A CORPER'S KIND HEART FOR LAGOS TRADERS
Mr. Obinna John Ukoumuneh is an uncommon Nigerian. He is physically challenged, but instead of seeking succour from his fellow countrymen by begging in the streets, he's, on the contrary, helping to put a smile on the faces of others.
A week to the end of his mandatory one-year youth service, this young and enterprising former National Youth Service Corps member, accompanied by some friends, stormed the Binukonu Market on Babs Animashaun Road, Surulere, Lagos, to clean the market and monitor that day's environmental sanitation exercise.
The ex-corps members later ensured that all the wastes gathered during the sanitation exercise were packed inside Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) bags and properly disposed of. But that wasn't all. Obinna also donated 12 baskets of dust bins and 12 cartons of Maclean toothpaste to the market women and men.
Speaking to Daily Sun, Obinna, who studied Guidance and Counselling at the University of Ibadan, said what he did at the market was a normal thing for him. 'Cleanliness, they say, is next to Godliness,' he said. 'That phrase inspired me the most and I believe if everybody can demonstrate this principle and ideal by keeping our environment clean and tidy, we will all live a healthy life.'
Asked what motivated his visit to the market, he said: 'It was my own little contribution to the development of the market. It is sad that the Nigerian society always looks down on those of us who are physically challenged but what we are doing today is to change the bad impression people have about us.'
Obinna, who is also a motivational speaker and career talk initiator, said by virtue of his training as a counsellor, he was able to touch many peoples' lives, particularly youths in areas like education, health, social and community development work. He counselled other physically challenged folks against limiting their natural abilities because of their physical disability.
Obinna expressed gratitude to individuals, corporate bodies and organisations that believe in him and have been supporting his dreams. These, he said, included the Lagos State Government that gave him an opportunity to serve in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Development, NYSC officials, especially Mr. Agbor Udoma, NYSC community development coordinator in Lagos, GSK Nigeria Limited, Maclean toothpaste, Mrs. Emmanuel Okwuchi and his uncle, Mr. Kodi Ogbonna.
Jeje Oluwatosin Peter studied Geography at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. He was one of those who joined Obinna to make a lasting impact at the market. 'God has created every one of us in a unique way,' he told the reporter. He said they were among the 100 physically-challenged corps members in Lagos, adding that they organised themselves into a group called Friends Club. He said the coinage, physically-challenged, does not sit well with them. 'That is why we formed a group to change peoples' view and perception about us.'
Agbor Udoma, the community development coordinator and chief inspector of the NYSC in Lagos State, urged the traders at the market to make good use of the items donated by the corps members. He commended Obinna and his colleagues for impacting positively on their immediate society and advised other corps members to emulate Obinna in ensuring a clean society.
Mrs. Emmanuel Okwuchi and Mr. Kodi Ogbonna, Obinna's uncle, applauded Obinna, saying he had always been willing to help the society even before his days at the University of Ibadan.
'The young man is gifted,' Ogbonna asserted. 'In spite of his physical limitations, he'll go the extra mile to make other people happy. He has a lot of projects that he is trying to put up, and by the grace of God, we will support him in making his dream a reality.'
Alhaja Ajoke Saka, the Iyaloja-General of the market, said it was inspiring seeing physically-challenged corps members doing what many able-bodied men could not do.
'They have demonstrated to the world that though they are physically challenged, they have so many good things to offer the society,' she said. 'When they came to tell us about their plan to come today and join us in our weekly environmental sanitation exercise, I felt it was impossible. I thought they were joking because we could all see that they were physically challenged. But we have been proved wrong. These corps members have changed my perception. I know now that no matter your condition, if you are determined, you can achieve your dreams.'
Secretary of the market, Mr. Murtala Ariyo, said he was happy with Obinna's efforts. 'With what Obinna and his colleagues have done, there is no doubt that if they are given more responsibilities, they will perform extremely well. If physically challenged youth corps members could demonstrate this high sense of generosity to us in this manner, it is reasonable for us as parents to appreciate and acknowledge their good deeds and also pray for them.'
Ariyo said since the market came into existence about 30 years ago, that day's community development work was unique. 'We are all pleased with them because, apart from helping us to clean up our market, including the environs, they donated useful items like dustbin baskets and cartons of Macleans toothpaste to us. It was a good gesture.'