• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
businessday logo


Beyond their disability


  For 10 years now, Teriba Yakubu, an accomplished athlete, has been on a wheelchair as a result of a fatal accident. Though his fortune seems to dwindle afterwards, it did not take him long to see nothing to despair about in his condition.

Despite having lost 65 percent of his muscle bulk, on January 20, 1999, to the accident, Yakubu is today among foremost disabled trainers whose students are doing well in athletics at both national and international levels, especially at last year’s Para-Olympics in China.

Undaunted by his condition, this truly athletics enthusiast, trainer and achiever has firmly grasped life head on, and continues to make things happen his way. A day with him in one of his training sessions at the indoor sports hall of the National Stadium Lagos is more revealing than you can imagine.

Most of his students are even the able-bodied athletes that discover the goldmine the Plateau State-born disabled seems to have turned his despair-able condition to.

The most astonishing of it all is that Yakubu is often time chauffeur-driven to some big personalities for special training sessions, especially for weight loss. But the money, according to him, is not the drive, but the fact that he must face his responsibilities and close-knit his family like before when he was able.

“I already had a family when the accident happened, but I told myself in the hospital that I cannot let go the good family I started, so I had to fight on to survive, particularly when the doctor told me that wheelchair maybe my permanent abode,” he says.

Today, Yakubu drives his wheelchair with ease, and often hanging on his immaculate white hand towel, giving instructions here and there to his teeming students. The high-point of the whole affair for the achiever is that people are impacted through his discomfort, while he in turn, gain fulfilment from it.

The inspiration and fire for him are words from some concerned friend, and even from strangers. One of the most touching and inspiring of them all, according to him, is this one from Christian preacher who came looking for souls at the stadium one hot Saturday afternoon: “You are a truly the living embodiment of the spirit of how to ‘Reach Beyond.”

That was some five years back, but he just realises the strength and intent of that powerful statement as he continually presses harder to reach beyond his disabled capacity and limitations.

For Emmanuel Benson, a disabled gospel artiste, live must go on. Despite the fact that he was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, a condition of paralysis of the body from the brain, Benson still muscled-up the courage to star in the cloud with able-bodied and even more talented gospel artistes. He lives today as an inspiration to fellow physically challenged and as well oozes out inspiration for discerning public.

With the release of his recent album titled ‘My Destiny,’ which he notes is inspired by the fact that God has destined him to live, Benson joins the list of experienced motivational speakers with disabilities: adventurers, elite athletes, successful business people and individuals whose positive attitude, personal stories and energy for life inspire others to strive for their own goals, while at the same time raising awareness about disability.

He did not allow his disability to cast a cloud on his future. And in doing so, he has today become an empowerment, inspiration and exemplary element to many.

Besides music, he is good at inspiring people, challenging their excuses in life and giving them reason to try out something no matter how small it is, as long as humanity will be impacted at the end of the day. Under the banner of True Life Worshipers Music Ministry, an arm of PEO Foundation, thousands of people who are in his shoes have benefited from his courage and determination to succeed, despite the towering odds against him.

Guess what, he is using the substance from the album sales for God’s work. But Ben Azuogu’s story is one of determination and courage. Deaf and dump from birth, but Benoz, his brand, is among the local shoe brands at the popular Ariaria Shoe Market in Aba, Abia State. He did not go to school because the parents thought it would be waste of limited resources, so he left with an uncle for Aba at age six to learn anything his hands could do. He has not only enabled himself to survive but has also helped hundreds of families whose breadwinners work at his small factory or that learnt under his apprenticeship to survive as well.

According to his assistant, the World Bank and other small and medium scale enterprises commend him for motivating and empowering young people to help themselves. But the story is that nobody has ever matched his shoemaking skills, even with modern machines despite his disabilities.

By their various acts, these disabled persons who have conquered their world, and treading where even the able-bodied dread to go, now stand to inspires others to face fears, to overcome obstacles and reach their dreams with no ‘impossibility’ in mind.

The sonorous voice of Yinka Ayefele has endeared him to people from all works of life. Although he was not born crippled, he has been able to overcome the challenge of becoming crippled in his adult years after he was involved in a ghastly motor accident. Today, Ayefele’s name has become a household name in the music industry. In spite of his fame, he still believes he would walk someday.

“I strongly believe I will walk with my two feet again. I don’t see my disability as a problem at all. I was not born like this. I know God will make me walk again someday, and it’s not far from now,” he says.

The life of Funmi Ogunsanwo’s little son forced her to travel abroad for a course in the behavioural patterns of the physically challenged. According to her, adopting the life course approach while doing her research made her focus on individuals, constructing their life course through the social influence and structural constraints.

“While physically challenged students attended non-special education school, many factors may affects their school life more deeply and effect upon their life trajectories, include the environmental design, curriculum, teachers and classmates, family supports… etc. What learning experience would be achieved after these choices and actions taken within physically challenged students? How the school life affected their life course? Those were the questions I asked myself while doing the research,” she explains.

They may be physically challenged in certain parts of their body, but it has not stopped them from actualising their dreams and projecting their innate abilities to the admiration of all. In Nigeria, there are several who have shown that indeed, there is ability in disability. Cobhams Asuquo is one of such persons.

The visually impaired but extremely productive music producer, singer and song writer, who hails from Cross River State, has proven over time that he can do even better than those who are not visually impaired.

Having produced songs for ‘A list’ stars like Asa, Roof Top Mc’s, Nikki Laoye, TY Bello, to mention but a few, you can’t but applaud his efforts.

Cobhams is also the songwriter for Sony ATV, and he is indeed a gift to humanity. Hear Cobhams speak about what he sees music as – “music is a medium of communication and it’s probably the world’s most spoken language. I have a burden for message. You need to communicate the message of your song properly and represent where you come from. For those who intend that I work with them, they must trust my ability to be able to re-brand them. Part of my job is to interpret what is in your head.”

He speaks more about what music production entails. “Production sometimes is like a marriage, there has to be coherence. In producing, I could be very accommodating as I listen to various spectrum of music to accommodate different genre.”

It is true that physically challenged people go through tougher means to achieve their desired goals because of their ‘challenges,’ but those of them who have dared to do the seemingly impossible things have been outstanding.

According to Nike Shosanya, a psychologist, “Physically challenged people can be intellectually, physically, academically, creatively or artistically gifted. Interestingly, many of them are proving their worth in Nigeria today and they are not just showing their stuff, they are standing out. They sometimes do even better than able-bodied individuals. Indeed, there is ability in disability.”