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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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.
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
“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
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
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
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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