Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: 'I Lost My Leg, Not My Voice,' Says Black Pavarotti

Meche, a world famous singer and conductor, is also popularly referred to as 'Black Pavarotti'. He had a foot amputated recently and the experience has lifted him to a whole new world of activities.

Meche, also known and referred to as 'Black Pavarotti', is a globally acclaimed conductor and singer, and has performed before countless Leaders in different countries of the world. Recently, he had his left foot amputated, and this was a fallout of diabetes which he has been treating for a number of years.

He says "I am a Diabetic. I got a bit careless with my blood sugar, maybe also with my diet and I really wasn't careful." This experience has changed his vision of society, and he is planning a new set of activities which would help to move the country forward, and draw attention to the urgent plight of challenged persons in the country. He speaks very positively of the hospital in Abuja where he had the surgical operation, and salutes Ngozi, his wife, Aruma Oteh, Arch. Ugot, and many other friends who were very helpful while he was on admission.

His words "I couldn't believe what I was seeing, because right inside you are looked after very well. You can't believe this is Nigera, where the Doctor's come in and check you out. They clean the place about two hundred times a day. The floor is so clean that it is tempting to pick what falls from your plate, to eat, because the place is spotless. Its unbelievable that things are so well planned out there, that you begin to wonder are these Nigerians?"

He adds that if Nigeria could be run just one third of the way the hospital is run, then the country would make a very significant advance. He speaks on the immediate impact of the operation on his body "Immediately after the operation, the next day my hair started growing nicely. I had energy all over me. I did not know initially that my leg was gangrened. It was dry, dead and was about to kill me. Immediately it was cut off, I started feeling well. My nails are growing nicely. My teeth are looking whiter. My voice is better. I did not know that my leg was killing me all the while."

On account of his operation he now quickly notices other physically challenged persons in the country today. This is a case of losing a little bit and gaining so much at the same time. His words "I tend to notice people using wheelchairs and crutches these days, and I then say to myself that I know what this person is going through." He adds that he has also noticed so much that is wrong with the architecture of houses in Abuja. "I have noticed now because of the surgery, that many of our houses in Abuja should have ramps for wheelchairs. Can you imagine all these secretariat buildings, you get there, and there is no light, no power? How would you climb the stairs with your wheelchair, and what about banks and hospitals, how do you enter these places?"

He concludes by saying that Nigeria should be serious with power generation, because not everyone who uses a wheelchair, is indigent. I know that I am not a rich man, but I am comfortable enough to say that there's a Minister I want to see,and I get to a building, and I can't go up because there are no ramps. There's no power to generate the lift. 'According to him "when constructing our roads, we need to create a bicycle lane for those who ride bicycle's as obtains in other countries, as well as parking spaces for challenged persons."

In four to five months time, he would have learnt to use his prosthetic legs. His words "In four to five months time, I would have learnt to use my prosthetic legs, and when I am walking, only those people close to me, will look at me and say there's a slight limp somewhere, but I will be okay."

He says "there is some joy in knowing that some things you never noticed in your life, you notice them now. In the past you walked past people that use crutches and wheelchairs, but now you know what they are going through."

He now wants to set up an NGO that would look into the plight of people who use crutches and wheelchairs "I am going to see what I can do for them by the time I get better. I want to set up an NGO that has to do with wheelchairs, and see what I can do for people who need them."

At a point before he became diabetic he used to be as large as the legendary Pavarotti. "I was as large as Pavarotti. My waist was 48 inches, and I speak Italian, and I was bearded like Pavarotti. I sang for Pope John Paul when he came here, and somebody said 'Pavarotti Nero,' that is black Pavarotti. So the name stuck. That was at Oba in 1998. But when Diabetes was diagnosed, I had to slim down, and I started slimming down seriously.Its expensive to slim down too, because you need to redo your clothes, like my tail suit which was handmade in the UK.I lost that, and I had to make another one."

He wants to organise a Concert which would hold, as soon as he is back on his feet, he says. According to him "I am going to talk to a few people, some of them in government, some outside government. This is because I want someone like Mr President to attend a beautiful concert, not of classical music mainly, but a good singing concert around February or March this year. I am going to sing on one leg. Let everybody see the one leg, and know that if he's lost his leg, it doesn't mean he's lost his voice. I have been rehearsing. I found out that after the leg was cut, I discovered that it took away a lot that stopped me from really expressing myself. In the past I would want to sing, but I would have a cough. After the operation the cough disappeared. I tested my voice. I could hit some keys that I hit last about seven years ago. So I should say that Meche is back, but not on his feet. I would be back on my feet later after the concert."

Still speaking on the concert, he adds "I want to have one large concert, one beautiful concert with lots of people present. See what physically challenged people did during the Paralympics. These are human beings like me and you, and even if they don't come for the concert, that one of them is doing a big concert makes you refocus on them, and know that these people are talented."

He looks forward to a time when many groups would key into his proposed NGO and support it with wheelchairs which would be given out to physically challenged persons, and this would be done alongside a concert. Finally, he adds on a significant note "It's who I am spiritually that matters, nothing more."

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