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Meet Amputee Who Voluntarily Sweeps Anambra Pedestrian Bridge Daily {Photos}

By Izunna Okafor
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Yusuf Suleiman Peter, is the name of the 29 year old amputee who sweeps the pedestrian bridge of the popular UNIZIK Junction, Awka, Anambra State every day. He is so good at the chore he does as a volunteer that the terrain is always well taken care of. He was recently cornered by our contributor Izunna Okafor who not only deemed it necessary to announce the hero, but also found out that the one-legged man is passionate about keeping the bridge clean to encourage people to use the foot bridge to avoid the tragedy of road accidents, the type that led to his loss of leg. The reporter finds that Yusuf is also keen on fending for himself if he gets help, to go back to school, farm or start a business.

Izunna Okafor writes:
NOT less than 2000 legs pass through the gigantic pedestrian bridge of the popular UNIZIK Junction, otherwise known as the UNIZIK Temp. Site, Awka, the Anambra State capital each day, being the only pedestrian bridge through which Enugu-Onitsha Expressway can be successfully crossed in the entire Awka environ, and in fact, the only pedestrian bridge in the metropolitan city as a whole.

These legs, both fat and tiny, belonging to both humans and spirits, notwithstanding, have always been assured of one particular thing every blessed day for the past one year – they will never be stained by dirt or mud while crossing the pedestrian bridge – irrespective of when and how.

This promise and assurance was not made by a government or government personnel; it was not made by a philanthropist, a community leader, market leader or even a stakeholder. It was not bargained for or being paid for by anyone (not even the pedestrians); neither is it a punishment to somebody for committing a particular offence or crime.

A one-legged man decisively took this upon himself, determining that though he has no leg to walk like others, those who are privileged to have legs should not be left to tread them on littered paths, or have them stained for any reason, while walking on the bridge, as long as he remains alive.

Who could this be?
His name is Yusuf Suleiman Peter, a 29-year old amputee.

Yusuf hails from Jalingo in Jalingo Local Government of Taraba State, but has been residing in Anambra for the past one year when he started this selfless service. He wakes up every morning to limp to the ever busy Temp. Site pedestrian bridge to sweep and keep it neat for the privileged passersby, without which it would be an eyesore, as it used be before his arrival, when no one was doing it.

Historically speaking, prior to the time when the Temp. Site part of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway was renovated, virtually every able and courageous person who wanted to cross the road from either side would literary sprint across from the center and jump the deep dividing gutter, in which most of them usually disposed their dirt or whatsoever they planned to discard when crossing, while some would litter the road and its environs with nylons and other such things, especially those who buy and sell around there.

Following closely was the time when it was renovated and men of Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (Ocha Brigade) were fully mounted there to prevent people from crossing through the road and make use of the pedestrian bridge, due to the great dangers associated with the former.

The regular presence of these men on both sides of the road did not only compel a great number people, and in fact everybody to start making use of the pedestrian bridge; but also dreaded those who were fond of discarding dirt inside the gutter or littering the area with wastes, especially those who buy or sell in the vicinity.

Hence majority of them then resorted to discarding these things on different corners of the pedestrian bridge, while the pedestrians themselves resorted to discarding theirs on the bridge while crossing, for the fear of being nabbed by the Ocha Brigade men.

Of course, it would not be forgotten that every wing of the bridge has become a trade fair venue where people buy and sell different kinds of things, except with the recent intervention of the same men of Ocha Brigade which now prevents them from doing so on certain days, especially those who sell on top of the bridge.

All the lump of wastes and sand coming from both buyers, sellers and beggars who also eat on the bridge, sands from legs, mouths and hands of pedestrians making use of the bridge daily, individuals who use it as the closest waste site are what Yusuf kneels down to sweep, clean and pack everyday for the past one year out of his passion a personal volition. After sweeping, he packs them inside any available nylons and crawl to the closest designated waste point to discard them, and doesn’t mind going 20 times until the entire wastes are buried in the waste bin.

What does Yusuf gain from doing this?
From an interview with National Light reporter, who spotted him doing so one early morning, it was clear that apart from Divine source, Yusuf gains nothing special from mortals for doing this, except for some touched pedestrians who sometimes give him some naira notes when they see him doing so. This, according to him, comes on rare occasions as some people who spot him doing so with the passion with which he does it, may either not know he is one-legged or assume he is being paid for doing that.

This notwithstanding, he regularly does his work with joy, and in some occasions, singing and whistling. According to him, it is from this token that he buys himself one or two square meals on daily basis, as he has no one fending or caring for him.

Narrating his life story with breath of tears, Yusuf, who disclosed that he was not an amputee from his mother’s womb said the ugly incident caught him in 2003 , when he was in secondary school.

Training him and his only sister Annah in school started becoming a big challenge to their family as his father, Mr. Peter Suleiman, an aged retired worker and his mother , Mrs. Suleiman started facing some financial difficulties to the extent that quitting school was becoming considered as the one head way.

This made Yusuf who wouldn’t give up to the quit option to start hustling as a man in order to help the family and ensure they forged on with their studies. And consequently, he started hawking after school each day and during holidays until that fateful day.

That fateful day, as he disclosed, with some uncontrollable drops rolling down his cheeks, he was on a run to cross over and attend to a customer at the opposite side of an expressway, when a one-way speeding 18-seater bus uncontrollably hit him down on the spot at the middle of the road, crushing one of his legs and leaving him with a plethora of injuries and aches.

On rushing to the hospital, the health officials could not let go of the lazy way of attending to patients, even the dying ones, as seeing or securing access to the doctor and obtaining his swift medical attention became tantamount to applying for heaven’s visa to see God. Hence before the doctor finally came out from his office, Yusuf’s left leg had already turned blue, such that lynching was recommended as the only option.

“That was how I became a one-legged man till today,” he narrated, making for his handkerchief. By this perhaps, it could be said that Yusuf would not want what happened to him to happen to anyone else, and that assumedly could be one of the reasons he does what he is doing, within the reach and ability of his one remaining leg, in order to encourage people to start or continue making use of the pedestrian bridge.

This accident which befell Yusuf in his Junior WAEC days, coupled with his mother’s death, which occurred one year after ruefully truncated his dreams of furthering his studies to higher institution where he said he intended to study Agriculture. He no longer had anyone to sponsor or take care for him; neither could he tread that path alone on his own due to his condition as an amputee.

Life started frowning more at him when his sister and only sibling got married, leaving only him and his aged father behind. As time went on, Yusuf, seeing that he was becoming somewhat a burden to his father due to his condition, personally decided to leave Taraba and advance southwards to seek his fortune elsewhere. And that was how he found himself Anambra.

When asked what he wanted to be and the kind of help he would need, Yusuf, who submitted he was not actually born to be a beggar, said he had always wished to be an agriculturalist, and pleaded with anyone who would wish to help him to send him back to school or empower him to realise that long dream of being a farmer.

“That is where my interest is, but I am also open to any other kind of help, and will appreciate that a lot, no matter how small,” he added, maintaining that he would also welcome and forever remain grateful to anyone who would be touched to provide him with artificial limb or even start a business for him, from where he can be fending for himself and his aged father who still stays in Taraba.

Responding to question pertaining to marriage and his need of a life partner, Yusuf breezed out a quiet chuckle with a shy smile registered all over his face, and finally opened up that being the only surviving son in his family, he ought to have settled down, but his condition has not allowed him to do so, even as he confessed his dire need of a life partner, as a ripe necessity.

Yusuf squats with some of his Northern brothers who willingly volunteered to be assisting him with shelter for night rest since he met them in Anambra. And that is where he limps out from every morning to go and clean pedestrian bridge for those who are privileged to have legs to walk, believing that he still has to give back to the society and offer selfless service to humanity, no matter how small and irrespective of his condition as a one-legged man.

He used his one limb to give back to the society, believing that society will also one day give back to him, if not divinely, through mortal or both. Society is human beings, and human beings are the society.

The volunteer’s yoaman’s chore was so remarkable, and anyone or group who wants to give back to him can reach him at the said pedestrian bridge or via 0815 413 8668 or 08163938812

Izunna Okafor is a creative writer, journalist and freelancer who writes from Awka, Anambra State. He writes both in Igbo and English languages.