Ability in Disability… the Story of Gideon

By Uche Amunike

Let me start by tendering my apologies to our dear readers for not coming up with Frank Talk last week. It was due to exigencies beyond my control. I appreciate you all for your concerns which came in form of calls and text messages. The important thing is that Frank Talk is here today and I bring you an amazing young man who looked beyond inability and chased his lifelong dream of being a university graduate.

Thankfully, even though he has been confined to a wheel chair almost all his life, he broke the fetters of inferiority complex, societal stigmatization and disability to reach for the rainbow of hope. Today, he is a graduate of Political Science and has fully served this country for one year as a Corper. His story is an inspiring one and it deeply touched me. Below is an excerpt of my interview with him. He really inspired me as we had our interaction. I hope he inspires you too…

Let’s meet you
My name is Gideon Adiani Sunday. I am from Benue state.

So, tell us your story
It started when I was three years old. I wasn’t born like this. It happened on one fateful evening. I took ill and was taken to a nurse who wasn’t a professional, back then. I was given injection and that was the beginning of my problems. For nine good years, we went from place to place, from hospital to hospital, and even to different prayer houses, to no avail. So, at a point, I told myself that God has a purpose for everything. I had to stop moving about and decided to focus and live my life, hoping that one day, my story will change.

Which schools did you attend?
I attended Kogi State University. I studied Political Science.

Can you share your experience with us on how you were able to survive the school environment in this condition?
It was full of challenges. Life itself is a challenge. Even people who have ability sometimes encounter challenges throughout their academic years, so that was how I took it. However, I didn’t want it to be an obstacle even though it was really tough. Sometimes they fix lectures upstairs. I have to struggle in order to get there, going from one faculty to the other. It was really full of challenges but I thank God that I pulled through. I wanted to give up at some point. I felt I wasn’t going to make it. You know, I was staying alone and taking care of myself. Then I have to rush for lectures, then sometimes when I get to the venue of the lecture, I will be told that it has been changed to another faculty. Going to that place again was always a huge challenge. However, I thank God for survival. It was really tough, but he sustained and strengthened me.

So what do you do presently?
I just completed my youth service. My batch will be passing out tomorrow.

Congratulations on that.
Thank you

Tell us about your parents. What has it been like for them?
It wasn’t easy for them. You know the way it is with polygamous families. My dad married two wives and I’m the second child of my mum. I’m really proud of them. They have been very supportive and they made it possible for me to go to school. Their belief in me strengthened me a great deal. They are the reason why I succeeded in my academic strides. Back then, they will wake me up every morning and encourage me to prepare for school. I never had the challenge of my school fees not being paid. They always paid prompt. They have indeed been very supportive.

So what are your plans now that you’re done with Youth Service?
Well, I’m planning on doing some business because in Nigeria today, the government doesn’t care about people like us. Presently as I speak, there’s a protest ongoing in Abuja today. It’s about the law made by the federal government that 5% employment positions in government parastatals should be allocated to people living with disability. The people who are in charge of these parastatals are not doing that which is why the protest is going on. This country is known for making laws without bothering if they are implemented. That’s one of the challenges we face. I wake up every day with that fear in me that Nigeria has no system or space for people like us. So, what will be our fate? It’s really a very disturbing challenge. I can only hope that one day, this society will grow.

What has been your greatest achievement in life?
It has always been my dream to go to school and today, I have a degree certificate. From where I come from, people like us are neglected. People feel that there is nothing good that can come from us. They expect us to stay home and beg for alms. I vowed to change that notion and I’m still working towards that. God has been my backbone throughout. Tomorrow will be the happiest day of my life because, officially, I will be given a discharge certificate. So, that degree is my biggest achievement in life and I owe all thanks to the Almighty God.

And your worst moments?
Sincerely, my worst moment was my first day in school. I lost my phone on that very day. I didn’t know anyone. I went there myself, moving from here to there. It was indeed stressful for me. It was one of the reasons why I felt like giving up. When I lost my phone, I was so pained that I knew that I won’t forget that experience in a hurry. I thank God for the people around me. They really encouraged me and their support lifted my spirit and gave me hope. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.

If you have to make a request to the government, what will that be?
My request to them will be to give us the opportunity to express ourselves. That is because, in this modern world, ideas rule the world. It’s not about being physically fit. It’s more about ideas that can add value to lives. I wish the government can do that. I will be very proud of them.

If you want to make a personal request to the government, what will you ask for?
I will request for a job so that I will be able to fend for myself and pay my bills without being a burden to anyone.

Do you have any message for people in this kind of situation? I mean, people who were born normal, just like you but due to one thing or the other, found themselves in this type of condition?
What I have to tell them is that they shouldn’t see themselves as people who cannot do anything they set their hearts to. Let them rise up to the challenges and face them headlong. Something meaningful will come out of it because sitting in one place and begging for alms isn’t the best. For how long will you keep begging? They should engage themselves in one or two things instead of begging. People won’t give you alms forever. Begging is not the ultimate. It’s better they should rise and start taking responsibility for the kind of life they want to live. With God, everything is possible.

Thank you so much for your time and congratulations on your degree in Political Science and of course, your Passing Out Parade which comes up tomorrow.
Thanks a great deal. God bless you!