masked.

Mohammed Lawal is a beautiful sight to behold.

We talked…I introduced myself. He told me his name and thanked me for the lunch I had brought him. I thanked him for something he may never understand.

I will visit Mohammed again soon. I hope he remembers me. I know I can never forget him.

He is my Hero.

Photo Credit: www.marketplace.veer.com

Tari Ekiyor is a Writer, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Servant, Leader, and most importantly, a Lover.

67 Comments

  1. mercy

    August 11, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Oh my!! Lord i tried to restrain myself form crying but i couldn’t. You have no idea what this article just did in my life right now. Oh lord all i can say is Thank you,Thank you.

  2. Kaylah

    August 11, 2010 at 10:10 am

    wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i was moved to tears @ this , God bless you Tari, love you!

  3. glory edozien

    August 11, 2010 at 10:30 am

    i am glad i was not the only one who was moved to tears when i read this! OUTSTANDINGGGGGGG!!!!

  4. hehelad

    August 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

    If you need someone to hold your hand call a brother,sister ikorodu too far.

  5. Doosh

    August 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Very nice…very…hope you continue to visit him…

  6. Odufaderin Sandra

    August 11, 2010 at 10:49 am

    so touching how can one affect his life any account number for this

  7. deza

    August 11, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Wow!
    This is deep, to think that I passed this man everyday on my way home…like my darling friend tari said…I regard moh’d as a hero and it is not far fetched when the good book says about us that “I was hungry and u didn’t feed me, I was thirsty, u gave me not a drink….and we wonder when that happened” the world is fond of rejecting what they do not understand but we can begin to have a change of heart to embrace mystery with a mind to know why.

  8. Nobs

    August 11, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I know him and I pray for him everyday I come across him.
    Nice 1,TT
    Nobs

  9. BayBay

    August 11, 2010 at 11:06 am

    GOD BLESS YOU TARIERE EKIYOR !!!!

  10. Ogo

    August 11, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I know the guy oh!! Tari… r u serious about walking up to him??that was sooo cool!!! i wish a lot of us r like u…..very brave tari!!! did uask him the reason why he is begging for alms…what he wants to do with himself??how he got injured???about his family?if anyone cld help me and what he needs??

  11. Kay

    August 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Absolutely brilliant.

  12. nonimss

    August 11, 2010 at 11:39 am

    IT’s reasons like this makes me thankful for what I have and guilty every time i complain. I have passed Mohammed before and to be honest I was freaked out by the way he looked, which I am little embarrassed to admit. I wouldn’t even look at him! After reading this piece and putting myself in his shoes. i feel really horrible. Thanks Tari for being a truly beautiful human being and for opening my eyes to the beauty that lies beneath.

  13. Didi

    August 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

    WOW!!! i read alot of ur articles Tari and I love ur writing style but this was sumthg else, I was @ my desk @ work and the tears just started rolling down, my boss was worried for me until i made her read it too. Thank you for what you did for him, may God give me the kinda courage and wisdom he gave you. Pls let me know if you wanna start some sorta fund for him, stay blessed

  14. 'Seun Johnson

    August 11, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Very inspiring…Tari..I’d love to be like you,guess ya my hero of the Month too..:-)

  15. Tosan

    August 11, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    That was really brave and extremely nice…you no doubt impacted joy unspeakable into Mohammed’s life. u therefore are a heroine…keep blessing lives dear! God bless u.

  16. Anuola

    August 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Wow!

    Wow!

    Wow!

    I have often wanted to be the person you were on the day you spoke with Mohammed but fear has held me back. I know within me that Christ requires of me the same compassion that He showed to all but I have always been too scared to reach out. Ironically, I fear rejection, by those I reach out to or those who see me reaching out. I am proud of you and the same God who gives you strength will do the same for me. Today Tari, you are my hero.

  17. Gloria

    August 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes… we are all God’s children created in his image and beautiful. Lovely pieceTari. God Bless you

  18. melissa

    August 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    As i’m writing this, my hands are shaking, my eyes blurred with tears,
    had to go over this three times to check for grammatical errors lol…
    Dn’t live in nigeria but i wish i was there now…at the exact place, spot, position
    u speak of….to see this mohammed u seem so touched by..and hold his hand
    too…tell him he’s not alone. THANK GOD FOR U TARI …pls email me
    [email protected]…would like to meet mohammed too.

  19. brooks

    August 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Dis is a touchin piece.may God bls u Tari.I hope we all learn frm dis and lv our lives bn tnkful

  20. bimpe

    August 11, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    oh my God, i cld nt stop the tears. You are blessed Tari, i pray we all do something like this. Does he have skin cancer?

  21. Tee

    August 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Wow…this was a truly moving piece…i can not fault it one bit. It’s raw and honest…i love it.
    You got me and a lot of readers moved to tears, and only an exceptional writer can evoke that kind of emotion from their readers.
    Keep it up. God bless you.
    http://that1960chick.com/

  22. Bukky

    August 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    i think the next step is to help him get out of there..I am sure lots of us here have parents who are big boys of Nigeria, perhaps we can start something to get him off the street and also get him the medical attention he obviously needs.Seriously, now that this writer has brought it to our attention, we need to HELP.It all shouldnt be gltz and glamor.

  23. Nneka

    August 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    This is undoubtably my fav ‘Tari’ article cos quite honestly most of your articles come of as…… I’ll leave it at that. I haven’t been to Lagos in a looongggg time but I actually remember him! I thought he stood around Oshodi though.

    I hope more limelight is shown on people like Mo’. A great reminder for me that he’s just like you and me, just even more vunerable to rejection.

  24. mumeenat

    August 11, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    This is such a beautiful story of how we should overcome our insecurities and view each other as brothers and sisters..a smile, a word of encouragement,..anything to show that you acknowledge and care for these people goes a long way than any amount of money you can shell out..and I can SO relate to the “acceptance” point…they NEED to be accepted for what they are, mr.lawal’s affliction isn’t his fault, but he is living with it and trying to survive day after day..we have been blessed so much more yet most of us go abt wanting more and complaining about what we have..BE THANKFUL!!

  25. Dasola

    August 11, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks so much,
    Weneed to make a change in our country and bridge the gap

  26. Lily

    August 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I am just short of words, all i have got is goose bumps, well done for being a Hero to Mohammed!!

  27. mumeenat

    August 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Beautiful story…this definitely changes a persons view on life,and the basic needs of humans..we NEED to be appreciated and not scorned for flaws that we cannot change..

  28. LadyTee

    August 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    This was quite touching! When you meet with him next time, please ask him
    about his condition and if any medical treatment can help. I know that many
    people will be willing to contribute to a fund or some setup to help him meet his medical
    needs. Rejection is hard enough when you don’t have to contend with medical issues
    that are beyond your control!

    Nicely written piece.

  29. mia

    August 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Ok enough of the nice piece, nice article thing, we are all touched so how do we help him?

    Can he be treated?
    How much would it cost?

    We can raise some cash to help out, because the peanuts he’ll get on the streets will never be enough to foot the bills.

    Thanks Tari for reaching out, but please can you find out how much medical care would cost? God bless you.

    Please Contact me via : [email protected]

    Looking fwrd to ur mail

  30. africhic

    August 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Tari,

    This is truly inspiring and i have decided to think about some of my actions. I see Mohammed everyday on my way back from work. I watch out for him and i make sure i have my book or phone close by so if he comes near i’ll be looking in the other direction. I wear my sunglasses so i dont have to make anyform of eye contact.

    I did it yesterday. I hope after your article i can look at him differently on my way home.

  31. deedoubleU

    August 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Well done… Tari.. you did well… Mohammed will not be forgotten in a hurry…so how can we help mohammed?.

  32. bimpe

    August 11, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    My goodness! I am moved to tears. My hands are also shaking while i’m typing, i’ve never seen this man before but, i think this is the right time for everyone to get up and do something to help this man. I want us to remember that everything we do we’ll surely reap. Please lets show the love of christ,and he will surely bless everyone abundantly. Tari, God bless u, u’re my hero likewise. If there’s anyhow i can help,don’t hesitate to reach me. [email protected].

  33. Iyirer

    August 11, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    This is such an inspiring story. I know i will never be able to forget it. Really really beautul and well written.

  34. Bukky

    August 12, 2010 at 5:11 am

    [email protected]…Pls shoot me an email and let us figure out how to help this dude.With social media and technology at we should be able to raise awareness and rally round Mohammed.We need to do something about it.We can take donations from all over the globe and also get media outlets and personalities e.g Funmi Iyanda, Ik,Mo abudu, Bola Atta & Betty Irabor to raise awareness.I am all up for this.!!!!!PLS LETS HELP

  35. Miss Natural

    August 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Tari you’ve given me courage to go out there and make a difference in someone’s life today, and tomorrow and everyday I have.

  36. beanie

    August 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    this si so deep.truly, if we look into ourselves, at some point or the other, we have desired to be friends with some people, to roll ard with a group or sth.we try to reach out by dressin up in certain ways, tryin to meet up with trend,its our own way of stretchin our hands. we crave societal acceptance and an expensive one too. this man asks for the cheapest form….friendship,equality…thank u for a beautiful, heart touching piece….thank u

  37. Fiona philips

    August 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    A touching and well written piece of work.Havnt read any of your article before,so this is my first and if imust say, well done……..good job.Rejection is something we consider so trivial but it produces long lasting effects.I guess this means that we need to be sensitive to our surroundings and open up our hearts to the different mohammeds around us.we dont need to go to ikorodu or some where else to find them

  38. fokasibe

    August 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    This just made me cry…..how touching!

  39. africanchikito no.1

    August 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    God will remember your labour of love Tari,pls let’s know what we can do to help him..it’s not enough to tear up about the article…pls let’s do something!..you can reach me at : [email protected]

  40. Straight talk

    August 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Touching I must say…Thanks tari!

  41. Nonye

    August 12, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Tari another touching and well written article. It really a coincidence that I read this article on a day that the issue of albinism was being disccussed on Inspiration FM. Thanks for letting us remember the plight of those suffering amongst us.

  42. Geekgirl

    August 13, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Can we get over how this article made us cry and how good the writer is.

    Y’all at BN read all the comments before posting them.So can someone at least make effort to email those who have shown interest in helping?We can keep tearing up at this story but it wont change this guy’s situation.Action is what we need

  43. billkeys

    August 16, 2010 at 7:45 am

    This is really touching.nd I applaud d writer to,for we are all mohammed lawal in our own respect.
    But I second what geekygal said.if anyone of us is in a position or knows someone in a postion to help then we should.
    May something positive come up.Amen.
    Thanks Spesh for sharing this site.

  44. dankeo

    August 16, 2010 at 10:31 am

    wow, I was actually moved to tears. The fact is that the need to be accepted is innate in us and some pple have to battle alot of insecurities to get accepted, some as physical as Mohammed’s and some subtle.
    Tari, thanks for the article but as pple have said how can we help him. We should also remember that we do not have to look too far, there are so many pple around us everyday craving for acceptance and in need of some kind of help..

  45. WaleAdeniji

    August 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Tari, who says men don’t cry? This brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for your kind heart. Not many people can do that. God really wants to use you to help Mohammed. I want to helt too in my own little way. How can me and others who will be willing and ready to assist Mohammed financially reach out to him through you? You and i can affect the society positively by being kind to one another. It is highly rewarding when you do it without expecting that person to pay you back sometime later. God bless you Tari while we wait to know how to get to him through you.

  46. myra

    August 16, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    my heart really goes out to all the mohammeds of this world. Almighty father please give me the might and ability to reach out to such people the more with the little i have.

  47. Titilola 'Esther's' Akinkugbe

    August 16, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Tari, what a lovely piece. I guess most especially your compassion for Mohammed. As you have shown LOVE to this Gentleman, may God show you LOVE and bring help at your point of need. (AMEN). Please set up an account for him and post the details.

  48. Derin

    August 17, 2010 at 12:39 am

    God Bless you Tari !!…

  49. Adaobi

    August 17, 2010 at 4:47 am

    WOW, wonderful piece. As a psychologist, I definitely understand what you mean by that search we all have for inclusion and validation from others. Social psychologist support this idea that we constantly search for inclusion because none of us want to be excluded from the group we most desire to belong to. In his case, you’re definitely right, he has searched for that inclusion for years, and I am glad you were able to hold his hand and bring that to him. Thank you so much for this, it means a lot, and has taught me a lot as well.

  50. iwannabeabillionairesofreakinbaaad

    August 18, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Tari, you are not only a brilliant writer but one that has a heart of an angel. Please post pictures of Mohammed, let’s hear his story.

  51. jennietobbie

    August 18, 2010 at 4:00 am

    I love this blogsite…..you never know what’s gonna hit you. wish I could see Mohammed and tell him that he is also my hero! I’m beyond touched and lack words to express how I feel. I’m signing up at the hospital tomorrow. It’s about time I started exhibiting those Christianity genes in me! God bless you all

  52. Remy

    August 19, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Wow,
    This is the LOVE God instructed us to have for one another. You do not show love with mare words as we all seem to do these days, it’s far more beyond that. We should imagine the Mohammed lawals of the world were our very own blood brothers or sister defiantly our love for them will grow even stronger in our determination to help them out. This is truly inspiring and I pray that God continually opens the eyes of our hearts and certainly mine to show TRUE LOVE.

    Thank you for a beautiful article.

  53. Kayo

    August 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    i’m a regular visitor to this site but i never leave comments. i was touched so much by this article that i HAD to comment. i’m at a loss for words right now. [email protected] is my email address. let me know if there is any way i can help. God bless u

  54. Mercy

    August 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    tears filled my eyes when i read the story, i wish i reside at nigeria just catch a glimpse of this mohammed guy.May the almight God himself cure him of every skin disorder.God bless u Tari

  55. YemiSan

    August 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    For we all need someone who believes we are more than we appear to be. Someone to believe the best about us rather than the worst. Despite my appearance, or the horridness of my look, despite other questionables that surrounds me. Even if it is just one person, who’d look at u thru the eyes of God & see what He sees. Assets, not liabilities.
    While loving is costly, the price of not loving is even higher.

  56. jamila rumah

    August 20, 2010 at 12:45 am

    really touching story….we all have a “mohammed” in our lives and i am sure evey1 can relate to this…..beautiful piece!

  57. Ajilore Nickolas

    August 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    an awesome article that provokes a re-think of our everyday attitudes. we however hav an ever-growing numb of Mohammed’s in our society; helping Moha is something, but nothing compared to not finding a LASTING solution to d very many unfortunates out there. The American social security &welfare system is a gargantuan infrastructure, but was began in a persons thot, and a groups action. Tari, God may b using u to tell us something. my mail; [email protected]

  58. Toks

    August 20, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    that was really courageous…
    and u sound alright…sincere…!

  59. Yinka

    August 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Well done Tari … Couldn’t help but drop a line. I am happy God is using you to show His love to mankind because he truly makes no distinction amongst us all …beautiful and the seemingly not so beautiful.
    Excellent writing as well ….. Indeed follow up on Mo is critical ….

  60. wofai

    August 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    you are the hero…!

  61. Oladeepsee

    August 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Interesting read. I was really touched. God bless you for your courage and strength.

  62. Jay

    August 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    cant stop the tears flowing down my eyes…..wish we could all show love intensely to each other as u did with Mohammed, Tari…God bless u!!!

  63. Amans Rufus

    August 27, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    My mouth agape,my eyes pop-out tears. I never realised the trauma of rejection. But now, i realise how traumatic it is, to be alone in the world. Not neccessarilly to be physically or mentally challenged but to carry bunch of loads of pains, depressions and rejections in the heart without having someone to share it with. Tari,this is a nice piece, well done! i want to meet him too and help ease his pains.

  64. omo-yankee

    September 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Ur best Nigerian writer ever..I have never read a story written by a Nigerian without mistakes or misspelled words which irk me to even read further, but I must say ur writing was like a movie in my head, reading from line to line I notice that the images were appearing so lucid. My prayers and heart goes out to Mr. Lawal.

  65. xtianbabe

    September 19, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I am still tearing up, you are what Jesus described as a Christian, his brother’s keeper; a true good samaritan. God bless u for this inspiring act!

  66. Hgurl

    September 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    God bless you, Tari!

  67. Sam

    September 23, 2010 at 10:38 am

    God bless u. Love is all the world needs, Unconditional love for that matter. Among all those who conquered the world; Alexander the Great n etc, Jesus was the only who who had His power in love. Ur a gem in this generation. Keep the write-ups comin maybe thats one of the reasons ur here on this earth. love u. Pls give more graphic details of what He luks lyk. I know there are natural plants etc that can sort his face and eyes out. I’ve left my email….Il jus give u the prescription.

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