Rotary’s Succour For The Physically Challenged
According to him, the challenges associated with his physical condition were enough distractions to his life ambition. As a young man, he would have loved to live a normal life – go to school, get a good job, get married and live a happy life with his family. But with the situation he finds himself, his dreams may appear too gigantic to be accomplished at this stage of his life.
“It’s rather too unfortunate that I found myself in this kind of situation. However, I can’t blame anybody for my misfortune, instead my condition makes people like me appreciate the mercy and mightiness of God in the physically able people around us. Ordinarily, many of us have dreams and aspirations in life. In my own case, I would have loved to live a normal life, go to school, get good employment, be financially successful and live a happy life. But my condition has deprived me the opportunity of pursuing all these lofty dreams, ” Hassan lamented.
His major predicament is mobility. Because of his deformity, moving around has been so difficult hence his lost battle against poverty, hunger and illiteracy among others. He now crawls a distance of about 200kms of an un-tarred road (in his residence located in Badagry, Lagos) every morning in his quest for means of livelihood.
“In spite of my condition, I insisted that I must get out of the difficulty. With this passion, I took my time to go to Islamic School for Quran studies and on completion, I now impact the knowledge in the young ones. Besides teaching the messages of Almighty Allah through the Al-Quran and Hadiths (of Prophet Mohammed), I also educate the children on the reasons why Islam is a religion of peace and why all worshippers of Allah should unite as one, irrespective of our religious differences.
“But besides this, I have a major issue that is bothering my mind. I am now 40 years old and with no girl friend or fiancé. I have tried to woo ladies of my interest but they never responded positively. In fact, most of them, felt offended by my proposal. They failed to realize that there is nothing wrong with my potency,” he added.
Unfortunately, Hassan is not the only physically challenged person in such condition. There are many of them in the country waiting for government’s policy or law that will give them special consideration in education, employment and in other areas of their fundamental needs. They are also hoping for special budgetary provision from the Federal Government to provide for their essential needs like food, clothes, shelter and wheelchairs among others.
Another physically challenged person is Mr. Obioha Ononogbu, who became confined to a wheelchair as a result of spinal cord injury following his involvement in a ghastly automobile accident while traveling from Onitsha to Port Harcourt in 1982. Since then, life has been miserable for him, he lamented.
Ononogbu was emphatic in his complaint over what he described as societal stigmatization against the physically challenged in Nigeria. He added that unless government takes legal measures to stem the situation, it might prevent them from exploring their potentials for self- development and that of the country.
“The discrimination and stigmatization against the physically challenged in the country is so discouraging. You read in the newspapers about vacancy for employment opportunities, when you get there, you would be disappointed to hear the employers saying the advertised employment was not for the physically challenged.
“The situation is so bad here that it looks as if the physically challenged people are rejected from participating in meaningful activities in the country. You go to banks, there are no provisions for people on wheelchair to get to the banking hall; you have to be attended to outside the hall. People on wheelchair cannot board public bus and go to cinemas and other amusement centres,” he lamented.
Hassan and Ononogbu spoke with The Guardian during a programme organized in their honour by the Rotary International, District 9110 Nigeria. At the event, no fewer than 20 physically challenged Nigerians who had hitherto been afflicted with ailments that have made movement for them difficult, were provided means of moving about.
Beneficiaries of the wheelchairs, said to be UNICEF and World Health Organization compliant, were Miss Oluwaseyi Ibironke, Mr. Joseph Inowo, Mr. Abdul Fatai Hassan, Imam Oluwakemi Mosida, Salome Samuel, Obioha Ononogbu, Joseph Onwudingo, Moses Osaywe, Toyin Aina, Lekan Odufuye and Tanimowo Ayodele.
At the presentation ceremony, the Chairman of the Project Implementation Committee, a chartered President of Rotary Club of Oto-Ijanikin Central, Mr. Dele Akinyemi, said the gesture was part of the organization’s commitments to alleviating the sufferings of the needy, including the physically challenged in the country.
While reiterating Rotary’s commitments to putting smiles on the faces of the less privileged, Akinyemi said the objective of the project was to aid the physically challenged people’s movements and quest for survival.
At the presentation, the District Governor of the humanitarian organisation, Mr. Tayo Alabi, who was represented by a past District Governor, Jide Oyewo, said the gesture was one of the domestically conceived projects of his administration with “interconnectivity with the cardinal points of advocacy against poverty, illiteracy, maternal and child mortality, Polio, HIV/AIDS among others.”
Alabi urged the physically challenged people in the country to always believe in themselves and never see themselves as disadvantaged citizens, adding that it is very important for them to contribute their quota to the development of the country.
According to him, some of the ways through which the physically challenged citizens can contribute to the development of the country include exploring their potentials for self-development and by not depending on anybody for alms or survival.
“With that, you (the physically challenged) would have contributed your own quota to the development of this society. We know you limitations and that is why we are providing the wheelchairs, hoping that the project will be sustained and extended across the country,” he added.