David Anyaele was born during the Nigeria-Biafran war at #63, Dikenafar Road, Aba into the family of Mr. &Mrs. Robert Anyaele Agwu of Amorji, Igbere Bende Local Government of Abia State. He spent his early life at Ngwa Road area of Aba where he attended Akoli Road Nursery School, Clifford Road Primary School, Wilcox Memorial Comprehensive Secondary School, Ogbor Hill Aba and later University of Education Winneba, Ghana.
He is a chartered member of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, a motivational speaker, activist and peer counselor and businessman (exporting and importing). Also, the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) is an organization of, and for persons with disabilities that works to promote human rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities and their families in development efforts. It was established in 2002 in Lagos and incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission Abuja as a charitable organization. We have over the past 15 years sought a redefinition of society’s perception of the plight of persons with disabilities. It seeks to realize its mandate through embarking on research, campaign and advocacy, peer group support, networking activities, and training/empowerment projects. The CCD’s mandate and objectives of the are: to protect, promote and safeguard the rights/privileges of persons with disabilities, and promote public enlightenment in civic education, human rights and public policy; to initiate and implement programs, policies and activities geared towards the promotion and enhancement of the welfare of persons with disabilities; to empower or assist empowering persons with disabilities and regularly assess the impact of public policy, human rights and report same through publication, seminar and workshop and lectures; to educate, sinusitis, counsel and mobilize persons with disabilities in various areas critical to their survival and progress and support and advocate for the respect for the rule of law and due process, among others.
We cannot deliver our mandate without collaboration. We have a close relationship with all the major cluster groups and association working on disability issues in Nigeria. Also, CCD is a member of the following organizations: Coalition of disability organizations, Nigerian Coalition on International Criminal Court, International Campaign Against Impunity, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Lagos State Civil Society Coalition, Citizens Forum For Constitutional Reform, Coalition for Issue-based Politics and Good Governance, Coalition of Nigerian Human rights CSOs on UPR, Africa Campaign on Disability and HIV/AIDS, UN Coalition Against Corruption among others.
He is happily married to Anne and they are blessed with two boys and a girl.
In this interview, he spoke about how he lost his limbs and the challenges thereafter.
TQ: Do you recall when your disability occurred and how it happened?
This year marks the 19th Anniversary of my limbloss. While visiting Freetown Sierra Leone, January 19, 1999 the RUF rebels of Sierra Leone chopped off my hands forcing me into disability community just because of my identity as a Nigerian.
I lost all in Freetown, I returned not just empty handed but without hand which is man’s greatest tool in life. I also lost friends and family relatives as a result of societal discrimination, stigma and isolation that are associated with living with disability.
It was a kind of a standing instruction from Charles Taylor that Nigerians must be thought a hard lesson on how not to dabbled into internal crisis of another nation, every Nigerian was, therefore, marked for murder or, at least, maiming to serve as an evidence that they were not welcomed like the soldiers of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), the military intervention force put together by West African leaders to restore peace to the war torn countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
One day, precisely January 19, myself and other residents received a gang of gun wielding youths as visitors and were duly informed that the visit was to carry out the instructions of Charles Taylor that Nigerians must either be killed or maimed.
I wanted to run, but one of the boys called me back. He first gave an order that I should be shot, but another one said no, that I should be sent to Nigerian government to go and tell the government that ECOMOG should stop attacking them. “He gave a fresh order that my hands be cut, so that I will go and show it to my country. I was to be shot, so I had to stretch my left hand and it was chopped off. When the guy wanted to fire me, I put forward my right hand and it was cut off, that was how I lost my two hands.
“After the two hands were severed, it was like they were still not satisfied, while I was crying to God for help, the rebels were annoyed, one of them poured fuel on me and set fire on me, until one of them said that they don’t want me to die, so that I could show my scare to my people as a testimony that they don’t want Nigeria’s intervention in their domestic affairs.”
It was by special grace of God that I was able to move from the scene of this incident Kissy bypass to Kissy Road where I was able to find roving United Nations Observation personnel. It was there that I was evacuated to Counghought Hospital.Late, the Nigeria contingents of ECOMOG were alerted about what happened to me, from there I was evacuated to Military Hospital in Freetown, where I got treatment before my evacuation to a safe point. By February 3, 1999, I was flown to Nigeria and taken straight to a military hospital Yaba, where I was treated and discharged on August 30, 1999 for rehabilitation.
TQ: Did your disability affect your education in any way?
It was a huge challenge, especially when I was writing my professional examination. In fact, I had to drop from the program due to hostile environment and bad attitude of examiners on my disability. I was encouraged by the program director to continue.
TQ: How did you fund your education?
My education was self-funded by at later days I got a kind of support from family and friends.
TQ: What are the other challenges you are facing presently in carrying out your daily activities?
My major challenge is the cost of procurement and maintenance of the assistive device which I am using. It cost me 42,000 Euro to fix my artificial hands, excluding flight ticket, feeding, accommodation for me and my personal assistant.
TQ: 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?
To improve the living conditions of persons with disabilities, there is the need to secure a legal framework that would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of disability. This is because; section 15 and 42 of the 1999 constitution is silent on discrimination of persons with disabilities. Also, it is important for states to take appropriate measure to protect persons with disabilities from harmful practices.
TQ: Please outline your achievements so far that you are living with disabilities?
I can’t count them. The most important thing here is that through my disability, I have been privileged to meet you and your team. God has been gracious to me and all I have needed HE has provided to HIS own glory.
TQ: What are the factors responsible for you recording so much success in spite of the enormous challenges?
Trust in God. The Bible I read teaches me to trust in the Lord with all my heart, in all my ways acknowledges HIM, and HE will direct my path.
TQ: Are you married?
TQ: If Yes, How did you find your wife?
I met my wife while worshipping at Maryland Seventh Day Adventist Church, Lagos, where I worship. She is a member of the singing group. After the ministration service, I started discussing and interacting with her, it was from there that we became very close friends.
TQ: What are the challenges you faced in getting her to marry you?
TQ: What are the challenges you faced in finding and keeping relationship?
I don’t struggle to find and keep relationship because I don’t go to relationship empty handed. I go into relationship with something that will benefit all.
TQ: As one who has been able to shake off disability, what advice do you have for other persons with disabilities?
Be strong and very courageous. The society is very hostile to pwds BUT with trust in God you will overcome.
TQ: 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?
You may be aware that the sixth legislative session of the National Assembly passed and harmonized the Nigeria Disability Bill 2009. The bill which seeks to ensure full integration of persons with disabilities into the society prohibits discrimination and harmful treatment against persons with disabilities. It also makes provision for the establishment of a National commission for Persons with Disabilities and vests it with the responsibility for their education, health care and protection of their social, economic and civil rights was the fourth bill passed in favour of Nigerians with disabilities since the advent of democratic rule in 1999. Regrettably, just like his predecessors, President Goodluck Jonathan refused assent to the bill reason that the bill provided for the setting up of a commission for disability affairs.
That notwithstanding, the current National Assembly has refreshed the process of securing a legislation that will project Nigerians with disabilities from discrimination and harmful practices. The House of Representatives has passed its own version while the House Senate had its public hearing on the bill on Wednesday March 6, 2013. The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in their contribution at the public hearing insists that the Commission is not desirable but requested for the strengthening of the Department of Rehabilitation, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (FMWASD)which is inconsistent with Article 33(2) of the UNCRPD which states as that “States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention”. The fear is that if adequate measure is not taken by the organizations of persons with disabilities, the FMWASD may kill this bill which our organization has classified as the only disability bill in the face of the earth with the highest gestation period as it has taken more than 10 years to secure a National disability law for Nigeria. I will like to call on the NASS to take adequate measure to ensure that a commission is provided on the bill. Also, President Goodluck Jonathan should ensure that his government protects the rights of persons with disabilities through signing of the bill into law. A country is not measured by the number of persons in their parliament but by the quality of life of weak and vulnerable members of the society like persons with disabilities.
TQ: What is your career aspiration or rather life aspiration?
To serve persons with disabilities better.
TQ: Parting words/Final words.
I like to commend your team for the quality work you are doing for Nigerians with disabilities, may God bless your efforts and supply all your needs to sustain this work. I thank you so much.