“He is strong, sir. He can do the work,” said Gideon David when he was introducing his physically-challenged cousin, Isaac Emmanuel, to an engineer on a site somewhere in Lugbe, a suburb of Abuja.
He has used this line on numerous occasions to convince people to give his cousin the benefit of the doubt. “The good thing is that he has never disappointed,” said Gideon while speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday.
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“There is nowhere we have been that job owners have not given Isaac money after his work because he does the job perfectly,” Gideon added.
Isaac, a Kagoma by tribe, from Kafanchan in the southern part of Kaduna, lives in the Nasarawa Kudadan Industrial Area, Kaduna State. But he is a phone call away as he frequents Abuja to work. His friends are always happy to put a call across to him whenever they get a job for him.
He attracted attention on the site with the way he does his job. He is working on a building at present where he is plastering the walls alongside his cousin, Gideon.
“He does a job of three people in a day. Whenever I bring him to the site, it’s like I have brought additional two or three masons with me,” Gideon said of his cousin.
Isaac said: “Wherever I go, people would ask the person who brought me ‘why did you bring this person to spoil my job?’. They once called me for a job at the Legislative Quarters, Abuja, but I didn’t know that the owner of the job was cross with my friend, abusing him for bringing someone that would spoil his job. However, my friend knows me well and what I can do. So, he kept quiet. He didn’t tell him anything.
“When we went there and started the job, he saw that I was doing even better than the guy he gave the job to, so he abandoned the guy and started speaking with me concerning the job because he liked the way I was doing the job with speed and neatly. When I go for a jobs, people initially look down on me but God has always been helping me to clear their doubts.”
Isaac starts work as early as 6am and would be the last to close. Sometimes, he works until 8pm and would sometimes need a torchlight to illuminate the building to complete his work.
He had no reason to beg for alms as he has been working for his money. “Truly, if I say I am not grateful to God for this job, I would be lying. I came to Abuja in 2001. I didn’t know I could build a house within a year. That one alone makes me know that God would bless me in this job.
“I am trying to establish myself through this job. My house was demolished in Soka behind the Air Force Base in Abuja. My house was demolished twice. But my target is to get a big contract, get big money and leave this job. God has been helping me.”
How it started
Isaac, 48, was not born with one limb. He lost a hand when he was 11 years old. But he has taken his predicament in good faith.
“I was not born like this. I was 11 when it happened. My father had a grinding machine. So, whenever we come back from school, we normally assist our mother or whoever is grinding with the engine.
“So, on that fateful day, I came back from school and I was watching animal kingdom in our sitting room. My stepmother was the one grinding with the machine. So, she kept calling me to come and help her but because of the interesting thing I was watching, I kept dodging.
“Unfortunately, she came and called me out and I went to the grinding engine to help her. I was wearing Agbada.
“After grinding, I wanted to put off the engine, and then the agbada got hooked on the wheel of the engine. While struggling to remove the agbada, my left hand slipped into the wheel and was instantly cut off,” Isaac narrated.
Life has not been the same for Isaac since that day but he is not sulking over his predicament. He was only a kid then but he was determined to forge on with life without depending on people for a living.
“It has not been easy but God knows why it is like that. I was a kid then so I grew up with it. I had to manage to cope with things; learn how to do things with one hand and God has been helping me,” he said.
Isaac does almost everything for himself from washing and ironing his clothing to farming and site works.
Becoming a mason
Isaac became a mason out of providence. He grew up in Kaduna working with his father and brothers on the farm. He could not continue with his education after dropping out of the higher institution. Funding was not forthcoming.
He decided to join his elder brother in Abuja in search of a teaching job but he ended up on the site.
“Well, in 2001, my elder brother came to Abuja and got a teaching job. He called me from Kaduna down to Abuja. While waiting for a teaching job also, I was idle. So, I had to look for something to do to cope with life. I had friends who were already perfect in the plastering job, so I followed them to the site. That is how we started and kept on learning.”
Many people would wonder how a one-handed man would cope with such a tedious job but Isaac said he could not explain it himself.
“The truth is that there is something I learned about God. If God takes away something from you, he replaces it with a bigger thing. When this hand was taken away, whenever I work in the farm with my father and brothers, I guess it was only my father that could beat me in farm work despite how small I was then.
“I do everything by myself, and if someone asks me where I get the strength or I’m able to do them without stress, I will say I don’t know because this hand can do anything easily.”
Isaac is however not having it easy in the area of relationship. He got married once but it didn’t end up well. “I had a very short time with a lady and we have a daughter who’s six now, but we are not together anymore. I am just single.”
He is not abandoning plans to have a try at love once more but that is not his immediate target. Isaac wants to change his job. The 48-year-old said he feels serious pains on his hand over the night after working in the day.
“It’s been 21 years since I started doing this job. All the things I wanted to put together with this job did not work. So, I wish God would open a door for me to get out of this job. This is because if I work for too long, I would have pains in my hand at night. I would then struggle to wake up and go to the site again.
“I want to ask for help from anybody. Through them, God would help me because I am not finding it easy working with one hand.”
His plan is to first get a big project from where he can make reasonable amount of money before going into business. “My place in Kaduna is on the major road, so I don’t need to rent a shop, I can just build it in front of our house. So, first of all, I can do POS.”
He is also looking at going into the clothing business with the help of a brother in Kano and a sister in Lagos who he felt could help him buy the products and send them down to him in Kaduna. According to him, youth in his area love jerseys and he is planning to meet that need but the capital is not available for now.
He also has a few words for Nigerian youths who are seeking easier ways to wealth. “I am advising the youth; don’t think if you are physically challenged, there is something you can’t do. Just set your goals and keep struggling in life. Work harder and pray to God.”