‘It’s Tough Being Physically Challenged’

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In a world where survival is for the fittest, it is indeed a challenge for the disabled people trying to compete with able bodied people and a government that has no regard for their conditions. RUTH TENE, Abuja and Isaiah Benjamin, Kaduna spoke with some of them on life as physically challenged persons and how they cope.

A graduate of Counselling Psychology Naomi Omozeghian from the Delta State University, became a victim of Polio at the age of 3 and lost the use of both legs. Today, Naomi moves around in a wheel chair in a society where no infrastructures are provided to aid her mobility.

According to Naomi, one of the greatest challenges of her life is the lack of accessibility into public facilities/places with an unfriendly environment which further bogs her down.

She further asserts that disabled women have more constraints with an unfriendly environment as they are treated with pity rather than respect “I do not want to be treated with pity, I want to be able to do things for myself,? I am educated for God’s sake” She laments

She says health programmes give no special consideration to women with special conditions such as hers,unlike in advanced? countries of the world where pregnant women especially those with physical challenges are given special processes.

Even in the area of job opportunities, she is of the view that special people be given special jobs that would make it easier for them. Though it has been proven that people with special conditions are usually very intelligent people.

“You can imagine a situation where I put my money in a bank and when I want to withdraw, some security will tell me my wheelchair cannot enter due to the security apparatus put in place.

Sometimes even trying to enter public vehicles or cross major roads becomes a problem, especially where there is no one to help, “are you saying the physically challenged should not move?” She queries?

David Anyeale left for Sierra Leone in search of greener pastures and returned without his two hands ,? having fallen? victim of man’s inhumanity during Liberia’s war in January? 19, 1999, when Liberia’s infamous barbarious kid soldiers, on the orders of disgraced warlord and former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, hacked off his two hands.

Sometime ago, Anyaele took advantage of the public hearing to meet with the House Committee on Diaspora, led by Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, to press further his search for justice, compensation and eventual rehabilitation. Addressing the committee, he narrated how he escaped death by the whiskers, but had to return to Nigeria a disabled person.

Precisely January 19, Anyaele said that he and other residents received a gang of gun wielding youths as visitors and were duly informed that the visit was to carry out the instructions of Charles Taylor that Nigerians must either be killed or maimed.

“I wanted to run, but one of the boys called me back. He first gave an order that I should be shot, but another one said no, that I should be sent to Nigerian government to go and tell the government that ECOMOG should stop attacking them. “He gave a fresh order that my hands be cut, so that I will go and show it to my country.

“After the two hands were severed, it was like they were still not satisfied, There was argument whether to kill me or not. But one of them poured kerosene on me and set fire on me, until one of them said that they don’t want me to die, so that I could show my scares to my people as a testimony that they don’t want Nigeria’s intervention in their domestic affairs.”

He said it still remains a mystery how he found himself at the United Nations Observation post where he got treatment before his evacuation to a safe point.By February 3, 1999, he was back in Nigeria and taken straight to a military hospital, where he was discharged on August 30 for rehabilitation.

Through the Red Cross Society, Anyaele told the committee that his plight was brought to the notice of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but he could not get an audience with the president because of the visit of Charles Taylor, who had been elected president of Liberia.

The nearest he got to seeing Obasanjo was an audience with the then Minister of Health, Dr.Tim Menakaya, who promised to rehabilitate him. That was in 2000. Twelve years after the promise, Anyaele is still on the waiting list.

So bitter he was when Obasanjo gave Taylor asylum that he took the Federal Government to court. He had to discontinue with the case after Taylor’s repatriation to Sierra Leone where he was to face war crime charges.

Since life must go on, Anyaele has scaled the first hurdle of settling down. Apart from his involvement in advocacy for the disabled, he has found love, even in his state of physical challenges. The relationship is blessed with two children. He begged the committee to assist him in facing the challenges of life as an amputee who wants to live a decent and dignifying life, instead of resorting to street begging.

Mr Micah Shabi, who hails from Doddo Jaba local government area of Kaduna State, had successfully written his first semester examination as a Law student before he suffered a setback. As a result of visual impairment, the dean, Faculty of Law of his school had insisted he changed to another department as the faculty did not have the capacity to train persons with such disability.?

Shabi, who is now a postgraduate student of Journalism in the Institute of International Journalism, Kaduna Study Centre, also holds a master’s degree in Human Rights, he expresses his determination to become a lawyer in spite of his challenges.

Shabi's ordeal started after suffering from measles. when he 12 years old in primary three. Was? he developed an eye problem which he said started like a joke. “I was taken to several? places in search of solution but all to no avail. I was eventually told that I would no longer see.”

He said he was advised to attend a special primary school for the blind, so I went to the school for the blind in Katsina, then went onto the Government Science Secondary School, Fadan Kaje. After secondary school, I got admission to read Law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

“After my first semester examination, which I passed very well, the Dean of the Faculty of Law at that time, Professor Sada told me that the faculty had no facility to accommodate the blind. Subsequently, he advised me to change to another department. I resisted that move for quite some time because practicing Law had always been my dream profession, but in the end I gave up and had to change to Political Administration, which was against my will.?

Honestly, I still feel that somebody tampered with my destiny, but I have not given up.” After his first degree? Shabi struggled to gain scholarship from the Fort Foundation in United Kingdom where he obtained a master’s degree in Human Rights, still in pursuance his my interest to read Law.

The major challenge the disabled people are facing in the society is that; the society does not see anything good in us. The society sees only the disability in disabled persons without seeing what impact we can make in society. When I was in the United Kingdom, the lady that trained me on the use of computer was not only blind, she had only one hand and equally crippled, yet her society provided for her an opportunity to become somebody.

And she is doing well in her chosen career. The society in Africa and Nigeria in particular only pays attention to the disability, without giving any attention to the ability in them,” he further added.”

Shabi who has been happily married to Mrs Blessing Micah Shabi for five years now is blessed with two children, Funom and Waynom.

As a senior producer in the Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC),? his love for humanity drove him to set up an NGO known as Research Centre for Persons with Disability. “I am the organisation’s executive director. What we do is to create awareness on issues as they affect persons with disabilities.”

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