John ODHE, Yenagoa
Although fate has forced her to be aided by a wheelchair from her tender age, Miss Timi Odogu is among the few physically challenged persons who believe in the school of thought that disability only occurs in the minds of the feeble.
Our correspondent met her actively at the point of duty at the popular, ever busy Etegwe-Tombia Roundabout in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital where she roasts corn for sale. Odogu’s shade was bubbling with customers who were picking up her well roasted corn, while others were waiting patiently for their turn.
When asked about her life, the elated lady in her early 30s told TNN Metro that she was hale and hearty from cradle until the age of five, no thanks to a strange ailment that hit her and resulted in her confinement to a wheelchair since then.
Timi, who hails from Opuama community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state told our correspondent that she had since taken her situation in good faith and wouldn’t want to be pitied but rather encouraged in any genuine way possible.
Asked why she chose to be industrious in a society where so many persons living with disabilities resort to go cap in hand, the fair in complexion mother of one said “others who have my kind of challenge see themselves as disabled and helpless.
“For me, I don’t believe that I am disabled; l am only physically challenged and that does not stop me from helping myself.
“The main challenge that most of us face is the case of stigmatization. Some do not have self esteem. They feel that if they establish a business, people may not patronize them because of their condition.
“It takes persons with great minds to survive our situation without going beggarly. I hate begging for food when I know that there are genuine ways to survive.
“I have a lot of business ideas but my greatest challenge is lack of empowerment from the government of our state or individuals that God has blessed; that’s why I am doing the little l can so that nobody will take advantage of my condition to undermine me.
“If I am empowered today, I will not only do well in business but many people will also survive through me. I have the idea of becoming a wholesaler of pampers and all kinds of beverages.
“If l have the funds, I will only sit down in the comfort of my store and order for my goods to be delivered to my door step while my paid workers will only arrange my goods.”
Odogu, who was flanked by her little son, said another challenge she faced in her corn business was scarcity of the commodity because of inflation of its price by the few suppliers in town.
She added that if the commodity would be available on daily basis, she would make good proceeds, pointing out that the corn sells between a hundred to two hundred naira per one depending on the sizes.
According to the physically impaired lady, if encouraged, the sky would be her limit, maintaining that physical disability could not preclude her from achieving her set goal of attaining greater heights.
She used the medium to send a message of assistance to the state government led by Senator Douye Diri and other spirited individuals and corporate bodies, calling on the miracle governor to come to her aid by providing soft loans as well as grants to enable her become self-reliant and employer of labour.