THE TRUE STORY OF ‘A GOVERNOR’ AND HIS ‘BLIND DAUGHTER’
On the 4th of December 2011, the Network For The Advancement of People with Visible Disabilities (NAPVID) organized the first ‘NAPVID RIGHTS ABOVE CHARITY’ LECTURE-an event organized every year since then to mark the United nations Day for Persons with Disabilities. We daringly invited the then Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to attend as Special Guest of Honour.
At this point, it’s necessary to tell the story of how we finally got the governor to commit personally to being at the event.
After sending the required letter of invitation to the governor’s office several weeks before the program, we hadn’t gotten any kind of response. As the days drew closer, we were concerned because we believed that the governor’s presence at the event would have made the purpose of holding that event have any meaning. How could we gather stakeholders to discuss the plight of physically challenged individuals in our society if the Governor who largely held the responsibility for them was not present? We didn’t know what else to do. We couldn’t see him personally, and the only contact we had in government house then, the Late Comrade Olaitan (the Governor’s then Principal Secretary who was later murdered) hadn’t been able to help us secure the governor’s commitment. We kept praying for a miracle.
Our Miracle came a few days into November 2011 when we got news that as part of his 3rd year anniversary in Office, the comrade governor would be holding a town hall meeting with all citizens who could attend. The event was going to be broadcast live on various media outlets. We decided to have a few of our members attend and see the possibility of talking with the governor.
On the day of the town hall meeting, it got to the point of Question and Answers. One of our members, Ehigie Omoregie Wisdom- a visually impaired lawyer- persistently kept putting up his hands to be allowed to ask a question. Persistently, for some reasons best known to them, the governor’s aide with the microphone kept ignoring him. When he heard that the session was going to be closing soon, he took a bold step that led to the story being told today. He told the person with him,
“Brother, please just guide me to the front. Ignore anyone who tries to stop us…”
They both started the difficult task of pushing through the crowd approaching the high table where the governor and other dignitaries sat. As expected, as they got closer, they were resisted by the governor’s aides and Barr. Omo’s insistence on achieving his goal led to some ‘disturbance’ that got people’s attention, including the governor’s. Noticing that at the center of the noise was a visually impaired young man; he instructed that he be allowed to speak.
I can’t remember the details of all Omo said to him, but paraphrasing, it went something like,
“Sir, thank you for all you have said and done so far. There is so much that concerns the physically challenged community that you need to know about. Unfortunately, this forum will not be conducive to share even a fraction with you. Please, in a few days, we would be having an event to mark the United Nations day for persons with disabilities. We have sent a letter to your office weeks ago. I plead with you to make out time to attend…”
The Governor instantly agreed to be there, and instructed his aide to ensure it was included in his itinerary for that day.
On one of the days preceding the event while we were planning the programme, a member of the team suggested that in addition to the President’s address to the governor, we should have one of the students from the School for the Blind read an address to the governor. To give it more effect, she was to read from a Braille-printed manuscript. You might wonder how else she would have read such an address. I was informed that the lady, who had been chosen to do this assignment, could actually memorize the whole address and recite off-heart!
The child chosen for this assignment was then 9 year old Miss. Joyce Imasuen Osaivbie.
A day before the event on December 2nd, we got a call from late Comrade Olaitan who informed us that the governor was going to be presenting the 2012 budget to the State Assembly the next day, but had asked him to assure us that he would come for our event immediately he left the State assembly complex.
Our program was scheduled to start at 10am. At 12 noon we couldn’t delay any further for the governor’s arrival as some of our guests had been seated for quite a while. As MC, I quickly had a short meeting with the President Barr. Melody Omosah (I will talk about Barr. Melody shortly), and he said
“Bugie lets start running the programme, but leave out my address and Osaivbie’s address for when the governor comes”.
Little did we know that God had a plan to alter a child’s destiny, hence his leading us to take that decision.
The Governor came in at about 2pm. it’s important to state that all the while he was in the Assembly Complex, he kept asking his aide to call us and assure us that he would still come, no matter how late it would be when he ended there. We ran the parts of the program we had left out earlier till it got to where Miss. Osaivbie gave her address.
It was the most beautiful and touching sight everyone in that hall that day had experienced. She read the braille address fluently, eloquently, with amazing confidence and perfect pronunciation of words. She didn’t stutter at any point, or make a mistake throughout her reading the 2 paged address. There were several teary eyes in the audience that minute, and the applause that followed was deafening.
When it was time for His remarks, Gov. Oshiomhole was magnanimous, generous and full of empathy towards the physically challenged and their plight. Then he got to the point where he made the following remarks,
“I listened to the young girl who read the speech earlier. I have never heard a child, even the non-physically challenged read like she did. It broke my heart…I don’t know her background, but whatever it is, I want to say publicly today that I want to adopt her as my child…”
Whatever doubts some of us had that it was a ‘political statement’ was erased when we got a call from the governor some days later that he would want to see ‘his daughter’, her family and a few members of the NGO in his official residence a few days to Christmas. His reasons were, to introduce her to her new siblings (his other kids) and to plan what her Christmas would be like that year. The visit held, and it was indescribable. There was deep and genuine love and passion for this child from the governor and his kids (his wife had passed on at this time and he hadn’t re-married). He was at his jovial best and embraced all who came with warm affection. It was obvious, this was for real.
Between then and now, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has been the father he said he would be, even out of office. Medical intervention has been sought by him to see if anything could be done for her sight. He has maintained her upkeep and education all through. Through his efforts, she is presently a student at the prestigious Queens College Lagos where she remains one of their brightest and most brilliant students.
Yesterday was her 15th birthday, and the governor paid a surprise visit to her family’s modest apartment in Benin-City, with everything needed for a special child’s birthday celebration. He didn’t go alone; he went with over 40 aides who included the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, his Deputy, the Edo State House Majority Leader, top politicians and government officials.
The little ‘blind’ daughter of the former governor had shone like a billion stars, and had changed the fortunes of her family.
Today, we celebrate the kind-heart of a man who understands that we have been called to affect the lives of those who haven’t been as fortunate as we are. We celebrate the efforts of all who played a role in changing the story of a ‘blind girl’ and her family. And above all, we celebrate the members of NAPVID led by its President Barrister Melody Omosah, a visually impaired lawyer and one of the most intelligent and brilliant minds I ever had the privilege of listening to, who sacrifices a lot, through challenging situations to improve the lot of other physically challenged individuals in our midst.
Many more children like Miss Joyce Imasuen Osaivbie abound around us. Unfortunately, these ones don’t have a story like hers to share. Their case is one of abandonment, rejection, loneliness and hopelessness for what the future holds for them. Some of the stories we have heard about what some of them go through is heart-rendering.
Can you be heaven’s outstretched arm to any of these ones? Out of the much that you have been blessed with, can you spare a little to give one of such children a future as Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has done? You will be shocked at how far a little can go for these children. They need assistance to get an education which is the only hope they have of a meaningful future. they need specialized learning materials. Their schools need basic attention that they presently lack. So much…
The Network for the Advancement of Persons with Disabilities (NAPVID) is an NGO that advocates for the rights of physically challenged persons in society. What makes them different from others is that its membership is largely made up of physically challenged persons. They require a lot of help in areas of capacity building, equipment and funding.
To find out more about how you can be of help, contact the Network for the Advancement of Persons with Disabilities on any of these platforms;
www.napvid.org *as at this moment, the website is down (part of the capacity challenges the organisation faces), but will be up in 24hrs*
44, Edebiri Street, off Joromi Rd, off Ekenwa Road Benin-City, Edo State Nigeria.
+2348036009634, +2348170562114, +2348028386873
Facebook/ Napvid Nigeria
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Bugie ‘Mazi’ Okhuemoi
writes from Benin-City, Edo State, Nigeria.