PWDs Celebrity Of The Week 004:
Onyeka Victor Icheku’s life story is one that could move even a stone heart to tears. Declared dead after birth, it took doctors five hours of his life on earth before realising that he was alive, albeit, his hearing capacity was already affected. In this no-holds-barred interview, he narrates how he has struggled to get on with life from the first minute he was born, his growing up, accepting his disability and conquering the rejections and turning his obstacles to stepping stone. Excerpts.
Can you share with us how you became Deaf?
Onyema: Well, I will say that mine is a perinatal hearing loss. The doctor told my mom when she was pregnant of me that the baby in her womb was in breech position and she had to go through caesarean section to birth me. After a long session of surgery, they brought out a dead baby. They abandoned me there for about five hours and were doing all they could to revive my dying mom. It was after then that they attended to me and announced to my dad that the baby was gone. Thank God for my dad’s unwavering faith. He prayed earnestly and my life was restored. However, my auditory sense had been tampered with in the process.
What were the things your parents did after they realized that you were deaf?
Onyema: My parents were strong believers, so, they turned over the problem to God almighty in prayers. My mother took me to so many churches, all to no avail. They also sought medical assistance on several occasions. They went from one hospital to another and carried out all manners of test. Later on, they got me a pair of hearing aid, however, it was too expensive that we couldn’t afford to maintain it. I only used it for three years. But I must sincerely say that those three years were significant ones in my life. I became more lively because every sound became meaningful to me.
Did the disability affect your growing up?
Onyema: Yes. The disability really affected my growing up. It wouldn’t have been so if my parents had understood earlier that I am a special child that needs special attention and educational placements. They forced me to do what my hearing siblings do. Speech was the major means of communication around me and I was always left out in the discussions. I understood nothing about family relationships, friendships and associations with others.
Give us insight into your educational journey
Onyema: Talking about education, my primary education was nothing to write home about. I understood nothing, and even got tired of school because I was tagged ‘the dull deaf boy’. My teachers were always tired of me and would end up giving me one derogatory name or the other. I tried my best but it was worse for me because my parents insisted that I must remain in hearing school. My parents really didn’t understand me and it created a deep sore in my heart that has refused to heal up till date. Deep down inside of me, I knew I had something there that is quite different from others. I noticed that I was good at handiwork and craft, so, I started playing with wood trying to make things like stool, wooden piggy bank etc. My parents noticed my interest and enrolled me where I could properly learn the skill.
I stopped schooling for five years after my primary education but enrolled again when I met a friend who introduced me to Christian Mission School for the Deaf, Ibadan. When I got to the Deaf school, I was so happy to be in the midst of people who are like me. I learnt the sign language with a speed of light. I became very brilliant. I was so curious to learn lot more so as to fill up the gap those wasted years in hearing school had caused me. In fact, I was appointed as the Head Boy of the school when teachers took note of my passion for education.
Upon completion of your secondary education in a Deaf School, what did you do next?
Onyema: I stayed back at home for few more years and decided to further my education. It was not an easy nut to crack as I was the only Deaf learner in University of Port Harcourt. Aspects of my courses that involved using my hands (practical) were no problem for me. However, understanding lectures and written aspects were big bones in my neck. I got frustrated, along the line, and almost quitted but for my mom’s quick intervention. She has always been a great encouragement in my entire endeavor. She is a mother indeed. Thank God today I broke a record in that school as the first Deaf learner that ever graduated from the University since its inception. Glory to God!!!
That’s good news. Tell us about your career progress after the University education
Onyema: Talking about my career. I am a professional artist. I am into painting, drawing, sculpture and furniture making of any type.
What is your love life like?
Onyema: I didn’t have the experience some other Deaf people have when it comes to marriage. Most Deaf people find it difficult to get a hearing life partner but mine was an exception. I am married to a beautiful, loving and caring woman who is also understanding. We are blessed with a beautiful daughter.
What advice can you give to parents of Deaf and disabled children, the society and the government?
Onyema: My advice goes to parents of deaf children. Please don’t give up on that child, because you never can tell what great treasure is hidden in the child. Do all you can to communicate with your special child, don’t consider any piece of information too small or too complex for him to know. Do your best just like my mum did.
Secondly, I will advice my fellow deaf people to be strong and learn to believe in their abilities. They should not allow anything to discourage them from pressing on. Don’t wait for help to come from anywhere – be creative and sieze every opportunity you have to keep improve yourself in every area of life.
I have come to realize that government has nothing to offer so no need for advice. It will only be a wasted effort.
Every man’s future is in HIS hands. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, HOLD ONTO GOD, SERVE HIM WHOLEHEARTEDLY BECAUSE HE IS THE BEST FRIEND AND COMPANION YOU CAN TRUST.