Living with a limiting disability is never an easy experience. It takes a philosophical spirit and grateful heart to be able to see beyond the inconveniences such situation and still find genuine reasons to celebrate for surviving through it all.
Today, INN brings you the story of Yakubu Nazir Abdulhakeem, a PWD celebrating nine years on wheelchair after he survived a near death experience and had to undergo ten hours of a major operation. At the end of it, he woke up to the world of Disabilities and a whole new journey as a Persons With Disability.
Com. Yakubu Abdulhakeem takes us back in time in this breathtaking and moving narrative of his life:
“My whole life had been marked by pains which words can’t describe. Today, the 14th of April, 2021 clocks exactly nine years of my reborn. It’s been nine years since I survived a near-death experience and I have chosen to mark this in place of my birthday. I’m celebrating this day as my life day as there wouldn’t a birthday if I hadn’t made it till now.
Nine years ago, precisely, on the 14th of April 2012, I woke up from a 10 hour surgery to find myself in a world different from what I used to know – a world which restricted me to depending on a wheelchair for mobility. At the time, I found it strange and it looked like an impossible journey ahead. However, as the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years, my confidence with using wheelchairs grew exponentially. Sadly enough, being pushed in a manual wheechair was something that left me wholly dependent on other people, as I wasn’t able to self-propel. While a wheelchair provided opportunities to go out, I still felt my independence largely limited. Oftentimes, I couldn’t even control where I looked when we were out.
The first three years were physically and psychologically brutal. It was like purgatory. Of course I didn’t want to die, but then neither did I want to live. It’s the worst feeling of my life – a huge blank. On top of that emotional pain, I also experienced physical pain which couldn’t be described in dictionary words. It was like an alien was in my body. When I was in hospital in India, waking up every morning was a nightmare. I was so depressed with this hellish experience I wouldn’t wish even on an enemy.
Every night, before I went to bed, I’d go through an existential crisis. Up until this point, I’d experienced life through my body so that was the lens I used to experience the world when this tragedy struck. Then it shattered and I was lost. I found myself asking: Who am I? Who do people think I am? What can I do? What’s the point?
Things slowly but surely changed over time. It’s been a journey and I’m challenged every day. I never have a vacation from my body, but I’m also proud to be a wheelchair user and part of the community I’m in. I’ve chosen it as an identity.
My relationships also have been much helpful. I have built relationships with family and friends and they constitute a big part of my joy today. However it is very rare to get an able-bodied lady willing to marry a Spinal Cord Injury survivor with all the complications and emotions, rather ladies just want me as intimate friend. This one constitutes a big challenge for persons in my situation.
Accepting I needed to use a wheelchair was a big obstacle to overcome. Not only was I coping with physical changes courtesy of the SCI but I also had to make a psychological shift that was just as hard, if not harder. There was the inevitable question “why me?” (to which the answer is “why not?”) and a growing sense of frustration. In the end I had a choice – take to my sofa and never go anywhere or use a wheelchair and get on with life. I opted for the latter but it certainly wasn’t easy. Sadly, there are many people who can’t bring themselves to use a wheelchair. They miss out on the rest of their lives. As far as I am concerned, my wheelchair has become my legs but that doesn’t mean life is as it was before. Nothing like it.
Life is tolerable in a wheelchair (after all, what choice do I have?) but it could be so much better. It seems to me that a person in a wheelchair is rarely consulted about their needs and many are guilty of being nonchalant, with exception of a few – mostly fellow disabled persons. Others hardly think things through – a classic example is our Nigerian society where, for years, private and public buildings have only staircases to their entrances and a prominent sign saying “For Disabled Access, Enquire Within”.
There are occasional advantages to being in a wheelchair though. For instance, I am never without somewhere to sit. I am always amused when someone says “take a seat” only to realize what they’ve said and move on.
On the 30th March, 2021 when I arrived Mom Orphanage Home, Lokoja for a birthday celebration of my sister, Pharm. Ramat Molo, all seats were taken before we got there. My colleague fetched two chairs and I asked him who the second was for. “It’s for you”, he replied. He had to apologize for forgetting I was already seated. What a compliment. People who see the person beyond the chair are to be treasured.
So how does it feel to be disabled, to need to use a wheelchair? No proper life, no fun, right? Well what people need to understand is that “it isn’t necessarily being disabled that prevents me from doing things”. What limits me (apart from my day-to-day health) is, for instance, which buildings I can get into and which friends’ houses I can visit. Being disabled does not define my personality, it does not mean I am permanently miserable and I still have the same lively sense of humour and enjoyment of the ridiculous as I always have.
Last year, few weeks after the celebration of my life which I tagged “8 Years Agony of my Life”, I had a challenging experience which I deem worth sharing so both disabled and able bodied persons alike may learn and take caution where and when necessary.
On the 30th of May, 2020, at about 6:30a.m., taking advantage of my disability, a young man by the name Yekini Usman broke into my room and went away with the sum of #30,000 and my smartphone. As a man who believe strongly that disability shouldn’t be taken as weakness, I immediately reported the case to the relevant authorities who promptly tracked down and apprehended the criminal. He was subsequently charged to court. Although, the case lingered for about 4 months, costing me much of time and resources, at the end of the day, justice was served and Yekini Usman was sentenced to a 4 and 15 months jail terms which is to run consecutively. The joy in all of this is that with the support of the relevant bodies, I was able to prove that being physically challenged doesn’t translate to being intellectually retarded neither does being disabled takes away the soundness of one’s mind. I have also been able to show that being on a wheelchair doesn’t stop me from knowing my rights and pursuing justice when those rights are violated. Hence, I call on all the able-bodied folks out there fond of taking advantage of persons with disabilities to desist. Similarly, persons with disabilities are enjoined to always stand on their rights and employ all available legal means to seek for justice whenever those rights are violated.
Let me at this point state as a matter of emphasis that this write-up is not to attract sympathy. Rather, I want you to join me in celebrating my life. Yes, I am a Physically Challenged Person but with many Abilities and by God’s grace, the owner of Hope Global Computer College Okengwe.
My sincere and in-depth appreciation goes to the following notable personalities who I can’t help but mention: Senator Nurudeen Abatemi, Rt. Hon Ahmed Tijani Damisa, Big Mummy Hajiya Habitat Onumoko, Mr. & Mrs. Alabi, Mallam AlHassan Aliyu Asir, Alhaji Haruna Salihu, Dr. Yahaya Akanali, Pharm Ramat Molo, Hon. Adams Kadoka, Mrs. Hassanat Abdulmalik, Mrs. Salma MuhammedSanni, Mr. Hassan Ogembe, Daniya’s family, Okasime’s Family, Teddy, Yekini Steady, Mica, Zaika, and all my assumed daughters and sons as well as members of the Kogi Central Disabled Community.
Finally, I appreciate all my family members for their financial, physical, spiritual, and psychological support. You all are part of the reason I’m still alive.
I pray to Almighty Allah to forgive those who thought it’s because I have made money that I decided to travelled to India to remove my KYPHOSIS (Hunchback) to be normal human. If that is your thought, then the earlier you seek for forgiveness, the better for you. I have seen many people with Kyphosis that are doing pretty well in life so why should mine be different? Never judge what you don’t know about.
I’m officially disabled, but my lack of limbs has truly brought out the many abilities inherent in me. My unique challenge has opened up unique opportunities to reach out to many in need.
It was not easy surviving a 10 hour major surgery. It’s all down to God’s grace so I seize this special day and moment to wish myself Happy Life Day!