When Ifeanyi Samuel Okenwa’s parents got married, they patiently awaited the arrival of their long-anticipated child. After three years, their hopes materialised, and they joyously named their son Ifeanyi.
However, their excitement was cut short when Ifeanyi, at the age of five, unexpectedly became disabled. The couple initially filled with gratitude for the blessing bestowed upon them, found themselves grappling with the harsh reality of their son’s sudden affliction.
The incident unfolded one evening in Nigeria’s Enugu State, as Ifeanyi’s mother took him outside to urinate, preferring to avoid the inconvenience of bedwetting. To their dismay, as he was urinating, Ifeanyi collapsed to the ground. In attempting to lift him, his mother discovered the heartbreaking truth – he could no longer stand on his own. From that moment onward, Ifeanyi lost the ability to walk on his two legs.
“I didn’t enjoy my childhood like other children who were my peers while growing up. My parents carried me from one hospital to another and one religious house to another to see whether I could walk again, but no positive results. A surgery was carried out on my leg to see whether I could use crutches to walk, but that didn’t work out either. My parents later told me that I was affected by polio,” Ifeanyi recounted.
Living with disability
According to the World Health Organisation, polio is a dangerous disease, usually affecting children under five. It’s highly infectious; one in every 200 infections leads to incurable paralysis.
In Nigeria, individuals with disabilities contend with numerous challenges and Ifeanyi, has navigated many of them.
“In 2015, I remember going to open an account in one commercial bank, and a staff of the bank who attended to me brought out a form, asking whether I could fill the form because he felt people like me aren’t literate enough to do so. It was disappointing but I made him feel amazed in the end,” Ifeanyi said.
On many occasions, Ifeanyi will require someone to help by bringing a commercial tricycle or taxi closer to him whenever he is about to go to a certain destination, but some people would still end up not doing that, and it usually makes him feel bad.
One of the challenges that severely affected Ifeanyi was mobility. “You see, the wheelchair I’m using cannot access the interiors of many places like banks and government offices. I remember in 2015, when I wanted to enrol in computer training, finding a place to learn it was difficult. Most places where the computer training is offered are storey buildings, which my wheelchair cannot easily access,” Ifeanyi explained to Prime Progress.
In 2019, Ifeanyi graduated with a Diploma in Mass Communication from Osisatech Polytechnic Enugu and struggled to find a job. He felt persons with disabilities aren’t equally included in empowerment initiatives. But he didn’t give up or turn to begging for alms in the streets.
Ifeanyi pushed harder, and he found himself in creative writing and then commercialised it into writing sales copies to promote people’s brands and businesses.
“My writing journey began as something of introspection. One day, I was reflecting on my habits of reflection, and I told myself I wanted to be a writer. Looking inside me, I said I have what it takes to write a book and become a published author. After that thought, I swung into action and started writing,” Ifeanyi narrated.
Despite making modest profits from his writing gigs, Ifeanyi recognises the pressing need to secure a job that can cover all his expenses. The recent surge in prices of food and goods has heightened his financial concerns, prompting him to seek additional sources of income to ensure his financial stability.
Now, Ifeanyi said he intends to “establish my own media company and equally found my copywriting academy. And also do more advocacy for people living with disabilities, so their lives could be better,” Ifeanyi concluded.