In what could well be described as a fairy tale story, Chukwudi, a disabled man on wheelchair and Nkiruka, a young able-bodied trader in Ebonyi State, tells Gboyega Alaka their unusual love story and marriage.

He is a person on wheelchair and she, an able-bodied pretty lady of moderate means. But theirs seems a marriage already perfected in the realm of the spiritual. In fact, the husband, Chukwudi Zico Aga, based in Amasiri, Afikpo North, in Ebonyi State, says it was made in heaven. How else would one describe a marriage in which the lady first sees herself getting married to a cripple in her dream even before she met him in real life?

Their story gets more interesting, fairy if you like, when the lady, Nkiruka, wakes from sleep the very day after the night of the dream, goes out and beholds the man in a restaurant.

According to hubby, Chukwudi, 35, “I was having a drink with friends in a pub when this lady walked in, beheld me and burst into tears unprovoked. I was taken aback and asked her if she was crying at my predicament. I wanted to tell her that I’m not one to be pitied because aside the fact that I am on wheelchair, I don’t see myself that way and I try to live my life to the fullest, socialising and living my dreams as much as possible.

“But she said she wasn’t crying because of my condition. She said she was crying because she saw herself getting married to a cripple in a wheelchair in her dream just the day before, and that seeing me was only a confirmation that it was not just a dream but a clear message to her from God.”

Corroborating her husband’s story, Nkiruka, who proudly introduced herself as ‘Nkiruka Chukwudi Zico Aga’, said “I can tell you that our marriage is ordained in heaven because even before I met him, I already saw it in my dream that I got married to a man on a wheelchair. The funny thing is that it was exactly the day after the dream that I saw him.”

Explaining further, Nkiruka said, “When I saw him, immediately understood that he was the one I saw in my dream. That’s why I got emotional and cried. When I relayed the dream to him, he smiled. From there, we started seeing each other as friends and then eventually, he proposed to marry me, came to my parents, paid the bride price, and here we are as husband and wife.”

Asked if that was the only attraction, she asked, “Why? What else? I love him, period. I see a human being despite his obvious disability.”

How hubby became disabled
Prodded on the origin of his disability, Chukwudi said he was not born disabled and that it was the outcome of a ghastly motor accident he experienced back in 2008.

“It happened in 2008, August 21st precisely. I was an upcoming young man, passionate about education and trying my level best to build myself up and make myself relevant to my community and family. I had a strong belief that education would put me in that position in life – still do. I got admission to study English and Literature at the University of Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State. In between, I was hustling, selling CDs to make money to finance my education. I was on a bike trying to reach some more customers, when a vehicle came from nowhere and ran into us. I immediately lost consciousness. I regained consciousness at the hospital two days after. Painfully, I found out my two legs were paralysed and I could not walk again. They said it had to do with my spinal cord, which was broken. The doctors placed me on a bed rest for years for the injury to heal. Later, I was taken to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu because my waist had become stiff from lying down for a long time without moving. There, a surgery was carried out on me before I was able to sit comfortably on a wheelchair. Before then, I couldn’t sit at all. I also regained the use of my hands but I could not use my legs.

“Frankly, I didn’t even know that I could survive or live to tell my story like this. I battled the illness from 2008 to 2011. It was a most trying time for me. I also lost my admission at University of Uyo.”

Uncowed
But Chukwudi says he remained undaunted. “I never lost hope. My passion for education was re-ignited and despite the fact that I was on wheelchair, I still summoned courage to process another JAMB examination for admission into a higher institution and in 2012, I got admitted into Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, Ebonyi State to study Office Technology and Management.

Asked how he coped with the running around associated with higher educational institutions in Nigeria, Chukwudi said, “It was not easy. A higher school is another society on its own, where you see your peers running around with their two legs to struggle for seats in the lecture rooms, and there you were struggling with a wheelchair to climb staircases to access lecture rooms/theatres. Painfully, there were no facilities for people with disabilities and your colleagues who were also struggling to get a seat in the lecture rooms, maybe on the second floor, didn’t give a damn about you… But I thank God for everything. In all, I succeeded in completing that programme and coming out with my National Diploma.”

In the area of socialisation and interaction, especially with the female-folk, a visibly excited Chukwudi said he had an interesting time at the polytechnic all through.

“I’m a very sociable person, so I had no problem blending and relating with my peers, whether male or female. I associated with them, I played with them; in fact it got to a point that some of the girls started looking at me in amazement. Some even told me to my face that, “You this guy, you’re not even bothered about your condition’. Absolutely there was no disparity or stigmatisation based on my condition.”

Literally, Chukwudi rose above his disability.

He also says he has refused to be caged by his condition. Even though he admitted to not having a defined job or means of livelihood at the moment, Chukwudi, who says he has survived on the goodwill and benevolence of friends and politicians, says he is committed to hard work.

“Part of my achievements is that I have authored and published three books. This has earned me popularity in my immediate and extended environment, as people keep marvelling at my ability in disability. They wonder at how someone in my condition could achieve so much, ‘The Challenges of Life and Their Solutions’ (2012), ‘The Power and Forces to Greatness’ (2014) and ‘Navigating the Lead Through Effective Leadership’ (2018) are the titles of my three books. However, it got to a point when I started thinking of a partner in the mode of a wife; somebody who’d be by my side and help me in achieving my dreams. I expressed this thought to my mum and she agreed, so we started praying about it.”

It wasn’t long after that he encountered her in a restaurant and the drama relayed above ensued.

After that first meeting, Chukwudi said Nkiruka kept coming around just to see him. “After a while, I summoned the courage to ask why she kept coming around and she told me she couldn’t help herself ad that she loved me.”

In summary, Chukwudi says, “I didn’t have to do much. In fact, I was the one that was giving her tough time. I even made life difficult for her by trying to scare her with the challenges ahead in marrying a disable person like me. And yet, she stood her ground. Then I told my mother about it; my father is late. We started the process; we paid the bride price and that was it. On the 23rd December, 2020, we solemnised the process, and as we speak, we are man and wife.”

They got married at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (Trinity parish), Amasiri, on Okigwe Road, Afikpo North LGA, Ebonyi State.

On whether they faced objections from families and friends, Chukwudi, who clearly is the more vocal of the couple, said, ‘not much’, except that from the church, where his pastors seemed to be more particular about the fact that Nkiruka was not a member of their church. But they quickly got over that.

As for her prospective in-laws, Chukwudi said, “They just called out their daughter and asked her in the presence of our entourage if indeed she was willing to accept my hand in marriage. She said ‘yes’. They said, ‘You are the one that poured yourself this water; if it burns or cools on your skin, you must not complain’; she said ‘Yes, OK’ and that was it.

On her part, Nkiruka simply said, “I told them and they gave me the go-ahead. They said if he was my choice, I should carry on.”

Some of her friends actually expressed their doubts about the relationship and asked why she was settling for a cripple, of all people, but having surmounting the hurdle of her family, the love-smitten Nkiruka said she simply told them not to worry, and that he is the person God has chosen for her.

On the possible financially challenges they may likely face, seeing that her husband at the moment has no defined means of livelihood, Nkiruka, who says she owns a shop where she sells wrappers (clothes) said “I know things will change. God will pave the way for him and provide for us.”

Real man
Asked to react to the widespread opinion that men with spinal cord injury are not able to function sexually, a rather shy Nkiruka, who admitted to enjoying every bit of their about a month old marriage, recoiled into her shell, saying, “Me I can’t answer that question o.”

Her husband, Chukwudi, however, came to her rescue.

Though equally embarrassed by the question, the man on wheelchair said, “I know that is what people normally say, but I have never been in doubt of my capability to perform optimally during sex. Besides, it’s not something you can go on to the streets and go naked to prove to everybody. But now that I’m married, my wife can testify to my functionality in the ‘other room.’ I’m especially thankful to God for that. As for child-bearing, it is God that gives children.”

On his prodding, a smiling Nkiruka also summoned courage to respond: “I know my man; he’s a real man. He can perform.”

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