Turning that Disability into Ability (Part One) – Cobhams Asuquo
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Being disabled is the worst thing that could happen to anybody; the pain of not being able to act like others, having to rely on everyone for everything depending on what form of disability one has and the degree of the disability.
To worsen the case, the kind of people we have around us don’t help matters, they sometimes make us feel worse with their words but hey, we can turn that disability around into ability!
We don’t have to sit down and wallow in our pains and suffering because we are disabled
I’m going to cite the cases of two people I know:
Song writer/music producer Cobhams Asuquo and Patience Ijeh, the girl who types with her toes.
Despite his blindness (he was born blind), CEO/ Head of Productions of CAMP (Cobhams Asuquo Music Productions) Cobhams is one of the music legends in Nigeria today. In this interview, Cobham talked about his life as a blind man and the awesome lessons he's learnt being blind and I hope it inspires you…
“I’m a dreamer, and fortunately for me, a lot of things I have dreamt about in my life have come true. I believe strongly that one of the strong elements that fuel my very strong sense of imagination and my ability to dream is the gift of blindness.
And I’m going to share with you, a couple of things that I have learnt and a couple of life lessons that could be invaluable to you as well that I have learnt from Blindness. So to start with, I will state the obvious fact that I was born blind. No one else in my family of six children is blind. There’s no known cause. No links. No explanation. Just the reality that I cannot see with my eyes.
I was born and raised in the “other side of” the military barracks. I lived in a small block of 18 two bedroom flats. I shared a flat with my parents, my three siblings and whatever stray pet came our way at a time.There was also my father’s Honda Roadmaster 180 Motorcycle, which slept in the living room with me and my siblings for fear that one of its mirrors might be stolen by morning
In my neighborhood there were always things to look forward to. My mornings were characterized by news of whose pumping machine had been stolen or squabbles between neighbours over who had eaten their chicken.
Actually some people try to resolve the chicken situation by tying to attach a piece of red things on their chicken legs. I don’t know how well it works…
Now, blindness does not have any physical, psychological or social meaning. Since I’ve never experienced sight, I wasn’t aware that I was without sight. I indulged in the innocence of young boyhood. I ran downstairs, jumped over gutters, played hard; fought even harder. I got into any imaginable trouble that a Skinny young child could get into.
On a number of occasions, I ran into walls and people. I ran into furniture so hard that observers would shake their heads and say in Pidgin English:
‘Person wey we dey feel sorry for, e no dey feel sorry for himself.’ (see who we are pitying, yet he doesn’t pity himself)
Of course my response to such a rebuke was to scurry off and catch up with my friends and hide whatever stray bruises I had sustained away from my mother’s disapproving eyes.
Initially, I scoffed at other people’s well meaning concern and pity, because I did not understand what the fuss was all about. As I grew older and I gained more understanding of the intricacies of living as a sightless person in a world designed for sighted people, I was faced with the looming possibility of failure in my life. But what I actually considered to be much worse was that people were ready to excuse my failure because of my disability. This brings me to my first lesson.Do not Excuse Failure, for any reason on any account
When I turned 10, I was enrolled in a Primary Boarding School for the Blind. Fast forward to graduation day, teachers and other well wishers were giving us advice on going into the outside world. We were forewarned that we would come across people who would be genuinely mean to us. People will snatch away our guide canes, pull out our typewriter ribbons, they may not give us the correct change, and generally just take advantage of us because we are blind.
And from my experience, and I’m sure most of you must have discovered, not all public opinion is correct.
So, I personally decided that I didn’t want to want to worry myself about Guide Cane Snatchers, Ribbon Type writer thieves, and the likes. I decided not to take that advice. I figured that there were so many unfortunate things in life that had happened to you regardless of whether or not you were blind. So, why should I heap on an extra burden of worry on myself, just because I’m blind.This is my second lesson, and it’s a tough one, to Trust.
I have learnt this from blindness: to trust. Sometimes, even when I have no reason to.
As a child I was quite a kid to have fun with and play little pranks on. My older brother taught me how to jump over open street gutters so anytime I was walking with friends and they inform me that we were approaching a gutter, I would jump – No questions asked.
Pretty soon, I discovered that my friends were telling me to jump even when there were no gutters, just so they could have a laugh. But even after I found out, I still continued to jump. I chose to trust them because quite honestly, staying out of the smelly sewage gutters was very very important to me.
Now some people might ask. Can’t a person be too trusting? But I think trust has no expiration date. Blindness has taught me to keep trusting. To keep hoping. To keep believing. And by the way in case you haven’t heard, technology came along, thankfully. And not only did it take the rhythms from the typewriter, it also took away the typewriters themselves and replaced them with computers and screen readers.
And as for my guide cane story, I’ve yet to meet one friend of mine who had his white cane snatched from him.
As a matter of fact, at some points I got too desperate and I went ahead in my first year in the University to buy myself a Mercedes Benz Wagon. It broke down on the first day I bought it. And I remember my friend, we were trying to change the tyre, and someone called me and I said, you know what, I’m having a little car trouble. And thankfully, we can afford better cars and I have a faithful driver, and he’s under the watchful eyes of my wife. So no guide cane thieves and all of that.Be blind to be focused
Now some time ago, my wife and I walked into a duty free shop at an Airport. We wanted to buy a bottle of water. Before I knew it, she had stopped by to browse through a magazine, seemingly normal actions for her but I found it quite alarming.
Here, we were going in to buy an item but ended up browsing for other stuffs. And that was when it hit me. Sight, sometimes, is a distraction. Now, I have to say that when my wife goes shopping, no matter how good her intentions are to purchase only the items on her list, she somehow manages to come home with extras.
Good Deals! She will like to call them. She knows a lot about good deals, and sales and half sales. And I have to say my wife is a fantastic wonderful woman.
Now don’t get me wrong, sight is a precious gift. But on your way to your destination, what you see, can also be a big distraction from your goal. So, I have learnt that you have to be blind in order to be focused. Focus is blindness in a sense. I’m sure you can relate to this because you have been focused on your goal and attained your successes by being blind to several things in your life.
Now, we live in a culture that esteems sight over blindness and associates blindness with weakness. Yet, blindness in all of its weakness, I have drawn some key strength in my life’s journey.
Some, I’m sure would have excused me if I became a failure. But I found it more fulfilling to break away from the expectations of mediocrity. To successfully navigate and negotiate my way through life. Even if it ruffled the feather of those who genuinely cared about me.
I hope you have been inspired with Cobhams’ story, I would bring you another story next week, of a girl that writes with her toes. This is to show you that being disabled shouldn’t be an excuse!