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I Do It For Humanity Sake — Paralytic Who Voluntarily Sweeps Awka Pedestrian Bridge

Exposes Ebonyi man who used him to beg money in cities Says he needs Keke Napep
By Izunna Okafor
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Awka, the capital city of Anambra State has only one pedestrian bridge, through which pedestrians cross either side the popular Unizik Junction axis of the Enugu — Onitsha Expressway, without fear or risk of road crash.

The bridge which hosts more than four thousand legs daily, also serves as open shops for hawkers and itinerant or shopless hustlers who freely sell and and carry out their activities thereon any day the men and officers of Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA Brigade) do not appear. It equally hosts a plethora of dawn-to-dusk beggars most of whom make their daily living there, and also wine, dine and sometimes spend nights thereon.

Notwithstanding all these activities taking place on this bridge, and irrespective of how busy it is, and how many people it saves daily; it lacks one paramount thing —care. None of these thousands of users cares about its neatness and well-being.

After this unbearably tarried to the extent of becoming an eyesore, a young man surfaced from nowhere, and voluntarily took it upon himself to regularly keep the bridge neat.

This humble volunteer does not dun or request payment from anyone for this humane cum onerous service. He equally does not hassle, vilify, blame, disrespect or berate anyone in the course of carrying out this voluntary service; not even the users and litterbugs of the bridge, agency concerned with this, or the government of the day.

Among all, the most surprising part is that this benevolent young man is a paralytic. His two legs are paralysed from laps to feet, yet he regularly struggles to make the bridge feet-friendly for those whose feet are okay. He does not walk, but crawls. He has never stood his feet on the bridge he sweeps, but neatens it whenever it is dirtied by those whose legs are normal and erect.

'Who could this good Samaritan with a difference be?' one may wonder.

His name is Uhiom Abani, a native of Afikpo in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

Born 27 years ago to the polygamous family of Mr. Uhiom Abani and Mrs. Theresa Chukwu, he is the first issue.

He is an ardent hardworking young man who hates to be regarded as parasitic or be seen as burden to others. Hence, having that as his shibboleth, and being also fully aware of the responsibilities that await first son in any average Nigerian family; Abani left his parents and siblings, and moved down to Anambra State in January 2019, in search of greener pastures.

When asked what he had in mind when coming down to Anambra, he revealed that he came to the state with a man who told him he had a job for him in Onitsha. He further said that all his intention was to utilize every strength in him to hustle as a man so as make his people proud of him, and to change the narrative usually associated with the disabled, most of whom are unjustifiably lazy and avoidably dependent.

He said (in Igbo language), "I'm already paralytic, and so, I wouldn't want to be seen as parasitic as well."

He unequivocally identifies with the age-long apothegm that there's ability in disability, and strongly believes that the downfall of a man is not the end of his life.

Abani however expressed disappointment with what he saw and experienced when he came down to Anambra.

Asked what happened, he (after reaching out for his handkerchief to dab off some tears while recounting his experience), said the man who brought him to Anambra never had any job for him as he claimed before his parents, and thus offered him no job as pledged. Instead, he turned him to a beggar for his own (the man's) personal enrichment, using him to beg money for himself.

He said the man (named Sunday, who is also from his hometown in Ebonyi State) exploitatively turned him to a daily mendicant, with a promise to be paying him some naira notes in return every six month (for his upkeep) from whatever his begging yielded.

This, Abani said, infuriated and made him feel disappointed and hoaxed at the same time, because he hates begging and being referred to as a beggar. He was thrown into a dilemma.

However, being presented with no alternative, and having no means or moola to go back to his people in Ebonyi State (an idea which his master vehemently opposed to); he was compelled to (reluctantly) surrender to his master's ill wish and start the begging job. He said it was a very hard decision for him to take.

Everyday, against his wish, he would be hauled around the various cities and markets in the state, to beg money for his boss, both under the sun and in the rain. Abani said he was never satisfied doing the job.

Thus, after doing that for three months, he was visibly uncomfortable with it, and consequently resigned therefrom. His master, angered by that decision (which would obviously truncate and choke his daily income's pipe) swore never to give him a dime in return for the three months he worked.

All these jointly aggravated Abani's ordeal and his long bottled anger. He then ambivalently separated with the apparently idiocentric man, left his house, and crawled away to somewhere else (still within Onitsha) to stay on his own. He said that was better for him, rather than allow himself be unjustly punished, exploited and enslaved simply because of he has paralysis, which he never wished for himself.

After staying few days without doing anything meaningful, Abani decided to start committing his time to rendering selfless service to the humanity, rather than remain idle day after day, which is not part of the traits he is made of

Therefore, recalling how he met the Awka Pedestrian Bridge dirty in one of his begging outings the first time he was taken there to beg; he decided to start his charity cum benevolent work there. He first re-visited the bridge to see if the situation was still the same; and which he confirmed to be. He then took it upon himself to be keeping the bridge neat on daily basis, so that those whose legs are normal would comfortably use them thereon. He then bought broom and packer, and started work days later.

That was how this paralytic started sweeping and keeping the pedestrian bridge since 2019 till date.

It is worthy to note at this juncture that there was an amputee who was previously doing this job on the bridge. His name is Yusuf Suleiman Peter, a 29-year-old amputee who hails from Taraba State.

However, after a similar (two-paged) report as this, entitled "Meet amputee volunteer who sweeps Awka pedestrian bridge daily" was done (by this same reporter, Izunna Okafor); Yusuf was favoured and taken off the street by some good-spirited individuals. And today, he is united with his people in Taraba, where he has also begun life on a new page.

Coincidentally or noncoincidentally, Abani may or may not have met his predecessor on duty when he was in charge; but the truth remains that he met the bridge tattered and unkept. That apparently would be after Yusuf had dropped broom.

Abani does his job with ardency, humility and diligence; and comes to Awka all the way from Onitsha every morning to do it.

When asked how he gets the transportation fare he uses to task-switch to and fro the two cities in the course of doing the job; he confessed that some touched and goodhearted pedestrians sometime appreciate him with naira notes when they see him on duty.

He further acknowledged that it is also from such monetary gifts and appreciations that he fends for himself, since he lives alone and feeds himself.

Because he is a paralytic who only crawls and does not walk with his legs erect, he does not and cannot discard the waste he sweeps or gathers after sweeping the bridge, by himself, due to that condition.

Thus, after gathering and packaging the wastes in sack bags, he engages and pays some of the young Awka boys who commercially cross goods for some of the pedestrians coming from Eke Awka Market to the other side of the express; and they would discard the waste (together with the bags) into any of the nearest waste bins positioned by Anambra State Waste Management Agency (ASWAMA). After that, he would buy another bag for packaging subsequent wastes.

Though Abani voluntarily does the job without blaming or antagonizing anyone, he complained that some of the pedestrians and shopless sellers on the bridge can be very annoying, as many of them (sometimes) deliberately and carelessly drop wastes and nylons the portion he has already swept (when he is still sweeping), thereby littering the place again and compelling him to crawl back to pick or re-sweep it.

When asked what happened to his legs, how and when he became a paralytic, Abani, who for the second time dabbed off some tears with his sweat-saoked handkerchief disclosed that he was not born paralytic.

He narrated that his two legs were hitherto normal and functional until when he was 7-year old, and was injected with one disease preventive vaccine, which counteractively started having devastating effects and reactions on his legs. According to him, his parents started taking him to different hospitals in search of solution to the devastating reaction, but to no avail. And the vaccine continue to maraud his limbs.

This, he said, culminated to the extent that one day, after he returned from school, he decided to have his siesta (as the pain was now much and unbearable for him), only for him to wake up and see that he has shrunk and paralysed to the extent that he could even stand up from the bed, or walk with his legs any longer. And that is the condition Abani remains in till today —from a runner to a crawler.

This unexpected paralysis did not only truncate Abani's vision of going to school; it also has a chain of effects on virtually every facet of his life.

These notwithstanding, he still believes in himself that the downfall of a man is not the end of his life. He believes there is still ability in disability. He believes he is not lazy; and he believes he still has one or two things to offer to humanity and the society at large, even though his dream in life appears to have been thwarted.

And these, he has already begun to offer to the humanity, in terms of selfless service.

When asked the form of assistance he wants from any interested person who wishes to help him; Abani revealed that he learnt how to mend and produce shoes but has no capital to go into the business since that time. He also disclosed that he learnt how to drive a tricycle (popularly known as Keke Napep), but has no money to procure his own tricycle for commercial purpose.

He therefore humbly pleads the assistance of any touched and good-spirited individual, government, or association, to enable him get off the street and start his own shoe making/shoe production business, or start riding his own commercial Keke Napep.

He further noted that he would prefer any interested person to assist him materially than financially in starting any of the two ventures. He however confessed that he would accept and heartily appreciate any offer that comes his way, be it materially or financially. The paralytic also avowed to ever remain grateful to anyone or group of people who God will use to get him off the street and change his life story, be it solely or through combined efforts.

In adherence to Matshona Dhliwayo's pithy saying —Give of yourself to others and others will give of themselves to you —Abani defies his paralytic condition and voluntarily offers his best to the society and humanity. It is now time for the society and humanity to pay him back. And no time would be better to do so than now.

Anyone touched to assist Abani in any way (little or big), anyone touched to help him start his shoe making/production business, or own and drive his own commercial Keke Napep can locate him at his duty post on top of the pedestrian bridge, at Unizik Junction Awka, Anambra State Capital, or directly contact him via 09046687669.

It was Mike Satterfield who once said, "Even if you just change one life, you’ve changed the world forever."

Change the world forever by changing Abani's life story.

Help Abani to get off the street.