My futile attempt to be a left-hander


For the first time in 43 years, the International Left-Handers Day (ILHD) celebration caught my attention. The day is marked on August 13, every year… since 1976 when it was first observed. The day was founded by Dean Campbell, himself, of course, a left-hander.

Abuja-based left-handers were not left out as they joined their fellow lefties across the globe in marking the occasion. The day is set aside to make the right-handers, who are in legion, and the entire world, aware of the frustration that left-handed folks face while using devices designed for right-handed individuals. It is also to showcase the uniqueness of the nature of left-handers.

However, the Abuja celebrants pride themselves with the high level of intelligence which left-handers are blessed with that perpetually confounds the right-handers.

Left-handers are said to be loaded to the right side of their brains hence their high Intelligent Quotient (IQ). Could it be the reason why they tilt their heads to the right when they are writing? Have you ever watched the likes of Barr. Raji Fashola, and Shettima’s successor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, when they wield their pens? Or the two former Presidents of the United States, Bill Clinton and his immediate successor, Barak Obama?

One of the celebrants was quick to finger the German-born scientist, Albert Einstein, as a left-hander. The Time Magazine named him the “Person of the Century” in 1999; and he was the fourth most admired person of the 20th Century according to the Gallop poll conducted also in the year.

Ever since l got to know about the number six carried by the left-handed people, I have come to admire them rather than perceive them as the odd folks out. Before now, I had thought that in a world peopled mostly by right-handed people like me, left-handers should be confined to the Boys Scout Movement where members gather the thumbs and the last fingers to their right palms and salute with three fingers but exchange handshakes with the left hands. Pray, was the founder of the movement a left-hander?

While many right-handers denigrate those who use their left hands to do things, the same is not said of footballers whose stronger feet are the left. They are exceptionally brilliant and gifted with the ball. An example is the diminutive Argentine soccer magician, Lionel Messi. For close to a decade and half now, the football world has watched in awe how the little man weaves through the watertight defence with his left foot, causing grief to oppositions and bringing glories to his club, Barcelona, in Spain. Surprisingly, his magic foot has failed to clinch the most coveted soccer diadem for his country, the FIFA World Cup. He is unlike his stocky predecessor, Diego Amando Maradona who single-leggedly kicked the 1986 World Cup diadem all the way from Mexico to his country.

In my days as a sportswriter, I have come across a large chunk of players who showed brilliance with their left feet within and outside Nigeria. I remember left wingers like the late Kunle Awesu and Layi Olagbemiro of the Mighty Jets fame; Stanley Okoronkwo of Enugu Rangers International; Felix Owoblow Owolabi of the IICC Shooting Stars fame; Adokiye Amiesimaka of the Green Eagles to mention a few. Awesu was voted the Best Left Winger at the Africa Cup of Nations Finals Tournament held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1973.

There are also players who are superb with both feet. They possess 50-50 ability to do damage with their two legs. A case study is Cristiano Ronaldo, who burst into the global soccer scene as a teenager. Although his stronger foot appears to be the right, he packs thunderbolt into his left foot as well. And how can one forget Pele, the king of them all? Pele moved with such amazement as if a string was tied to his feet and the ball. Pele and Ronaldo remind me of my playing days. My stronger foot was the right. But if a defender boxed me to a tight corner, I could still wreak havoc with the left foot!

As brilliant as left-footed players are, you can always neutralise them when you corner them to their stronger feet. Perhaps, we need to watch closely basketballers, handballers, hockey players, boxers and others who engage in hand sports with exceptional skills and brilliance.

As I said earlier, I have come to admire these folks who are universally believed to possess the sixth sense. My old man must have been loaded with the 12 senses. He was an ambidexter… not in the double-faced sense of it. He used both hands effectively. Till date, I have not come across anyone writing with both hands. Curiously, none of his kids took after him. We are all right-handers. Same goes for my kids.

In 2012, I was among a team of senior editors and columnists invited for a briefing by the immediate past Governor of Borno state, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, at the Ladi Kwali Hall of the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja. I watched him taking notes with his left hand, admirably. From the way he addressed us and responded to the barrage of questions hurled at him, I was not surprised one bit that what we call ‘the wrong-handedness’ was the secret behind his brilliance.

At a point when we were having dinner, I looked in the direction of our host and he was also eating with his left hand. Then I remembered my double-handed old man. After the occasion, I inched closer to Kashim Shettima and made him a promise that when next he would see me, I would also be at home using my left hand, assuring him of a stiff, wrong-handed competition from me. I think he responded with a chuckle.

For days, weeks and months, I tried to perfect the new art. It was not easy but I persuaded myself that since my dad could use both hands with the ease that you convey food from hand to mouth, ambidexterity must run in my DNA. But my efforts appeared to be like the footprints of a chicken on the sand.  One day, a colleague saw the way I was labouring for the challenge against Kashim Shettima. Then, he asked: “If you are a right-hander and you are this witty and quick-thinking, what else do you want?” Anyway, I have since jettisoned the idea.

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