On the street of Lagos, there are hundreds of people living with disabilities, scattered all over the cities, begging and sometimes engaging in vices. Most of them are at the mercies of passersby kind enough to extend some generosity to them.
However, there are; Kenneth, Muftau, Salisu and others, who have refused to allow their disabilities reduce them to beggars or agent of social crimes.
“Use your disability as a means of ability. There are a lot of opportunities in disability if only you can open your minds” these were the sterling words of Kenneth Abah. Although a Nigerian, his parents relocated to Senegal when he was two years old. A year after his family had settled in Senegal, he was hit by Poliomyelitis.
Kenneth Abah was born in Cross River state. He was three years old when he suffered polio, all effort by his parents to get him medical care they could afford yielded little result. At age three, Kenneth lost the use of his legs. Yet today, you would find Kenneth under the bridge at Obalende, not begging, but mending shoes.
Unlike Kenneth, Muftau Isa lost one of his legs in an accident when he was already a husband and a father of two children. Muftau was run over by a heavy duty trailer. Two years after the accident, he was advised to come to Lagos so that he can beg to support himself and his family. “My uncle’s wife brought me to Lagos to start begging so that I can support myself and my family” Muftau said. Had he heeded the suggestion of his uncle’s wife, he would not have been employed by Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA).
Kenneth lost his legs at age three, Muftau when he had become an adult but Salisu Sulaimon never made use of his legs; he was born crippled. Salisu does not understand English Language but he buys and sells in Ikeja using the little trade words he has managed to learn. Salisu neatly arranges his wares on a small board which he can easily move around.
Adam, who also speaks and understands only Hausa Language, could pass for a jeweler. He has one arm and you would wonder how he manages to carry his box of jewelries around.
THEY FACE LIFE’S CHALLENGES LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
“Life is not kind to anybody even if you are disabled, life would not stop being cruel” the words of Kenneth as he recounted how he had to leave University of Calabar in 2010 because of funds. He had gained admission to study Law because of his inability to meet the financial demands, he is today a roadside shoemaker with the ambition to get a degree (even if it is not law), expand his business and get married.
His parents are in Senegal where Kenneth had his primary and secondary education and lived until 2008 when he came back to Nigeria, with the hope of furthering his education. Although Kenneth speaks with his parents regularly, he has not been able to visit them in the eight years since he left them behind in Senegal.
Kenneth loves sport and has participated in few athletic competitions. “I have always loved sports and I started doing sports when I got to Nigeria but it is difficult for me to focus only on becoming an athlete because I don’t have someone sponsoring me. I need to meet my needs. I have participated in some competitions in the past but now I face my business because I need to take care of myself” he said.
He also narrated how a soldier confiscated his tools. “There was this time a soldier seized my things because he said I cannot stay here (under the bridge) to do my business. I had to go to their barrack to beg him before he gave me back my things”. One would have thought that this soldier would have empathized with Kenneth given his condition but no, just like everyone else whom he must have seized their goods, the soldier, seized his tools, too.
THEY HAVE LOVE FOR LIFE, TOO
Muftau’s relationship with his wife hit the rocks briefly after he was discharged from the hospital. His wife left him with their two children. He had lost one of his legs, he also lost his found rib in the process. To Muftau, he felt “incomplete”.
“Bi Iyawo kan ba ko ni, iyawo na laafe” (When a woman divorces one, it is a woman one remarries) this is similar optimism Muftau views life with. He later remarried his heartthrob who added to his household two lovely kids.
Kenneth also revealed that he has a girlfriend who sometimes helps him in doing his laundry.
‘THEY’ DESERVE ALL THE HELP ‘WE’ CAN GIVE
“I am not a beggar but people give me money as I go about sweeping the bridge. It is this money I use to augment my Salary” Muftau said. “Sometimes, my friends help me fetch water and assist in doing some of my house chores. I have very nice people around me” were the grateful words of Kenneth.
When next you walk pass anybody with disabilities, know that he is going through life’s many challenges along with the complications that come with his condition, so do well to lend a hand. Like Mufutau and Kenneth, the will appreciate it.