[TR News] Blind PhD holder wants to be Nigerian President

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For Dr. Christopher Nwanoro, April 5, 1995

was the day his life underwent a metamorphosis. The day was like any other until about 1.00pm when he suddenly became blind inside the lecture hall. He was in his third year, as an undergraduate of History/

International Studies at the University of

Uyo. Nwanoro, now a PhD. holder in

International Relations from Isiukwuato in

Abia State, said his world suddenly crumbled on his head that fateful day. He acknowledged that the incident was an

admixture of frustration and inspiration,

arguing that it was, however, the turning

point of his life. Putting the impediment behind him and soldiering on, he has since broken several barriers to carve an enviable niche for himself both in Nigeria – as an awardee of the Presidential National Honours – and in the United States where he currently heads the Trade and Investment Department in the Nigerian Consulate. Dr. Nwanoro is indeed a proud Nigerian blind ambassador.

 

How he became blind

He told the reporter the events that led to his blindness. “I was born normal with my

two eyes, but I suddenly lost my sight in my

third year on April 5, 1995. It was a sudden

drop in vision that I could not see again

while in a lecture hall at the University of

Uyo. “I didn’t have any eye problem before the incidence. I did everything like every other person until that fateful day during a lecture on Research Methodology. I had some sensation in my eye and by the time I

realised it, something like a dark cloud

covered my vision and I couldn’t see again.

“I thought it was a joke and didn’t know

whether to shout or cry. I tapped my friend

and told him that I could not see again; he

became worried and hinged it on the sun.

There was no premonition, there was no

fiction or accident, there was just nothing.”

 

Coping with life as a blind man

He revealed that he contemplated suicide initially when confronted with frustration arising from his blindness. According to him, blindness is synonymous with poverty and hopelessness. “I wasn’t enlightened or aware that blind people can go to school then. The blind people I used to meet on the streets were usually beggars and hopeless people. What would have killed me was how I could cope as a blind man,” he stated.

However, left with no option, he braced up

for the realities and challenges of

redirecting the ship of his life by returning

to kindergarten school with other visually

impaired people to learn alphabets with the

kids. He said: “After several failed efforts to restore the sight, I finally left the university. People, friends and well-wishers came to sympathise with me and after few months, somebody informed me of the blind school in Umuahia, Abia State. “At first, I didn’t know how to start all over with the children to learn alphabets and numbers. The people there were shocked to see an undergraduate joining them. They would size me up and ask me questions. I had no option. But the blind people were very happy people. They would dance jubilantly.

“I resolved that if these people could survive

it, I would survive. I started adapting, though

it wasn’t easy. Everybody wanted to be my

friend – the teachers, the people and

visitors; I became the rallying point and

everybody showed me love.

“They were all interested in teaching me that

I didn’t even have time to sleep. One would

teach how to type and another would teach

me mobility because I couldn’t move from

one spot to another then. It takes about

three years to learn Braille but because I

was determined, I learnt Braille and typing

within six months. In fact, I even type faster

than my teachers. I perfectly mastered the

keyboard of the manual typewriter within a

short period,” he informed.

But unknown to him, a bigger challenge

awaited him over his reabsorption into the

university. Casting his mind back, he

explained: “I passed the exam and returned

to the university during the Sani Abacha

strike that lasted for close to one year. By

then my classmates had graduated. It

became a serious tussle because I was the

first blind person to be admitted in that

school.

“The school authorities didn’t know what to

do when I refused the option of sending me

to University of Jos with the biggest

department for the school of the blind and

special education because I didn’t want to go

there and start life afresh.

“Having mastered some areas at the

University of Uyo, I could still move freely

and probably meet one or two persons, who

knew me before now. The university

authorities sat many times to deliberate.

They examined me and were left with no

option than to readmit me.

“However, something extraordinary

happened. I improved in my academics

more than the time I was sighted. It was

impressive that some students completed

their lecture notes through my recordings.

One thing that excited and kept me going

was the love that people showed me.

Everybody wanted to help me in the

university.

“People would ask what they could do for

me. Some would wait to assist me to the

lecture hall and take me home. I was the

only blind person in the school but I didn’t

see it as a challenge again. I was able to fit

in within a short time.”

 

The trauma of seeking medical treatment

The battle to regain his sight was a torturous

and traumatising one, but the most

memorable, according to him, was when a

friend suggested he visit a spiritualist, who

could transfer somebody’s eyes to his

through some metaphysical force.

He recalled: “Seeking medical treatment was

a terrible experience. I didn’t believe in

traditional medications. A friend had

suggested I see a man in Port Harcourt, who

could restore my sight by invoking someone

else’s eyes into my own and transferring my

own into the person. But I asked him why

such person should merit such treatment.

Yes, I want to see, but it should not be at

someone else’s detriment.

“My saddest moment was when my friend

told me he would die if he was in my shoes,

but I rebuked him. Today he reads about me

everywhere. He still has a first degree while

I have more than that,” he quipped.

Coping with stigmatisation

Dr. Nwanoro confessed that he had got a

fair share of stigmatisation. “In Third World

countries, there are people willing to show

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you love, but most Nigerians, out of

ignorance and illiteracy, think sight is their

making. They refused to understand that it

could be anybody.

“On the flip side, there are people so

compassionate, especially the women. They

are ready to assist and sacrifice for

physically challenged people, even to their

own detriment. Sometimes, people want to

pay my fare and would feel bad when I

reject such assistance,” he noted.

Speaking on the fate of disabled persons in

the developed world and in the Third World,

he thundered: “The gap is wide apart. The

disabled are treated like kings with special

provisions inside the buses, trains, banks

and other places. The state and country

provide for them and will never trample

upon their rights.

“Most of my colleagues working in Nigeria

face many difficult challenges that we don’t

experience in the US. They marginalise the

disabled in the offices in Nigeria. The

machine I use in the US is not even in

Nigeria. We have so many benefits overseas.

“The cell phone I use now is a special

customised iphone. It is more than a phone

to me because everything is encompassed

in it. But how many blind persons in Nigeria

can afford $1225, well over N300,000 to buy

a phone?”

Turning point

He also spoke on how his transformation

came about. “From day one, I was always

determined and dogged in all things I do. I

don’t want sympathy; I don’t want people to

attribute my mistake to my blindness. After

graduation, I did my NYSC in Rivers State

with the resolution to turn things around.

“I was serious, focused and never gave out

any opportunity to come out the best corps

member. Luckily, I was posted to serve with

the Shell Oil Company and I resolved to be

generous to those with similar problem. I

spent almost my earnings on challenged

persons.

“I visited less-privileged homes in Port

Harcourt, got involved in enlightenment

campaigns to educate people on

stigmatisation and marginalisation of the

disabled. I emerged the best corps member

in the state, received national award with an

employment opportunity and that was how I

came to Abuja to join the Ministry of

Foreign Affairs.

“God supported me to climb from one level

to another. I was posted to work in the

United States in the Nigerian Permanent

Mission in the United Nations and after one

year I was moved to head the Trade and

Investment Department in the Nigerian

Consulate. I always do things extraordinarily

to ensure nobody blames any mistake on

my deformity. I have been from one glory

and one level to another,” he said.

Unfulfilled ambition

In spite of his achievements, he regrets that

he can no longer fulfil his childhood

ambition of becoming a trader.

“As an Aba boy, I like trading. I had made up

my mind that schooling was just to obtain a

degree and that I would start a business at

Ariaria market.

“That was my dream as an Aba boy, but the

blindness became a turning point in my life

because I had no option than to continue

studying. I got my PhD. in less than 10 years,

doing all my programmes full time.

“It has not been easy, especially in Nigeria

where people see disability as a stigma,

curse and failure. But my happiness is that

many of us have been able to turn around

the impression and let them know that it is

no longer so, though it is difficult to wipe it

out in their hearts.

“I emerged the best out of 193 countries in

the Society of Foreign Consuls in the United

States. The first runner-up was sighted; he’s

from Paris. It was an open forum but I know

that if it is in Nigeria, people will doubt my

capabilities to be given the appointment,” he

noted.

Having scaled many hurdles to climb to the

top, Dr Chris has one ambition: to become

the president of Nigeria.

“I know, God willing, I will be able to find

myself in a bigger elective position one day.

If I find myself as the President of Nigeria, it

will not be a big deal to occupy the position.

I know one day, I will be privileged to be the

first blind President of Nigeria. I have no

iota of doubt that it will happen,” he said

joyfully.

 

Difficulty finding a wife

Usually, a blind man might have some

difficulty finding a wife. But such was not the

case with Dr. Nwanoro. He informed the

reporter that eight ladies fought the battle of

their lives all in a bid to walk down the aisle

with him.

He said: “Some people have challenges

about relationship, but I didn’t. When I was

about to marry, I had about eight ladies

waiting for me. They were all too close to

me; perhaps, they saw something in me. The

only problem I encountered was who to

marry among the eight ladies. It was so

serious that I had to even seek the face of

God through prayer and fasting.” “When I met my wife, she was so much comfortable for marriage with me. But at apoint, her parent, brothers, sisters refused her marrying a blind man. They wondered

why a beautiful lady should settle for me.

They accused me of hypnotising her with

juju and even attempted delivering her from

the devilish juju. “The pressure, sincerely, was so much on her but she stood her ground. I was not bothered while the drama lasted since I had many other options. The highpoint of it was when her uncle left Abuja to convince her against the marriage, warning her that she would die poor, marrying a blind man. “She became so confused, especially when they told her to drag me to one church or spiritual home to restore my sight. Informing me of such decision almost cost her our marriage but for the intervention of my friends. Frankly, she is a very wonderful woman and we are now blessed with wonderful and beautiful children, all living with me in the US,” he said.

 

Advice to persons living with disability

As a man, who passed through hell and burning furnace to build himself into an international brand, his wealth of experience would certainly serve as a motivation to others in what many of them would regard as a hopeless situation. “I want to encourage the physically challenged, especially the blind and those who will still join us in future, that blindness or disability is not the end of the world. They should be happy in every situation and not look at the problem but upon God who can turn around one’s life.

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Rancy Jay

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