January 19, 1999: A day of blood and agony, the tragedy that changed my entire world. It was the day RUF rebels chopped off my two hands in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I thank God almighty for preserving my soul. True are the words of Martin Luther King J, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy”. I thank the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY for keeping me even in this recession.
Today is another opportunity to share with friends and family members how God has led me thus far; recognizing the important roles you played through counsel, prayers, financial support and mentoring. I was meditating on this year’s anniversary and recalled how Civil Liberties organisation (CLO) and the Nigeria Red Cross Society as well as the International Red Cross supported the struggle for my rehabilitation and integration to the society.
While on admission at the Nigerian Reference Hospital Yaba, I always thought about organisations in Nigeria I could run to for help, especially organisations of persons with disabilities, where I could share my burdens, since by their reason of managing issues of concern to persons with disabilities, they could proffer solutions for me. I visited US Information Centre library in Lagos seeking for information on how to go about with rehabilitation and reintegration. I got so many contacts in USA, but none in Nigeria.
Someone introduced me to Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) at Yaba, Lagos. I summoned courage to visit their office. On getting to CLO, I met one fair in complexion lady. I narrated my story to her, but her eyes were filled with tears. The request was simple; help me write to the Federal Government of Nigeria to support my rehabilitation. This is because the cost of procuring artificial hands then, was N5 million in 1999 and I couldn’t afford the money. The lady told to me to come back again, she also promised to handover my file to someone that will do justice to my request.
That was how I met Ogaga Ifowodo, a writer, lawyer, activist and now a Professor. He showed compassion on me. He assured me that the leadership of CLO will take up the matter. That was how I met the then CLO President, Ayo Ogunsola Obe and former CLO Executive Director, Comrd, now Hon. Abdul Oroh. These distinguished Nigerians showed sympathy on me, before you know it letters were sent to the then President of Nigeria requesting the Government of Nigeria to take steps to get me rehabilitated. By the time Ayo Ogunsola Obe and Abdul Oroh tenure ended in CLO, Comrade Chima Ubani took over the matter as the CLO Executive Director. Letters were written to the Federal and Abia State Governments to no avail.
As if the efforts of CLO were not enough, through my Uncle, Elder Emmanuel Okpechi, I was privileged to meet Elder Lekan Ogunbanwo who was then General Manager, Eko FM. Elder Okpechi shared my plights with Elder Ogunbanwo, who had compassion on me and promised to support me. It was the then GM, Eko FM that introduced me to a man who remains my Oga till date. His name is Adebayo Olowo-Ake. He was a Communication Officer for the International Committee of Red Cross. During my meeting with him, he assured me of his commitment to secure buy-in of the ICRC and the Nigeria Red Cross Society to assist my rehabilitation. Before I knew it, my name was included in the list of speakers for the Nigeria Red Cross Society Presidential Dinner holding on Nov. 3, 2000 at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja. The Special Guest of Honour was the then President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. I was so excited that I was going to talk to the authorities, believing I will come back home with good news. NRCS were delighted to share my plight at the event as it is in line with their humanitarian work in Nigeria.
The night of November 3, 2000 came, I matched to Sheraton Hotel, dressed as decent as I could, with the understanding that your dressing may make or mar your goal. This is because if you dress well they will say this one does not need any support, if not well dressed, some will say this one does not need that kind of money, give him peanut and let him continue with his problem. As such, I was very careful of what I wore that day. We waited for the President to arrive to no avail, only for a light security men to appear with the then Minister for Health, who came to represent the President. My case was brought to the attention of the representative of the President, Dr. Tim Menakaya and that was the end of the expectation from the Federal Government as nothing good came out it. However, Nigeria Red Cross Society went further to assist me with weaving machine which I used to start my business at Yaba market. I realised that you may encounter defeats but you must not be defeated.
While I was visiting CLO, I was exposed to movers and shakers of the Nigeria Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). I spent time in the library studying about human rights situation and Nigeria government obligations to international treaties and conventions. It dawned on me that no organisation in Nigeria is focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities. It was easy then to hear about women rights, children rights and all that, with minimal mention of the rights of persons with disabilities. That was how I conceived the idea of a Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), formerly Amputees Rehabilitation Foundation.
Today, CCD is alive. CCD is an organisation of and for persons with disabilities that works to promote independent living, human rights and participation of persons with disabilities in development efforts. It also works to educate, support and empower persons with disabilities and their families to maximize their potentials.
CCD is recognized by Federal and State institutions as a credible NGO working on disability matters. We have over the past fourteen years sought a redefinition of society’s perception of the plight of persons with disabilities. CCD is managed by a Board of Trustees (BoTs) and Professional Staff (PS) complements that are gender sensitive as a deliberate corporate policy.
CCD’s mandate and objectives includes:
- To protect, promote and safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and promote public enlightenment in civic education, human rights and public policy;
- To initiate and implement programmes, policies and activities geared toward the promotion and enhancement of the welfare of persons with disabilities;
- To empower or assist in empowering persons with disabilities and regularly access the impact of public policy on human rights and report on same through publications seminars, workshops and lectures;
- To educate, sensitise, counsel and mobilize persons with disabilities in various areas critical to their survival and progress and support and advocate for respect for the rule of law and due process;
- To monitor the formulation and implementation of policies that impact on or are of public interest as relevant to persons with disabilities and publish reports, newsletters, journals or policy papers on same;
- To organize seminars, symposia, conferences on cutting edges issues and trends in socio-political and economic development as they affect persons with disabilities. For more about CCD visit: ccdnigeria.org
Permit me to use this medium to say a BIG THANK YOU to all my mentors and counsellor (many of them are reading this message) for their guidance and support. I am thankful for my struggles because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.
God bless you.
Written by David O. Anyaele