You don’t need to walk long distances to become successful. But you need to travel deeply into the consciousness of your mind to explore unfounded possibilities to create wealth – U. Omeogu.
When Ugochukwu Omeogu talks about his life story, it doesn’t take long to grasp what he models, namely:
“the philosophy of mastering one’s mind to succeed in the game of life – in any situation one finds oneself”.
The thinking person soon realizes that his choice of imagery (walking long distance) in the opening quote is intentional.
In that opening statement, Ugo, the “Premium Business Mentor” is making a subtle reference to the potent weapon with which he masters the obvious limitations of his limbs and crutches. In essence, he is saying disability is not an excuse if a human being will tap into the miracle of “mind”.
Listen to him: “My situation shows you that if your hands and legs are disabled but your mind is working, you can rise above any circumstance and even lift men whose hands and legs distract them from using their brains to get what they want…”
And those aren’t empty words. This polio survivor has the results to prove. His intimidating profile in the corporate world soars miles beyond the perceived limitations of the crutches he walks with.
Undeterred by his physical challenges, this enigma nicknamed “Million Dollar Man” during his university days confidently holds his own in the most competitive corporate environments in Nigeria and beyond.
He has worked as Lead Facilitator at the renowned JP Morgan Chase Bank, Dallas Texas, USA. He also had a stint as Regional Group Leader with World Lending Group, Texas. There, he was the Lead Loan originator and senior customer relationship manager, mentoring junior staff in the organization.
Today, Ugo is a Workplace Attitude Expert, foremost Personal Development Coach, Principal Consultant/Facilitator (Merignos Consulting and Mentoring Limited). He holds private mentoring and executive coaching for top executives. He is founder, Wealthinaire Mentoring Ville – a state-of-the-art mentoring firm in Lagos.
How he was able to achieve these? We will shed light on that further on.
In this 9th of the Disability Champions Series, we bring you the story of a polio survivor whose depth of mind propelled a 360 degree turn around from surviving a debilitating disability to thriving despite it.
Ugochukwu Omeogu’s story is as challenging as it is didactic:
“Take the shot for yourself, it prods, discover your purpose,defy conventions, pursue knowledge, explore your mind, get mentors, discover the principles of wealth creation – create wealth!”
In the words of this victor:
“I have an interesting story indeed. My life is a testimony to the truth that the human mind can withstand any type of onslaught. The secret, he says, is: “keep your mind intact and maintain a capacity to think about the situation you are in”
SETTING THE STAGE: LIFE GIVING WORDS FROM LOVING PARENTS
The Good Book says: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21. If you are a parent of a child with disability, please pay close attention to the following lines. They reveal the potential impact of your choice of words in communicating with that child.
“We were sure you wouldn’t make it through the night. The doctor said so. Your body was frail and mangled from the polio. We had done all we could and had given up…
BUT… “each time you cried out, there was something forceful in your voice, we knew you were a fighter, and somehow you survived the night”.
That narrative from mother to son further energized the innate indomitable spirit in the young man – making him more determined to stand out from the pack.
Talk about the power of storytelling by parents to children. We need to rediscover this dying art.
Ugo recalls another defining scenario from home communication that shaped his perspectives.
One time, I tried to use my disability as an excuse not to do domestic duties, I got a received a mind resetting rebuke from my father:
“Ugo nwa m, ihe mere gi n’ukwu, o meghi gi n’uburu”. Translation: Ugo, my son, what happened to your legs did not affect your brain”.
And that was it! Today, Ugo rejects those special considerations or labels that come with “for the disabled”. Call him an attention seeking rebel if you wish, however, be kind enough to remember he has a cause. Hear him: “From childhood, I have had to defy all the labels of physical disability. I was forced to use my brain to come up with ways to succeed and stand out.”
WAITING AT DESTINY’S GATE
Ugo was just a year and six months when the muscles of his lower limbs were wasted by polio. Coming from a low income home where the parents couldn’t afford a car, his siblings trekked the long distance to and from school each day. Every morning, Ugo would wake up like his siblings and get dressed. There was this burning desire to go to school with them so he would hold hands with his siblings and walk with them to the compound gate. His brothers would leave him there while he waited for their return. On arrival, they would again hold hands and walk into the house together. One could imagine the hurt and anguish the young boy went through back then.
It was on one of those days waiting at the gate that a neighbour intervened. ‘Young man’, he queried, I see you here every day, crying and saying you want to go to school. What’s going on?
‘I want to go to school but I can’t because the distance is too far and I don’t have the physical strength’, Ugo replied. The neighbor asked to see my dad and with his consent volunteered to carry me to school in his motorbike on his way to work everyday.”
‘That was how I continued going to school’, Ugo recalls.
Looking back at that incident, Ugo draws an important insight:
“Anytime you are at the gate of your destiny, a helper will always show up, if I wasn’t coming out every day at that gate, I probably wouldn’t have encountered the man who helped me. Take the first step. You are being observed, keep at it, help is coming.
NUGGET#1: Right timing and positioning matters in the success race.
HOLY GHOST COLLEGE: TAKING ON HIS DISABILITY WITH PANACHE
Ugo is an unapologetic proponent of exploring one’s mind to find solutions to one’s specific challenges – whatever they are. Time and again, you find him espousing radical perspectives on the subject of disability. His views are quite eccentric. From a young age, he has held the conviction that:
“Who you believe you are is more important than who people say you are”.
He drives home his point with an intriguing.
On my first day in boarding school, my guardian took me around the place. It was full of life. The students were engaged in a game of football, basketball and others. I was excited. But then my guardian did something which I was not prepared for. He led me to an area of the school compound which was deserted and almost without life. Here, I saw students on crutches and wheelchairs – some crawling.These students appeared helpless. I asked myself: “is this how my guardian sees me? I was shocked because somehow in my mind I didn’t see myself as belonging here. My feeble limbs notwithstanding, I was still walking. I left that depressing place to join the healthy kids playing on the field because in my mind I identified with them. I saw nothing wrong with me regardless of what anyone thought about my physical ability. When my guardian called me back, I said “no”. My things had to be moved from the physically challenged dormitory to the boarding house for regular students.
Point of the story: “follow your heart, not popular opinion! Think beyond the “disability” label. Be bold. Dare!
BUT BEING DIFFERENT HAS ITS PRICE…
And that price is always inconveniencing. Yet the conqueror who digs deep enough always break into new waters.
Ugo exemplified that conqueror. His decision to kick against the segregating tendencies of disability label by rejecting the physically challenged dorm was no walk in a park.
There were marked differences in demographics and structural accessibility in both dormitories. By default, the dorm for regular students lacked conveniences and modifications available for students with disabilities. The toilet and bath, for example, were distance apart. So without knowing it he had chosen to walk a long, hard road.
Ugo remembers: “I had to take my bucket of water across the distance, something I found difficult and inconveniencing because of my physical challenges. So every morning, someone had to help me carry my water to the bathroom. I thought it was from goodwill.
THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED… At some point during hostel meetings when I tried to contribute to discussions, I would be shouted down by students who retorted: ‘we helped carry your bucket to the bathroom’. That was when it sank in that those guys are able to talk down on me because they helped me without me offering value in return. I learnt something from that episode and determined it won’t happen again”.
How did Ugo work his way out of this existential threat to his human dignity?
Physically, he stood no chance so he had to explore his area of strength – “mind”. Call it sixth sense if you will. A bit intuitive thinking about human nature and a corresponding response proved to be the solution.
Ugo recollects: “I started to share my provisions with the students. I would ask if they were hungry and give them cornflakes, biscuits, milk, etc. That was me being upfront to give you something, so the next morning if I ask you to help me carry my bucket of water, you will do so without hesitation.”
The strategy worked. In fact at one point, the students were literally waiting to help Ugo, knowing they would get something in return. He rounds up the narrative with words of advice to Persons With Disabilities:
Nugget #2 : “Before you ask for help, always determine and initiate a motive”.
Those words have since become a part of the man’s guiding philosophy.
HE FROWNS AT USING DISABILITY TO SHADY ADVANTAGE: A WAKE-UP CALL TO PWDs!
“Anyone who uses Disability as an advantage would need more disability and sympathy to sustain that advantage”
Asked during an interview if he thinks People with Disabilities are receiving the right attention in Nigeria, Ugo offers a rather controversial view that puts the fate of each PWD in his own hand.
His answer brings to mind William Henley’s famous lines in the poem “Invictus”:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
Using the disability act on pwds employment as a case in point
Ugo puts a hard knock to the raging debate on PWDs and employment quota in Nigeria. According to him, there is nothing special about being a PWD. Disability is not a death sentence; rather it should challenge every PWD to develop their abilities to become more viable – in other words, create value!
As a PWD employer of labour, Ugo stance on ‘employment quota’ of the discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Act is both instructive and enlightening:
“The law talks about how PWDs should be given same opportunities as their non-disabled counterparts. But why should I employ somebody who is going to be a liability to my organization? The question is: what is a disability? If you are going to create value for me, you are good to go. And if you are physically challenged, I will build a compatible system where there is none because of the value you represent. However if you come to me on the condition that I employ you because you are disabled, that would be projecting disability over value creation. That will be an expression of mental disability… (a condition worse than physical disability).
The bottom line, this business mentor reiterates is that “as long as one seeks to use one’s misfortune as claim to entitlement, one will continue to depend on the same, because whatever motivates you multiplies itself.”
Nugget #3: Develop your abilities to create wealth or give value rather than seek to attract sympathy/empathy with your Disability. People generally respond to money and value creation than to stretched out hands.
LEVERAGING ON DISABILITY: A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE
There is always an alternative way to serve within your capacity. There is always that something that is seemingly unimportant and people tend to overlook yet is relevant and needed. Find it, apply yourself to it, leverage it.
With those words, Ugo challenges PWDs to independent utilization of their minds to contribute to civilization even when society offers the easier path to allow for a disability.
This might sometimes mean taking unconventional approaches.
Another encounter from Ugo’s youth service days drives home the point.
“At the camp, everyone with a disability was asked to go to a special place. I was the only who stayed back and when they asked why, I simply told them I could be useful one way or another. During our endurance trek, I volunteered to take care of the personal belongings of my fellow corpers”.
You see, he concludes, I got to applying myself to a self-imposed responsibility.
Nugget #4: Disability shouldn’t be an excuse for idleness. Find that thing (whatever it is) that you can do, and – just do it!
CALLING OUT INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS INVOLVED IN PWD CAUSES
Ugo expresses critical views on the concept of NGO for PWDs and society’s less privileged as is often practiced in the Nigerian context. The premium business mentor believes things are not being done with the right philosophy and motives.
“I have tried to work with some of these groups”, he says. “Each time I try to come close to them, it is always one problem or another”. His grouse with the brains behind most of these NGOs is that they are mostly after personal interests. They are not doing it with the right philosophy. Many are trying to find a way to make money for themselves”.
He is however quick to emphasize that his critical views are not intended to disregard those that are into the disability cause with right motives. No, he reserves the flaks for those who use the NGO concept to stir public sentiments in order to make money off PWDs. Ugo gets visibly upset when he says:
“It is not right to seek a means of making money using PWDs as leverage. I know you expect me to glorify that people are trying to seek help for PWDs, but fact is, they are using those sentimental values to enrich themselves rather than helping the subjects (PWDs) achieve success. This is most condemnable!
ESPOUSING HIGHER IDEALS… UNIQUE INSIGHTS INTO PWD ADVOCACY
Still on the issue of what he feels are wrong (although generally accepted) approaches by individuals and organizations in their engagement with PWDs causes, Ugo cites common instances and proffers what he believes to be loftier, more challenging ideals.
“I see visitors and politicians take pictures with these kids just to score political points. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. By such approach, we are painting a picture in their minds and in society’s mind that these kids are disabled – a case of charity.
Ultimately this affects their self identity and trajectory in life.
“In a home for orphans and less privileged kids I visited, I found out that these children were taught to tell you their misfortunes instead of their goals and aspirations.”
You further disable these kids the instant you bring their impressionable minds to dwell on their misfortunes; you reiterate that the child is a nobody and has to beg anybody that comes into his life.
“Instead, we ought to find a way to give back to these PWDs and less privileged persons out of what we have created rather than use their circumstances as a means to create something for ourselves.”
Wealthinaire keys for the individual PWD. With these keys Ugo shares some secrets behind his astounding success in business and personal life.
- Take personal responsibility for your life so you can help someone else.
- Have a mentor. It puts your miles ahead.
- Discover your purpose
- Be a sponge for absorbing knowledge
Make what you know useful to other people. Share your knowledge
- Develop the discipline of wealth creation. ‘One of the reasons why you have to learn to be successful’, Ugo says, ‘is not so that you can be successful, it is so that you can help other people become successful’. A service to many leads to greatness.
SAYING THE LAST WORD
As he draws the curtain on the interview, this advocate of digging deep into the powers of the human mind drops a timeless advice:
“I don’t know who is reading this story right now, but if you are physically challenged, I want to let know there is nothing wrong with you… my situation shows you that if your hands and legs are disabled but your mind is working, you can rise above any circumstance and even lift men whose arms and legs distract them from using their brains to get what they want”.
And he hopes this makes sense to the reader.
NUGGET #5: Draw inspiration, not perspiration from your disability
The Disability Champions Series is a collaborative project of Jibore Foundation and Inclusive News Network.