OGOJA, CROSS RIVER: Joseph Ofem is a trumpet player in Southern Nigeria's Cross River State. On December 27, 2022, he was invited to play at a church musical concert in Ogoja, a town located north of the state.
During the event, he saw a 15-year-old crippled boy who had no wheelchair dancing excitedly with his hands and feet on the ground.
When the program ended, Ofem inquired about Ayenku Ferdie, popularly called Wobi in the community. He soon learned that Wobi also had a speech disorder and did not have a wheelchair because the old, locally made one he was using had become faulty.
But what intrigued Ofem more was his discovery that despite his disability, Wobi is a good shoemaker who has refused to use his condition as an excuse to beg or stay idle.
Ofem visited Wobi and his mother that day and pledged to help get him a new wheelchair. Not that Ofem had the money; he was considering starting a fundraiser.
"I did not believe it when he told us he would get a wheelchair for him," Victoria Agba, Wobi's mother, said.
Before he left, Ofem gave Wobi some money to fix his old wheelchair and manage it, pending when he would raise enough money to get him a new one.
Ofem then took to Facebook and published a post on December 28, 2022, requesting financial contributions to raise N70,000 (nearly $160) for Wobi's wheelchair. The post included photos and videos of Wobi dancing at the concert.
"My plan was to get my social media friends to donate N1000 each," he said.
But the initial response was slow, and "I felt discouraged" because, by January 19 2023, he had raised only N39,000.
Thankfully, the post was later discovered on January 21, 2023, by Ofem's Facebook friend, Adie Ikor, who shared it on his own Facebook timeline.
"I saw the post, and the expression on Wobi's face moved me. I saw that he was happy and unbothered in all the pictures, not minding his condition. That made me tell myself I also needed to lend my voice to get him a wheelchair," Ikor told Prime Progress.
From there, Ikor's sister, Fatima James, who lives abroad, saw the post and contacted his brother to let him know she intended to cover the cost of Wobi's wheelchair. She sent N120,000, N50,000 more than the amount sought, to enable Ofem to get Wobi a better wheelchair.
On January 24, 2023, Wobi was presented with a new wheelchair in the presence of his clan head, family members, and relatives, who all rejoiced with him.
As Wobi continues to produce and sell shoes to support his livelihood in Ogoja, he can now move easily to his workplace daily, go to church and visit friends.
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