Author(s): Chinedu Ozordi
August 14, 2013
Six-year-old Tosin Omowunmi is engaged in a running battle; her instincts versus parental guidance.
Ms Omowunmi was born left-handed; and despite the hundreds of smacks received from her parents who are desperate to correct what, to them, is a perplexing development, she still finds herself unconsciously reaching out with her left hand to shake hands.
“I can’t understand why it is only her (out of four siblings) that is left-handed,” said Evelyn Omowunmi, Tosin’s mother. “Her father (Segun) and I are both right handed, and so are the other kids. Initially we thought it won’t be long before we correct it, but she has stubbornly refused to change it completely.”
Tosin joins an estimated 10% of the world’s population who are left handed. Left-handed people possess the ability to use their left hands more dominantly, and with more versatility, than the right. This condition is usually noticed right from childhood.
In Nigeria, because of the various negative myths surrounding it, most children who are discovered to be left-handed are forced into right-handedness.
Pushed to the left
In a world dominated by right-handed people, and tools designed for them; left-handed people often find themselves up the creek without a paddle.
Dominic Ogbonna, an Ijesha-based grocer, said he had always struggled with the starter cord, positioned on the right side of his TG900 Tiger Generator. “My left hand is stronger, so it was not easy pulling that cord with my right,” he said.
He eventually bought a bigger Honda generator, not because he needed the extra power, but because the starter cord is positioned on the left side of the engine.
Left-handed people, like Mr Ogbonna, have also had to battle the negative interpretations that the Nigerian culture makes on them.
Adenike Oyelade, a 200-level student of University of Abuja, said that the rejection started from her family and spread to the larger society.
“I am more fulfilled as a left-hander because I can use it to do anything in a better way than most people who uses the right hand,” she said.
Ms Oyelade said that most people, especially parents, were against the use of the left hand to eat or in doing other chores at home.
“Most times, if I want to give something to my parent with the left hand, they always reject it,” she said. “Their reason is that it always brings negative signs that give rise to ill-luck.”
A sculptor, Gabriel Adeolu, agreed that the use of left hand was not acceptable in the Nigerian society as it indicated a mark of disrespect in the culture.
“Really, using the left hand has become something I enjoy, especially when I work,” he said. “I use the left hand for all my assignments. I use the left hand in moulding images and doing other works, but when it comes to receiving or giving things, I always opt to use the right hand.”
He said that due to the cultural norms, he would also frown at anyone who used the left hand to give or receive anything from him, admitting that it was a sign of disrespect that could taint the society’s value-system.
As the world celebrated the International Left-handers Day yesterday, August 13, psychologists dismiss the negative cultural interpretations, and advise parents whose children are left-handed not to interfere as it might lead to complications in the child’s psyche.
According to them, by the time these children grow up, they might even adapt to using both hands, thus becoming ambidextrous, which is a rare advantage.
August 13 of every year is designated International Left-handers Day by Left-handers International. It was first observed on 13 August 1976. The anniversary aims to promote awareness of the inconveniences facing left-handers in a predominantly right-handed world.
Dr Adetoun Ajiboye, a psychologist, said that although some cultures, especially in the Yoruba societies, denied a left-hander to aspire to become a king, the child should not be forced to change it.
He said that there was no marked difference between a left-hander and a right-hander as long as the left-hander could perform the jobs of a right-hander.
“It is very annoying when people behave strangely to the left-handers because this can impose a psychological trauma in such people,” he said. “Therefore, anyone who chooses to use the left hand must be encouraged. This should not be an abomination to the society as some people claim.”
The Omowunmis are urbane and quite agree with the psychologists. They say they are gradually getting accustomed to the fact that they might be losing the battle; however, they couldn’t resist the stern looks they gave Tosin as she hurriedly exchanged her left hand for the right before shaking hands.
Famous left-handed people.
- Babatunde Fashola – Governor of Lagos State.
- Desmond Elliot – Nollywood Actor.
- Mike Akhigbe – Former Vice President.
- Namadi Sambo – Nigeria’s Vice President.
- Barack Obama – President of the USA.
- Bill Clinton – Former US President.
- Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft.
- Colin Powel – Former US Secretary of State.
- George Bush Snr – Former US President.
- Oprah Winfrey – US Media Personality.
- Pele – Brazilian football legend.
- Prince Charles – Heir to the British Throne.
- Tom Cruise – Hollywood Actor.
Myths associated with left handed people.
- Money handed over with the left hand will disappear.
- It is rude to shake hands with an older person.
- Left-handed people are likely to be dishonest.
- Left-handed people are more intelligent.
- Left-handed people are disadvantaged in hand-to-hand combat.
- Left-handed people are clumsy.
- Eating with the left hand is immoral.
- A left handed toast amounts to a curse on the victim.
Facts about left handed people.
Due to the fact that the left hemisphere of the brain processes analytical information, right-handed people might be slightly advantaged in analysis.
Left-handed people are more prone to be ambidextrous than right handed people.
Left-handed people are better in one-on-one sports such as tennis, judo, and boxing.
Left-handed people are disadvantaged in using tools designed for right handed people.
Left-handed people lean heavily to using visual stimulus to process information.
Left-handed people have shorter life spans because they are more prone to accidents.