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.”
Ms Omowunmi 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.
Peter Omoluabi, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Lagos and former President of the Nigeria Psychological Association, provides an insight into how the development occurs at birth.
“Left-handedness is a natural biological process,” he said. “It is as a result of the dominance of the right lobe of the brain. The brain is divided into two hemispheres, the right and the left. The right hemisphere of the brain controls the activities of the left side of the body. At any particular time, one of them is more dominant than the other.”
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.
Professor Omoluabi dismisses the negative cultural interpretations, and advices parents, whose children are left-handed not to interfere as it might lead to complications in the child’s psyche.
“The cultural factors are purely mythical and some of them are really nonsensical,” he said. “There is no scientific basis for these beliefs. The attempt to force the (left-handed) child to use his or her right hand often discourages, confuses, and disorients the child.”
“It is not their fault; therefore they should be left alone. By the time they grow up, they might even adapt to using both hands thus becoming ambidextrous, which is a rare advantage. (Film Actor) Desmond Elliot and (Former Vice President) Mike Akhigbe are examples of this. Some of the world’s greatest people, today, are left-handed,” added Professor Omoluabi.
The Omowunmi’s are urbane and quite agree with Professor Omoluabi’s views. 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.
Some famous left-handed people.
· Barak Obama – President of the USA.
· Babatunde Fashola – Governor of Lagos State.
· Mike Akhigbe – Former Vice President.
· Desmond Elliot – Nollywood Actor.
· Tom Cruise – Hollywood Actor.
· Pele – Brazilian football legend.
· Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft.
· George Bush Snr – Former US President.
· Colin Powel – Former US Secretary of State.
· Bill Clinton – Former US President.
· Prince Charles – Heir to the British Throne.
· Oprah Winfrey – US Media Personality.
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.
This piece was published in NEXT, and 234next.com.