1 December 2012

Nigeria: A Day With Abuja Cripple Drivers

The saying that there is ability in disability holds true for some physically challenged persons in Abuja who are into commercial driving with their vehicles. Weekly Trust reports that some of them have achieved a feet their fully-fit counterparts can only dream of.

The story of Muntari Suleiman, 29, a cripple is inspiring in a country where many in his class have resorted to begging. "My legs are bad, I use crutches, but I can drive my car to any state of the federation. Bring a trailer or any truck, I can drive them. In fact, I drive to Niger, Kogi and Kano states, just to mention but a few. As I am speaking to you, I'll be travelling to Kebbi State in a fortnight. In my opinion, driving is one of the simplest tasks," Muntari, who owns a manual Toyota car, told Weekly Trust.

Muntari told Weekly Trust the story of an equally disabled simply referred to as Dan Borno. He said Dan Borno who once begged taught him how to drive. He said Dan Borno's disability is even worse than his (Muntari's). He said his former master was a full-time beggar who learned driving on the side and fully embraced the profession and perfected the trade. He said the man is presently a full-fledged commercial driver.

"He actually started with Abuja intra-city commercial driving known as Kabu-Kabu but presently, he is into long journeys. He operates the farthest journey you can imagine across the country. He goes to Maiduguri, Kebbi, Sokoto, Ibadan and Lagos."

In the case of Muntari as well as other disabled drivers, they don't just get the cars and commence to suit their physical conditions so they could drive with ease.

Muntari's car is a manually-driven Toyota. He got a wielder who fixed an iron pipe by the side of the steering wheel to replace the clutch while the brake and the throttle remained in their position below.

One of Muntari's legs is somewhat functional which he uses to control both the brake and the throttle on the car floor, while his hands take care of the steering and the amended clutch.

Muntari has been driving for over four years now. He said he never had any serious accident in spite of his numerous trips within Abuja and to other states in the federation.

Muntari recalls an incident thus: "I was just coming from a mosque when a driver over sped and could not pull-up when the traffic warden stopped him. In the process, he ended up hitting my vehicle from the rear. It was not serious so I let him go after he begged me."

As a cripple he said he never thought he could drive, but when he bought his vehicle, his friend insisted that he can do it and to his amazement, here he is driving.

Like Muntari, Mr. Isaac Opara is also a disabled driver. Though he is a wheel-chair cripple, he gets assisted to even get in and out of his Toyota automatic car. But once inside, it will be difficult for anyone who is seeing him for the first time to know that he is a cripple. He drives like any other able-bodied driver. He tucks some pillows on the driver seat so could have good vision from the front wind screen and mirrors.

He has made mechanical re-adjustment in such a way that the break, tootle or accelerator of his car are connected with two long iron rods close to the steering areas, where he can control everything around the dash board area with relative ease.

Opara said ever since he was a child, he had always admired driving. Thus, the moment he had planned to buy a car, he asked one of his friends to teach him some basic driving techniques, though he claimed he had always watched how people drive and understood how it is done.

"I practically thought myself how to drive, because of my childhood interest and enthusiasm in driving. When I bought my car, even my wife objected to my driving it. So many people said I should employ a driver. In fact, one of my distant relatives said since I made effort to buy a car, he'll volunteer to be paying the prospective driver's monthly salary, but I refused."

Though, unlike Muntari and some other cripples, Mr. Nweze does not travel out of Abuja with his car. He just drives within the FCT. He seems conscious of his limitation as a wheel chair cripple.

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