Celebrating heroic stories of possibility in disability among Nigeria’s young ones
Umar Mariam is armless. Mariam was three years old, when she noticed that she was without hands. Nature has, however, compensated her. She uses her legs to do what she would have done with her hands. Mariam started using her two legs when she knew she did not have hands. She does many household chores such as ironing of clothes, receiving calls, cooking, bathing, writing, eating and drinking. In fact, Mariam could do anything other children do with her legs.
Salisu and Mariam like the nascent inventor, Babatimileyin Daomi, and the 15-year old Favour Unwene, were winners at the Indomie Independence Day Awards (IIDA).
Fifteen-year-old Daomi creatively invented a vacuum cleaner, a phone bank, a portable fan; self-watered flour vase and a functional radio, while Unwene, who hails from Ikono, Akwa Ibom State, won in the area of social bravery.
When the awards started in 2008, Khalil Bala was one of the winners at the inaugural event. The minor displayed great courage and selflessness by jumping into a burning house to save his sister. His limbs got seriously damaged in the process and had to undergo extensive surgeries in India.
Another winner, Dorcas Ayodele, saved her younger brother from an uncontrollable car accident. Her presence of mind and quick reaction gave her the second spot, while Razak Omolade demonstrated strong will power to succeed in life, even in the face of severe disability.
In the second year, another set of kids was recognised. Detimbir Chia, who rescued five passengers out of 18 passengers on board an ill-fated military aircraft in 2006, was honoured for his display of bravery.
Wembly Uchenna saved the life of four-year-old Ada, who was trapped in a mud without considering the danger of such actions. His selfless act won him the second spot in the Heroes Awards 2009. Chukwudi Ibobo produced prototypes of toy vehicles such as, sports cars, trucks, helicopters, caterpillars, robots of different sizes from scrap metal and wasted items.
Sarah Oladele won N500,000 worth scholarship for displaying an unusual spirit of compassion, love, maturity, intelligence and courage at the scene of an accident. It was a fatal accident in 2008, on a lonely road known as High School Road.
Sarah was going to school when she saw a motorcyclist ahead knock down a man and sped off. She discovered that the man was unconscious and blood was gushing out of his head. She stood by, beckoning and trying to stop cars, as they drove by but with no success. So Sarah decided to move to the centre of the road to stop vehicles sacrificing herself to save the victim who was already losing so much blood.
Finally, a car stopped and she narrated what happened and immediately the victim was driven to the hospital. From the hospital, she went straight to the police headquarters, Akure and reported the case at the police station producing the registration number of the motorbike to the police officers on duty. Because as the cyclist took off the first thing Sarah did was to memorize the number. Two days later the hit and run rider through the information given to them by Sarah was apprehended.
Njoku Chigbo from Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, South East Nigeria won the coveted first prize of N1million for outstanding bravery and heroic act. He rescued a drowning woman and repeatedly dove into the Ebonyi River to rescue her properties as well, including a motorcycle.
Ajila Wehbe from Lagos was rewarded for safely delivering her 16 years old pregnant sister without adult supervision or previous medical experience, while Sule Mallam Hamza from Nassarawa won N500,000 for saving the life of a little boy from drowning in a river.
Their stories are stuffs legend are made of, but glossed over.Through IIDA, Dufil Prima Foods Plc, makers of Indomie Noodles, have, over the years, celebrated kids with strong will and milk of human kindness. In encouraging the acts of heroism in children, the company believes that in every child lies what it takes to become great.
Quite unlike other awards, IIDA is for a child who has performed a selfless act of bravery at great personal risk to save the life or property of someone else. It equally recognises the valiant efforts against social evils like drug abuse, child labour, illiteracy, environmental pollution etc, as well as children, who, despite having limitations, have performed far beyond the ordinary and pushed the limits of courage and performance to a new level.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, of the estimated 186,053,386 Nigerians, 42.79 per cent (male 40,744,956/female 38,870,303) are under the age of 15 years. However, of this figure, very few are recognised or remembered for acts that are commendable in the society.
Managing Director, The Education Partnership Centre (TEP Centre) and an education policy expert, with several years of experience spanning academics and private sector, Dr. Modupe Adefeso-Olateju, while giving the keynote at the last awards ceremony, commended Dufil Prima Foods Plc for being an agent of positive change in the lives of the Nigerian child.
According to Dayo Thomas, managing director of Kogi State’s Graphics Newspapers, “a nation without heroes is in trouble, because it cannot whip sentiment in times of need or national crisis.”
For Thomas, “a mission as this should help to raise a generation of Nigerians, who believe in the country and what it stands for against all the odds facing it.”Because of the very nature and essence of the awards, priority is placed on moral and humanitarian values as opposed to status or material contributions.
As John C. Maxwell puts it: “Believing the best in people usually brings the best out of people.”“The company has created IIDA not just as an initiative, but as a resource for national development in the lives of the Nigerian Child,” she said.
For Richard Umunna, a child care expert and founder of Growing Teens, a non governmental organisation , the award scheme is a welcome development, considering that its objectives is to act as “catalyst for building heroes.”
According to Umunna, by identifying, acknowledging, and encouraging children who have exhibited acts of bravery and made notable sacrifices, “the award is inspiring acts of heroism in youngsters and recognising the sacrifices some of these children have made within the context and limitations of their social-economic status and educational backgrounds.”
Social commentators say when a youngster falls apart, the blame, whether right or wrong, goes to the parents, especially, when it is known that they were pushy, and always shuttling their kids between auditions, and refusing to let them quit because of fat paychecks.
Watchers of events in the entertainment industry say to be a teen idol is to be vulnerable. They point out that many of these child stars that tasted blinding fame early and potentially mind-blowing fortune before they hit puberty in Europe and America, their lives are always at odds with a far grittier reality.
So far, the IIDA initiative has been able to positively impact the lives of about 27 Nigerian children, who have shown exemplary courage, and by extension, their families. The heroic feats of these children, no doubts, will provide inspiration for others.