Abdulrahman Awal wears many caps as the Chairman Nigerian Association of the Blind, Niger state chapter, National PRO of NAB, SSA to the Niger State Government on Physically Challenged Persons, a teacher and the C.E.O of Mashura Investment Company. He talks about living with blindness, how he has forged ahead and all the wonderful things he is doing inspite of his disability.
It seems that Abdurrahman’s destiny was to create awareness that being disabled was not an excuse to become destitute, nor did it mean the end of the world for him or many others with the same challenge. Since he entered the world, his future had already been set – to make something of himself even though he was blind.
Born on 29th July, 1983 to the family of Barrister Muhammad Awal Bida and Hajiya Larai Awal, Abdulrahman Awal, the fourth out of fifteen children, was the only one in the family who is blind.
“My biography cannot be told without the history of my blindness. Going by what my parents told me, when I was four weeks old, my dad observed a sandy-creamy coloured discharge around my left eyeball and asked my mother if she had also noticed it. She had but thought that, since I wasn’t crying from discomfort, I must be all right. My dad wanted to be sure so they took me to the hospital for confirmation and that they can have peace of mind. We were residing in Bida, my home town then.”
The Head of the Eye Clinic at the time, Doctor Rasheed, who was an Indian, suspected something but was reluctant to tell Abdullahi’s parents. He prescribed an ointment to be applied for a week and to bring the baby back after a week.
However, within three days of using the ointment, the left eye had protruded to an almost mango-sized growth which eventually ruptured on their way back to the hospital. At the hospital, we were referred to the National Eye Centre in Kaduna.
There, the Doctors confirmed that the left eye was already damaged by cancer and the eye was immediately removed. The doctors revealed from their findings that the remaining eye was also affected so they advised that the baby be rushed to Lagos for a radiotherapist’s attention.
“We had hopes that my remaining eye could be restored, so we left for Lagos for salvation which, unknown to us, would turn my life and world around entirely. In Lagos, after reading the report from National eye Centre Kaduna, the Doctor told us the equipment to be used to
kill the cancer will kill my eyesight too, and “this handsome boy is not supposed to lose both eyes”, he added. So he quickly wrote a report and referred me to a hospital in London. The Doctor stressed that “between now and two weeks if this boy is not attended to, he will die.”
Abdurahman continues, “My parents who didn’t have money nor any idea of what it takes to go to London, were confused. That was the first challenge and predicament we faced. My dad approached his uncle, Major Alhaji Bello Ndayako, the late Makun Nupe, and informed him about the Doctor’s statement. Major Ndayako said “I actually have no such money but let me consult a friend in person of Chief Michael Ibru.”
Chief Ibru was a blessing as he said he will try his best to rescue the remaining eye because, in his words, “he is too handsome to live without sight”. This great personality immediately called his wife in London, Dr Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, to get ready to receive visitors and do anything possible to assist them. He took the responsibility of all finances and logistics to get the baby and his parents to London.
“I owe them my humble gratitude till the end of my life,” Abdul said.
In London, after following all due processes, he was taken to More-field Hospital, London, which was the best eye hospital in the world then. Chemotherapy treatment was commenced and after the treatment he was discharged from the hospital.
“However, after a few days, it was observed that the cancer cells still existed in my body which was directly affecting my eyesight. After series of diagnosis and chemotherapy for a month in London, we came back to Nigeria again till the next appointment. Unfortunately, the next appointment with the London hospital fell into the period of 1983 Nigeria coup d’être. This led to all airports being closed and there was no access to foreign exchange. But immediately the airports resumed, my parents flew with me back to London, but they had already lost their appointment at More-field hospital so we had to go to another hospital in London where another chemotherapy was done on my right eye also so as to save the remaining eye.”
By this time, the family’s economic situation became strained as a result of financial implications, challenges in travelling out to London, and probably the missed appointment in London. So when further symptoms were observed again, he was taken back to the National Eye Centre in Kaduna where it was discovered that the cancer cells were already showing potentials of affecting his brain. Unfortunately, the remaining eye had to be detached from its socket in order to save the brain.
“My Aunt, popularly known as Hajiya Gogo Mairiga (late) went to Kano and successfully got traditional medicine that pushed the cancer to its grave. After a year of using the traditional medicine, I was taken back to National Eye Centre for a recheck and the result was fascinating as the cancer cells were found dead and disappeared for long. We were grateful to all that assisted and to Almighty Allah.
As the Nupe Muslim’s tradition of sending their children to early Islamic or Quranic school where Quran is learnt by heart, I was enrolled at Madarasatul Hayatul Islam of Okada Road under the supervision of Mallam Gimba Ahmad Evuti. I was introduced to courses like recitation of the glorious Quran, Hadith, Tauheed, Fiqhu and many more. After that, I began my formal western education at the Niger State School for the Handicapped, now known as Niger State School for Special Education in 1989, and graduated in 1996. I proceeded to Government Secondary School Minna (now Fr O’Connell Secondary School) between 1997 and 2002 for my secondary education. Thereafter I proceeded to an Islamic school called Markazus-sakafil Islam for Qur’an memorization between year 2003-2005. I then proceeded for higher education at College of Education Minna where I studied Islamic studies/Social studies between year 2006-2009. Out of my desire and my parents encouragement and other great helpers who collectively gave me very worthy encouragement, I began the degree program at National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) where I am presently studying Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution.
After the completion of NCE in 2009, as a person with physical disability coupled with a saturated labour market, I searched for a job everywhere unsuccessfully. My friends and I teamed up to create a job by establishing a paint company known as Asgadamas Nigeria Limited. I happened to be the marketing Co-ordinator of the company. But I was later offered appointment as Assistant Education Officer II by the Niger state government in 2011. My potentials as a good speaker and activeness were recognized and I was became the elected PRO Nigeria Association for the Blind, Niger state branch in the same year. As hardwork is part of my character, another company was formed and I was made the CEO of Mahshurah Investment Company, a company that specializes in the production of paint and application; importation of cars and gadgets; interior decorations and in totality, a general Contractor in 2012. In 2015, at the Annual convention of blind people held in Lagos State, I was elected the National PRO of Nigeria Association of the Blind. In the same year, I was elected the
Chairman, Nigeria Association of the Blind Niger State Chapter. Consequently, I was elected the Assistant Secretary General, Joint Association of Persons Living With Disabilities, Niger State Branch in 2013. At an interactive engagement, the Governor of Niger State appointed me as his Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on physically challenged persons. Currently, I am a training consultant for people with disabilities.
Contributions to the blind community…
My main aim is to get the society informed about who a blind man is and how to get the best out of him.
I use most of my time enlightening the world of the abilities in our disability and I partner with people and organizations in agitating for rights of people with disability.
I train the blind on various skills in order to attain self-reliance skills such as IT assisting technologies which will give them privacy of information.
1. Government’s attitude towards the blind; government has not taken time to understand the blind man and his needs, that is resulting to lack of adequate funding provision for the blind peoples’ needs.
2. Societal attitude toward the blind- the society is still finding it difficult to believe that a blind man is useful to the society in any other way rather than being a street beggar.
Achievements as the SSA to the Governor…
At least for the first time in Niger State, somebody has been appointed to serve as the voice of the people with disabilities and I have issued a lot of advice to the government on how to get the best out of people with disability in Niger state knowing quite well that the best approach to the eradication of street begging is taking care of the needs of the people with disabilities in the state.
Challenges as the SSA to the governor…
1. I have never received any response for any of the correspondence I have sent to the government, that is to say I have been appointed to be a voice of people with disabilities but I have not been given a microphone.
2. There is no desk allocated to me to carry out my responsibilities not to talk of an office which is essential, going by the sensitivity of the issues of the people I represent.
3. The Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development that I am supposed to report to has not granted me an audience despite my several requests.
Special trainings people with disabilities need to be self reliant…
Special people can be trained in virtually all areas but they require special trainers that can effectively impact the trainings on them.
The government should establish a commission for people with disabilities which will ensure the protection of all their rights, sensitize the general public about the needs of people with disabilities, have a comprehensive data of people with disabilities and structure a good education system for them to make them self-reliant and relevant in the society.
How government can encourage people with disabilities not to beg or go into street begging…
Government should give them a sense of belonging and make all nessecary provisions for them and also give them good orientation on the disadvantage of street begging.
Advice for others not to depend on government…
I will encourage them to look beyond their disability and look for something to do. They should not allow disability hinder them from achieving their life goals.
What makes you happy and relaxed…
I like making friends and I’m very happy counseling people about life in general. I like reading books and also like praying in order to relax.
My dear citizens,
I am very grateful to God and to all Nigerians for their prayers. I am pleased to be back on home soil among my brothers and sisters.
In the course of my stay in the United Kingdom, I have been kept in daily touch with events at home. Nigerians are robust and lively in discussing their affairs, but I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially on social media, have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far.
In 2003 after I joined partisan politics, the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu came and stayed as my guest in my hometown Daura. Over two days we discussed in great depth till late into the night and analyzed the problems of Nigeria. We both came to the conclusion that the country must remain one and united.
Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.
Every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.
I believe the very vast majority of Nigerians share this view.
This is not to deny that there are legitimate concerns. Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.
The National Assembly and the National Council of State are the legitimate and appropriate bodies for national discourse.
The national consensus is that, it is better to live together than to live apart.
Furthermore, I am charging the Security Agencies not to let the successes achieved in the last 18 months be a sign to relax.
Terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of us can live in peace and safety.
Therefore we are going to reinforce and reinvigorate the fight not only against;
· elements of Boko Haram which are attempting a new series of attacks on soft targets
· kidnappings, farmers versus herdsmen clashes,
· in addition to ethnic violence fuelled by political mischief makers. We shall tackle them all.
Finally, dear Nigerians, our collective interest now is to eschew petty differences and come together to face common challenges of;
· economic security,
· political evolution and integration
· as well as lasting peace among all Nigerians.
I remain resolutely committed to ensuring that these goals are achieved and maintained. I am so glad to be home.
Thank you and may God bless our dear Nation.
Twenty-six years ago, I met a remarkable man who was knowledgeable, intelligent, gentle, caring and charming. That young man was Ahmadu Sardauna Ahman. Fondly called Ahmed, Sardauna or Na Ahmadu by friends, addressed as ‘YaSardauna’ or Uncle Sardauna by family, there was something about him that commanded respect and love by most who came around him.
Hey man, how are you? It’s been a while. I hope you are good.
I was told your WAEC result is excellent. Congratulations man. I wish you same luck with your UTME (JAMB) and post UTME.
As you gear up to go to the university, I have reasons to believe that academically, you would do well so, no problem. On other matters, I have some tips for you.
You see, at the university, it’s a world of its own. You’d meet all types of people. I wouldn’t tell you to be careful in choosing your circle of friends. Instead, I’d tell you to be smart about it. Just like you, others would have their own reasons for choosing who to be close to. But whatever it is, just be smart. The friends you make at that stage of life are likely going to make or mar your next phase of life. So, again, be smart.
The freedom to be away from the watchful eyes of your parents is sweet but it also comes with responsibilities and consequences. Although, you wouldn’t be expressly told so by mom and dad but they understand that you can now have and keep female friends. Yeah….exciting, right? Not so fast.
Female classmates and friends would come. Again, remember that people have their reasons for choosing to be close to you. Don’t forget, be smart. If you keep your grades up there, wear clean clothes and smell nice always, smile and joke with as many people as possible all the time, respect everyone and never talk down on people, I tell you, you are on your way to easy life in school and even after school.
I know you were excited about the prospect of having fine females as classmates and friends so let me tell you a bit about them. Forget that tired line of “be careful with girls” just be smart with everyone. Women(and this applies to all people too) are generally good. Their loyalty and friendship would come to you based on how you present yourself to them. If for instance, you go about letting everyone know that you or your parents are rich and you can spend a lot of money, your friends would naturally profile you as the money bag they can come to when in need and that would be all. In the same vein, if you present yourself as the guy who cares less about his studies and has time to kill on social activities, you’d easily become the go-to guy for fun and hang outs.
I’d advise that, in as many ways as possible, let your friends know that much as you want to have fun too, your education is your number one priority. This way, you’d attract like minds who would help you grow in your academics and still have the appropriate dose of fun. With your female friends, form the habit of studying together. Organise tutorials and always make sure you are fully prepared to contribute. From such circles, you’d form impressions that would outlive your school days into the real world. You never know who might, based on their knowledge of your capability, recommend you to anyone for anything tomorrow.
Do I have to tell you of the need to take your lectures seriously? I’m sure you already know that but I have a thing or two to tell you about lecturers and our system of education.
Most of your lecturers are going to be Nigerians who received their education donkey years from the same type of system you would meet. So, don’t be surprised if you meet a senior lecturer who would use the same material he’s been using to teach for the past two decades to teach you.
Also, I know, from your interactions via social media with other students from other parts of the world, you have this idea that university classroom should be more of interaction and exchange of ideas between lecturers and their students. You were equally told by your friends in abroad that there is democracy in classrooms which makes it normal for you to respectfully challenge your lecturer if you have a superior point or when he’s outrightly wrong about anything. You were told to be critical and cultivate the habit of questioning whatever you are handed by your lecturers. I know also, that you are excited at the prospect of experiencing a friendly learning atmosphere where students debate with lecturers on topics and issues which would deepen understanding across board.
Do you still hold the belief that your lecturers would take you seriously and engage you to explore the various aspects of the topics and courses instead of dumping handouts on you to cram ? Oh, you are still luxuriating in the fantasy that your university education as taught you by your lecturers would be sufficient for you to know the world and become a better citizen. What a pity!
Let me school you real good. You see, much as there are good lecturers in the system who know their onions and want to do things rightly, they too become constrained by the many deficiencies of the system and before long, they cave in. Sometimes, they would go for months without being paid their salaries. When they get tired of listening to excuses from politicians who they see living way beyond their means, they embark on strikes which ultimately disrupts the academic calendar. Without telling you, this is how you would end up spending 6 years for a 4 year course.
Amidst acute shortage of teaching and learning materials, the lecturers have to cope with overcrowded lecture rooms where students, most of who can barely construct an error-free sentence, overflow through the windows as even the stairs and the floors of the lecture theatres are filled up.
Consequently, when they give tests or even exams, the dedicated ones would rush through marking the tones of scripts to meet up with deadlines given by the examination officers.Those not so dedicated would outsource some of the scripts to senior students for marking.
Therefore, with all these on their minds and around them, you should understand why they come into the lecture room looking vexed and poised against any form of “challenge” from the students. It is this same reason that make them assume the roles of demigods towering high above their students dishing down lessons for them to just pick and shut up.
This system of teaching and learning is dysfunctional. More than anything else, it produces certificated graduates who barely understand anything and can’t ask questions. People who pass through this undemocratic learning system come out as zombies who don’t question and hate to be questioned. So, there you have your merry go round; garbage in garbage out.
Finally, don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t close your senses to opportunities. Open up your mind and start seeing yourself building your adult life right from your first day in the university. Build network of friends along the line of your future self. Seek every opportunity to gather both classroom knowledge and street sense. You would need both out here. Strive to start working for yourself as soon as you get out of school. Salary job whether with government or private sector is a dream killer! In fact, they don’t even exist anymore. Above all, study for good grades but learn to gain knowledge and understanding.
U. K. Umar,
10th Aug. 2017.
Speech by Hon Suleiman Umar; Sponsor of Medical Outreach and Skills Acquisition Programme for Women and Youths in Gbako, Katcha, and Bida Local Government Areas, at the flag-off of the programme, at Badeggi.
The consultations by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo with various segments of the Nigerian society will continue, his spokesman, Mr Laolu Akande, said.
He stated this in a release while emphasizing the import of the dialogue the Acting President had with leaders from the North, Southeast and the media over the last two weeks.
“While this set of consultations was concluded last week, the presidency will continue to actively engage with different segments of the Nigerian population at different stages and formats in the near future.
“The meetings were convened to provide a platform for frank and open discussions between the concerned stakeholders and by extension the Nigerian public on issues relating to the unity, peace and security of the country,’’ the release said.
In the course of the interaction from June 13, to June 22, the Acting President gave the assurance that the Muhammadu Buhari administration was not deaf to grievances in parts of the country and would address them.
He, however, urged that such grievances should be expressed with grace.
According to Akande interactions began following the recent spate of agitations pitting some groups in the North against others in the Southeast while Osinbajo used it to douse inter-ethnic tension using political, religious, traditional and media leaders.
He said the meetings established some common ground on a number of issues such as the condemnation of all the hate and divisive rhetoric by the concerned groups of Northern and Southeastern youths.
“They affirmed the need for all leaders and elders, regardless of political or ideological persuasion, to speak out more forcefully to counter divisive and hate speeches and any form of warmongering.
“They also affirmed the primacy of the country’s constitution, the ultimate basis for the unity of Nigeria.”
Also during the meetings it was agreed that the constitution guarantees freedom of residence and of movement for all Nigerians anywhere in the country, without fear of discrimination or prejudice.
They also affirmed the need to draw a line between the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution and the degeneration of such expression into hate rhetoric and prejudice.
The interactions similarly affirmed the necessity of confronting all grievances and frustrations head-on, however uncomfortable they might seem instead of ignoring issues and allowing them to fester.
The Acting President expressed appreciation to all the leaders for their time and commitment to the unity, peace and progress of the nation.
He also assured Nigerians of the determination and resolve of the Buhari administration to ensure their well-being and security at all times.
*Happy Eid Mubark to everyone. May you all have a very happy and blessed Eid. Enjoy these amazing days and remember those who need our help.
*I hope you enjoy each and every moment of it. May God accept our fasts and prayers.
*Eid Mubarak. May Allah blessings be with you today, tomorrow and always.
*May this special day brings peace, happiness and prosperity to everyone. Eid Mubarak!
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