Abubakar Musa, a 21-year-old victim of polio in Jos, the Plateau State capital, is seeking support from Nigerians to enable him to obtain a wheelchair to aid his movements, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Our correspondent recently ran into Musa who was seen crawling for over 500 meters from Anglo Jos to Miango Junction where he usually begs for arms.
When asked why he was crawling for such a long distance instead of riding in a wheelchair, he simply asked, “Who will give me a wheelchair?”
Musa said he was physically challenged by circumstances beyond his control. Polio is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus has ravaged the lives of children in parts of Nigeria, especially in the North.
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In a way, Abubakar is lucky to have escaped death, but has to live with post-polio syndrome for the rest of his life, even if he lives for the next one hundred years.
With paralysed limbs and weak joints, Abubakar has to fend for himself. Born into a very poor family in Bauchi, Abubakar had to find his ways to Jos where he could stay and beg to take care of himself.
Speaking to Daily Trust Saturday, he said, “I came from Bauchi; my parents are still alive in Bauchi but they cannot take care of me. I came to Jos to start my own life, and I’m hoping that God in His infinite mercy will send a helper my way.”
When asked if he had ever used a wheelchair, he said, “Yes, I had a wheelchair, but a few months ago, one vehicle was reversing, and nearly killed me. I struggled to dodge the vehicle, so it brushed me and damaged one leg of my wheelchair. The driver gave me money to repair my wheelchair and to buy drugs because I sustained an injury on my shoulder. Though, I have repaired my wheelchair, but I still feel pains in my arm and I cannot use it to operate the wheelchair.”
This is a case of double tragedies; disabled by polio, escaped being crushed by a vehicle and becoming even more disabled not being able to use his hand-driven wheelchair due to the recent accident.
Abubakar said his dream was to acquire western education and be useful in the society. But coming from a poor home, his dream for western education is becoming a dead one.
He however struggled to acquire Qu’ranic education in spite of his physical condition.
“The truth is, I don’t want to be a beggar all my life; I intend to beg for a while and raise money to open a provision shop and settle in one place. I don’t want to be going about begging, even now, if I can get someone to help me with money to open my provision shop, I will stop begging and face my business,” he said.
In a world where the strong cares for the weak, the case of Abubakar would have been different. He would not be counted as a beggar. He would not have been left to fend for himself.
“I never desired to be a beggar in my life, even in this condition, I don’t want to beg. But as it is, I have no option,” he said.
Abubakar said what he needs to live a normal life includes an electric-driven wheelchair or a mechanised wheelchair and a little fund to start a provision shop. He said if these two needs are in place, he can realise his dream of economic self-reliance and eventually get married and raise children of his own.
Speaking on Abubakar’s plight, Barrister Nankin Bagudu of the League for Human Right – a Jos-based human rights organisation, said, “In a society that cares, somebody like Abubakar would not be on the street begging; the federal, state and local government should, as a matter of law, make provisions for its vulnerable citizens. But in our society where there is no social security, even normal citizens who have no physical deformities are not finding life easy.”
On his part, Mr Steve Aloko, Director, Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), said “Those Nigerians that are physically disabled like Abubakar should not be abandoned on the streets and be left vulnerable to dangers. The fact that they have physical challenges does not make them less human.
“As a matter of fact, they are more mentally and emotionally balanced than the rest of us, so people like Abubakar deserve special treatment from governments, but because of mismanagement of resources by past and present Nigerian leaders, such people are left on their own. So, if you ask me, Abubakar is not just a victim of polio, he is also a victim of bad governance and corruption.
“For instance, our politicians take an oath to provide welfare and security for their citizens, but as soon as they resume office, they change their priority and become careless of the same people they swore to protect.
“Notwithstanding, Abubakar needs a helper. He just needs help, and now. Let him not live and grow with the wrong mentality that the society is hostile to him, or helpers no more exist in Nigeria,” he said.