Barr. Hafsat Suleiman Esq: The Amazing visually impaired Abusite Lawyer

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Barr. Hafsat Suleiman Esq is one young Abusite that we shall continue to celebrate. She is a visually impaired lawyer who defied all odds and crossed all hurdles to graduate with a degree from the great faculty law, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria a few years ago. By so doing, she is believed to be the first Visually impaired person to do so.

Despite being visually challenged (completely blind from age 3), Hafsat Suleiman had the patience and presence of mind to attend lectures, transcribed lecture notes, reference materials, lengthy essays and all. She wasn’t weighed down by the odds and hurdles. She went on to attend and successfully completed law school was called to bar in 2018. Third, in a family of 10, Hafsat’s remarkable achievement was celebrated widely.

Barr. Hafsat Suleiman Esq
Barr. Hafsat Suleiman Esq

Asked when she lost her sight, Barr. Hasfat Suleiman said that the tragedy happened early in life, precisely three years of age. She said: “I was just three-years-old then, so there are many things that I cannot remember and even when I was told, I could not hold on to them.”

With reference to the challenges she faced during her university days, she said that while many lecturers back then in school were unsupportive even to the point of rejecting her, some others stood by her through tough times.

He words: “The first was that I was not allowed to attend any school of my choice like any other person, I had to attend Kaduna State Special Education school because that was the only school people like me can go to.

“After my primary school, I attended WTC in Katsina before I moved to Girls High school, Kindire in Jos, where I did my JSS 1 and 2. I later moved to Government Secondary School, Kwali in Abuja where I completed my secondary education. Then, after my secondary education, I got admission to study Law at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.

“In ABU, the challenges came right from the entry point, because my dean insisted on not admitting me into the faculty because he felt the school did not have the facilities for me to study. It was with the help of God and the intervention of so many people that he was agreed to admit me.

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“There were other challenges like buying handouts, since they were not in Braille, so I had to either get someone to read with me because I was not brailing them and I was not recording, or make the handouts into soft copies and play on my laptop which has a software that converts text into speech.

“Also, some of the lecturers were not helpful. But some were always there for me. Some of the lecturers were authors of the books we used during the course, so I would ask them for the soft copies; some of them gave me, but other would tell me they do not have it or would not even listen to me. But by the grace of God, here I am.”

The amazing lawyer said that she was able to cope with moving around school with the help of friends and sympathisers who helped even when it was uncomfortable.

Hasfat said: “I had people who were always there for me, and even when I took courses they were not taking then, they would make sure I attend my lectures.

“Sometimes one of them would take me there, accompany me to the lecture hall and even if my close friends were not there, I would always find someone to help. They even go out of their way to take me back to my hostel.”

She revealed that the idea of studying law was a late choice she took when she was told that sciences are not for persons with her condition, adding that her father right from the beginning wanted her to become a physiotherapist.

Hasfat Suleiman narrated: “Growing up, I never thought of becoming a lawyer because my father wanted me to be a Physiotherapist and up to my secondary school, I was still holding on to that.

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“But then, when I later understood that the educational system is not favourable, I decided to change course and even then, I never thought of studying Law.

“I never wanted to study any course that has been labelled for disabled people even though there are people that have decided to offer such courses. I never wanted people to rule my life and make decisions for me just because I am physically challenged.

“When I was in secondary school, a counsellor opened up to me and told me I could not study sciences, and I would have to choose between arts and social sciences.

“Back then, when I chose art, I kept wondering what I was going to do with it. I do not know how come, but it came one day and I decided to study Law because I felt it was interesting and I would at least have the opportunity of giving the voiceless a voice.”

As encouragement to persons with any form of deformity or impairment, she said they should never give up but should instead always hold their head up high.

Hasfat Suleiman said: “Our society is not supportive of people like me. I know that if I am in a room with another lawyer, the client will definitely pick the other lawyer because of my disability.

“And even if he picks me and in the end, we lose the case, the client will say it’s because I am physically-challenged. Society needs to stop the discrimination of people like me.

“I was at the Special Education School, I noticed that the children were forced to learn with people older than them, thereby taking away their childhood.

“I pray that by the grace of God, I will be able to establish a foundation for special children, and even if I am able to cater to only two children, I would be happy and grateful.”

“Against all odds, Hafsat Suleiman made it to her lifetime dream.”

In an article celebrating the great feat by Barr. Hafsat Suleiman, her course mate and close friend Shettima DanAzumi, said, “There was literally nothing one didn’t see in the course of five years law studies, particularly in Ahmadu Bello University (speaking of what I know). But there was nothing that never ceases to amaze me throughout that period as much as the remarkable academic successes of this brilliant, hardworking and ever determined young lady.”

He said, “Hafsat Suleiman is challenged. She is visually impaired to cut long story short. She doesn’t see with her eyes as most of us. She only reads using her uniquely transcribed materials. That’s how she studies anything, no matter how bulky or complex. Law, on the other hand, is tough.”

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“Long essays of tedious corpus embodying complex doctrines and precepts that are backed by statutes and precedents which are necessarily read over and over. Most times people simply cram everything in order to move on and meet up with exams syllabus. Upon all this hugely demanding task, the system is horribly unfair and unfriendly. Every one is a witness to how terribly designed is our educational system in Nigeria, that even those with their sights intact, find it very difficult to cope with.”

Against all this, Hafsat Suleiman would always make it at the end of each semester. She defied all odds, crossed all hurdles to graduate with us and with a proud result that not everyone could’ve. Hafsat is now a lawyer, “a lifetime dream”, she once told me

“Barr Hafsat Suleiman has a very retentive memory. When you read to Hafsat’s hearing, have no doubts, she would regurgitate it and even get a better marks in the exams. She kept proving her doubters wrong until our graduation. I used to be one of those having serious concerns over her vulnerability not to be exploited by the environment. I tried to be over protective, out of empathy. I must admit, I was wrong. And Hafsat proved me and similar others, exactly that.”

She was able to prove yet again that one’s deformity or disability is not an excuse for failure. Through her hard work and dedication, she has been able to stand out as an inspiration to many others out there facing similar challenges, including those who may have lost hope. Barr. Hafsa Suleiman Esq is a role model and should by all costs be celebrated for her strength and determination.

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

Founder/Team lead at | Abusite | Entrepreneur | Activist | Humanitarian | All Inquiries to SMS/WhatsApp +2349015751816

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