"Story of ‘star’ dancer who never became a star"
It’s about a five-minute walk from the main entrance of the University of Lagos at Yaba, Lagos.
However, while students at the varsity spend between four and seven years — depending on the course of study — in the school and graduate, inmates at this home don’t get to graduate, even after spending several years.
At the home — Modupe Cole Memorial Child Care and Treatment Home, which cares for about 300 mentally and physically challenged children from age eight above — one inmate would perhaps be remembered forever. Aberenjo Kareemu, whose first name literally means “the needle is dancing,” was one of the inmates in the home who spent about 39 years in there before he died last December.
But one thing distinguished him from the other inmates — he was very good at dancing.
From Nigeria and abroad, people who knew him on the occasion of going to the home to donate gifts could identify the dancing talent in him.
One of them is Ms. Aderemi Adejokun, who runs a non-governmental organisation called Relief Africa Charity Organisation. Speaking with Saturday PUNCH on the telephone from London, it was clear that she couldn’t fight back the tears that streamed down her cheeks. “I met Aberenjo in 2010 when I was in Nigeria and ever since then, I took a liking for him. He looked like a teenager, but he was around 44 years old to the extent that I could carry him up in my arms,” Adejokun recalled, “He couldn’t speak, but anytime I went there, he would be the first person to welcome me. He used to open the gate for me. Aberenjo died in December 2015, but I got to know just three weeks ago.”Ms.Adejokun, who said the last time she was in the country was in September 2015, described Aberenjo as “full of smiles, always dancing and lively.” She said, “I saw him last in September 2015 when I was in the country. I learned he had cerebral palsy. Each time I got there and I asked him to go and clean up, he would do so. He was obedient. If I was moving an inch, he would move an inch with me. If I did this, he would do this, and if I did that, he would do that.
“That last time I saw him, I was dancing and Aberenjo danced with me. Anyone who saw us would think we had both rehearsed the dancing steps. He danced with me like a pro. The only solace I have is that he’s no longer in pain. I know he’s resting in the bosom of the Lord right now. “My children here know about him. Each time I remember him, I cry. I miss him. I never felt like this for any other person. I posted his picture on my Facebook page and all my friends have been paying tributes to him. I liked him so much, even though I don’t know his real name.” Ms. Adejokun wouldn’t be the only person to identify Aberenjo as a good dancer. A retired nurse at the home, who doesn’t want her name mentioned and who was one of the early employees of the home, described Aberenjo as a “star dancer who never became a star” — mainly because of his condition.
She also described him as workaholic. She said, “He would wake up right in the midnight — around 3am — and he’d be sweeping the floor. He wouldn’t sleep. He was a very good dancer and if you’re around him, you wouldn’t feel bored. He was lovely and lively.
“His mother is a good woman. She would come here and sew clothes for the children. Aberenjo was perhaps the only inmate whose mother had such a good heart. Maybe that also contributed to almost everybody likes him.” Our correspondent learned that Aberenjo slumped one day after having lunch in December 2015 and never woke up. The principal of the home, Mrs. Florence Kayode, said she would not want to comment on the activities of the school because it’s state-owned except she’s authorized to do so.
However, she said Aberenjo was hypertensive and died after spending 39 years in the home.
“He wasn’t really sick, but he was hypertensive,” were all she said.
She added that the inmates usually exhibit different talents, some of which are discovered at the home’s inter-house sports competitions. As for Ms Adejokun, she advised the government, organizations and people in the society to do more to help the less privileged ones. She said, “I know the government is doing its best for children like Aberenjo in the society, but more need to be done. Apart from the government, organizations like churches need to arise too to occasions like this. It is high time churches went beyond the walls, and into the streets. “Many times, people think they need to have money first to help these ‘special’ children. But that’s not true. For instance, they could go to such homes where the children are and sweep their compounds. Anyone can pick up a book and read it to them. It’s showing love to them that matters. We need to do more to show love.”
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