Mohammed Abba Isa was born in Maiduguri, the State Capital of Borno on the 12th of December, 1972 and was brought up in the same city. He hailed from Yunusari Local Government of Yobe State. He attended to Bullunkutu Primary School, Maiduguri, from 1980-1986, thereafter; he proceeded to Government Senior Science Secondary School Monguno where he completed his secondary school in 1992. He obtained a Bachelor Degree in Public Administration from the University of Maiduguri in 2013 and Post Graduate Diploma in Project Management. He worked with Chad Basin National Park Maiduguri, Borno State, for a period of 6 years, from 1994 – 2000 and later he worked as an Administrative Assistant with Yobe State Community-Based Poverty Reduction Project (World Bank Assisted) now Community and Social Development. He is a family man who with one Daughter Fatima Mohammed Isa who was had by his wife that abandoned him when he had an accident in 2006. He is happily married now with beautiful Zarah Muhammad Umar. he was pioneer/founder/former State Chairman of Joint National Association of persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Yobe State Chapter; He is the APC Zonal Disable leader North East and State Chairman, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria, Yobe State Chapter. He is the Executive Director, Rebuilding Hope on Wheels Initiatives (RHOWI)Yobe state Chapter, it isNGO/DPO/CSO that has been transforming the lives of PWDs and advocating for inclusive development in Yobe State. He has attended several courses in development work and civic engagements both in United State of America, United Arab Emirate UAE and other African Countries. He is a certified member of different professional bodies and organizations, UN member with CSCM of Cosp11 to UNCRPD, Member Institute of Public managers and Administrators IPMA, Members Chartered Institute of Project Management CIPM, Member Amnesty Internationally Org. For human rights, Member Yobe Network of CSOs of Nigeria, Cluster member with CISLAC for PWDs, Member Kpankpando Foundation care for less Privileges and Member Christopher foundation for PWDs UK.
He has some fellowship awards, Drew University USA, New Jersey, North East Intellectual Entrepreneurship Fellowship NEIEF, Bridge Fellow award on intersect between Sustainable Development Goals and UN convention for the rights of persons with disabilities SDS/UNCRPD.
He has some leadership awards of excellent, Youth Ambassador by Zudam and Maigoje Foundation, Leadership award by Garkuwan Nakasassu foundation Kano, Ambassador of Peace by NEYIF in collaboration with NERI, YARI network award in completion of course on concept of Human Rights.
He is one of the three Nigerian trained experts on United Nation Convention of rights for persons with disabilities UNCRPD and Sustainable Development Goals with Implicit reference to Persons with Disabilities certified by BRIDGE International Disability Alliance (IDA), International Disability Development Consortium (IDDC) and World Disability’s Caucus.
He is also one of only two Nigerians selected as members to Civil Society Coordination Mechanism CSCM on Conference of State Parties 11 to UNCRPD by International Disability Alliance (IDA).
In this interview, he shared with us how he had a spinal cord injury in an accident and other of his life experiences.
Do you recall when your disability occurred and how it happened?
My disability occurred in the course of my sacrifice. As the eldest son in our extended family, I was the bread winner. When our father was alive, he was a civil servant serving at the INEC office in Maiduguri. After his death, his gratuity was not paid to us for almost 3 years. Therefore, as the eldest child, I began to pursue his benefit. In the course of our pursuit, we were lastly told that it is only in INEC headquarters in Abuja that we could be attended to, so I started traveling to Abuja. I was in INEC headquarters for 3 times but all my efforts didn’t yield any fruit. When it seems all hope has been lost, we got a phone call from one of their Staff and I was told to quickly come to Abuja assuring me of his assistance on the matter so that they will pay us in the next quarter of the year. On that fateful day 16th October, 2006, as I was on my way to Abuja, I was involved in a ghastly motor accident, along Bauchi to Jos Road, in which I sustained a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) that confined me permanently to a wheel chair after a series of treatment and rehabilitation in Germany and India with the sponsorship from Yobe State Government. After my self-expulsion and have reported to my office since. I thank God for my life. Life is all about living.
Did your disability affect your education in any way?
To me disability is about mindset, zeal and ability to aspire in life. The time I can say my disability affected my education was during my trauma period, I was an undergraduate when I had accident. I went back to school after years of treatment as a result of my accident and I went back as a wheel chair user. Gracefully, I obtained my BSc (Hons) in Public administration in 2013.
How did you fund your education?
I funded my education through self-sponsor through monthly earnings.
Do you recall facing problems of discrimination during your school days and now that you are working?
No, I have never experienced any discrimination during my studies at the University, either from colleagues or lecturers. In fact, I was recognized as a Special student. They gave me assistances that persons with disabilities require. Sometimes, lecturers would even change venues of our lectures because of me if the building was not accessible or wheel chair complied. But, as a person with disability in Nigeria, discrimination is inevitable. Nigerian society has a wrong notion about disability. Nigerians believe that the best for someone with disability is street begging.
What are the other challenges you are facing presently in carrying out your daily activities?
The Greatest challenge I am facing are inaccessibility and discrimination. When you are denied access to social interaction, you have been discriminated. For instance, I cannot have access to public buildings like banks, Market places, State offices, libraries, schools and transportation systems. Architectural designs and construction of public estates and other community houses are exclusively inaccessible to the PWDs. It is difficult for PWDs to use most public buildings without lift and ramps. I have never used my ATM card on any machine by myself. I always have to get helping hands. Transportation is very important in ones day to day activities or in carrying out business transactions. If orderliness is restored, and accessibility facilities provided at our bus stops, railway stations and airports, the PWDs will embrace life with more confidence. And if there is legislation, which provides that all vehicles imported for the purpose of public transportation must have accessibility facilities, then the PWDs will be able to make remarkable progress in the very competitive world.
Going by your peculiar experiences of discrimination and challenges you faced, proffer solutions in your own understanding how the lives of people with disabilities can be greatly improved?
The problems facing People Living with Disabilities (PWDs) in this country are enormous, and these are militating against their productivity and performance. There is need to sensitize the governments, individuals, private organizations and civil society organizations to create conducive atmosphere for social, economic and political integration of the PWDs. The voice of the persons with disabilities must be heard loud and clear. In my opinion, the lives of PWDs can be greatly improved if opportunities for local stakeholders to meet and share ideas with counterpart from other countries in any conference, symposium and articulate positions that would proper solutions and recommendations that would enable both the private and public sectors to deal adequately and effectively with the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in Nigeria.
Please outline your achievements so far that you are living with disabilities?
So far my achievement in disability communities cannot be over emphasized. As we are all aware, JONAPWD has been existing for the past 20 years in this country, but Yobe state was excluded, persons from the state were not given the opportunity to participate. I am the founder of JONAPWD in Yobe State to become a State Chapter in 2012. Being the State Chairman, during the period under review we have sensitized the Stakeholders, Private organizations, media organizations, community leaders, religious leaders and CSO about the objectives of JONAPWD in the State and LGAs. We advocated for the inclusion of persons with disabilities into Special Empowerment programmes like Sure-P and vocational trainings by the State Government. It is in my reign that Yobe State University gives free education to persons with disabilities in the State. Through our courtesy to the office of SSG we advocated for the empowerment of 1000 PWDs in order to stop them from street begging, establishment of disability commission, Housing Schemes, Rehabilitation of workshops, Establishment of special schools for the visually impaired persons in the state capital, and we have been assured by the State government that all will be implemented. Through my contact with the NGO to Partner with JONAPWD, SIR EMEKA OFFOR FOUNDATION distributed 75 tricycles and 25 crutches to PWDs in Yobe State
What are the factors responsible for you recording so much success in spite of the enormous challenges?
Is Courage and determination, if you believe in Allah (SWA) you will lack nothing. So if persons with disabilities will have this mindset, they can harness their potentials and make out something good for themselves. So disability cannot be and will never be an obstacle in spite of the enormous challenges we are facing.
Are you married?
Yes. I was married before my disability with one daughter Fatima. But, unfortunately, I got separated with Fatima’s mum in 2011. Then in 2014, I got married to a daughter of a former head of Service in Yobe State Government, Late Mohammed Goni Umar.
If Yes, How did you find your wife?
I married my present wife after my first wife whom I married before my disability left me as a result of my predicament. In fact, it was a very painful moment in my life trying to recover from my spinal cord injury, my wife left me. But the disappointment has turned a blessing. God substituted her with a younger and more beautiful one who is also from a highly respected family. She agreed and married me with my present condition. She is a graduate of Estate Management, lecturing at the Federal Polytechnic Damaturu. Her father was one of the respected figures in the State, and a man of his words. I did not face any challenge in marrying her. The only thing I heard was when some people contacted her father and asked him ‘BABA, do you know that the persons you are giving out your daughter for marriage is GURGU(a person with disability)?’. Then Baba said he was aware, and added ‘what happened to him can happen to anybody, he told them that he asked his daughter 3 times but she confirmed that she is in love with him. My own is to pray for them and may Allah bless their union, I have no objection’. Four months after our wedding, my wife’s father died after a brief illness. May his soul rest in perfect peace and may Allah bless him with jannatul firdaus. Ameen.
What are the challenges you faced in getting her to marry you?
I did not get any challenges in marrying my present wife Zarah Muhammad Umar.
As one who has been able to shake off disability, what advice do you have for persons with disabilities?
My words of advice to persons living with disabilities are that they should accept the reality; disability is not inability in any aspect of life. They should not allow the situation they find themselves to weigh them down. As you may already be aware, persons living with disabilities, physical, visual, learning related or otherwise, are perhaps the most marginalized and discriminated segment of our society today. They are often excluded/neglected from participating actively in the socio-economic and political growth of the nation. The common perception of disability intervention either on the side of governments, organizations and individuals is often in terms of charity and welfare, therefore to empower them to enable them build capacity and contribute their quota to the development of their immediate societies and self-actualization have so far become a mirage. This consequently portrays them as a liability to the society. Lastly, my advice to PWDs is that they should try their best to live an independent life. This is not to say that you will not ask for help when needed, but do not entirely depend on others for your daily survival. This will reduce the discrimination. More importantly ‘he who must have friends, must himself be friendly to forestall incidences of discrimination.’ Be friendly and always have a positive outlook.
What is your reaction on the state of a person with disability in Nigeria is it improving or declining, the bill, security and other national issues as it affect PWDs?
Nigeria as one of the Signatory members for the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities failed to meet up the expectation/aspirations of 28m PWDs in Nigeria, I am not happy with GEJ for not signing National Disability bill into law when it was passed by the 7th Assembly. If there is legislation all that we are advocating for; inclusion, discrimination free, accessibility to public building will be a lot easier. The bill is to protect our rights, give us direction and sense of belonging and self-reliance. The signing of disability bill into law will transform PWDs psychologically, physically, socially and on other National issues that affect PWDs. Therefore I am calling on the present administration that as part of the APC manifestation under section 22 is the quickest implementation of policy and passage of National Disability Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR. I am calling on the government to expedite action for the benefit and well being of 28m PWDs in Nigeria.
What is your career aspiration or rather life aspiration?
Reading and travelling
Parting words/Final words?
Information dissemination is very vital and also a backbone in any organization. The Qualitative magazine I believe is set up bridge the communication gap between PWDs and the nation building. It makes us proud as the media print organization that is communicating to the world about our plights and the way they affect us. I will suggest that the magazine should be distributed to all geo-political zones of the country to enable it reach every nooks and crannies of the country. Kudos to The Qualitative Magazine.