Despite losing my leg, I have no regret joining #EndSARS protest — HND holder

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Thirty-year-old HND holder from Edo State, Stephen Ohaima, whose leg was amputated after being allegedly shot by soldiers during October 2020 #EndSARS protest, tells OPEYEMI ADEFEMI that life has been a struggle for him

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Stephen Ohaima. I am from Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State. I am 30 years old. I am an HND holder from Auchi Polytechnic. I studied Business Administration.

How did you lose your limb?

I lost my limb in 2020. On October 19, 2020, I joined the nationwide EndSARS protest in Edo State. While we were on the protest ground, some men in military uniform invaded the place and started shooting at the protesters. I ran to take cover but I was hit by a bullet where I was hiding. No one knew I had been shot. After the soldiers had left and people were coming out of their hiding, I spotted a guy and shouted for help. The guy called other people, so, they came to pick me up and took to the hospital. The first hospital I was taken to rejected me; they said my case was beyond what they could handle. I was referred to a specialist hospital for immediate attention. Due to the roadblock and the unrest in town, I wasn’t taken to that hospital but to another one. The doctor at the hospital tried to stop the bleeding. He said I had lost so much blood and I had just four per cent blood left in me. They placed me on drip. It was discovered that the bullet in my leg had shattered my bone and destroyed the vein that supplies blood to that part of my body. So, my leg started having issues. From that hospital, I was taken to an orthopaedic hospital where they thought they could manage the leg but on the third day, after seeing that they couldn’t do much to manage the damaged vein, they referred me to another specialist hospital. At the new hospital, the doctor recommended immediate amputation so that I could survive. At that point, the unhealthy part of my leg was already affecting the healthy part. At that  point I had no option but to agree to the amputation.

How hard was it for you to agree to the amputation of your leg?

Honestly, it was really hard for me to accept but then the doctor said it was the safest option I had.

When the doctor first mentioned the amputation, I rejected it flatly but my pastor came to see me and told me all would be well. She persuaded me to let the doctors do their job as it was the best option for my survival because at that point it was already a matter of life and death. I felt very bad but I had no option but to give my consent.

When you realised that your leg was going to be amputated, did it make you regret joining the #EndSARS protest?

No, actually. I didn’t regret joining the protest. I know that I sometimes feel bad about my situation but I don’t regret joining the protest. I just believe that nothing happens without God’s knowledge or permission. I also believe that as citizens we have a right to protest and express our displeasure over unfavourable government policies or actions. It was wrong for the government to send soldiers to shoot at peaceful protesters. When I joined the protest, I never had the intention of arguing or fighting with anyone not to talk of  being shot. Sometimes I ask God why I am the person in this situation. I just had to brace up since I survived. Waking up every morning to realise that many things I used to do so seamlessly are now no longer possible for me; seeing myself with one leg really hurts me.

How did your family feel about the situation?

They feel bad. I had to console my dad and my sister because they were there when the amputation option was being discussed. They both didn’t want the amputation.

Are there people who try to blame you for joining the protest?

So many people have been blaming me. Some would say, “Who sent you to join the protest?” “No be you say you wan go protest?” “Na you know how you go take do your life o.’’ So many negative comments have been coming. But because, truly, no one sent me to the protest ground I just take whatever people say as one of those things. Most of these comments are so bad that they get me sad sometimes. As it is, I can’t even go to some of my friends’ houses to spend a few days. Some of them now see me as a liability. Some of them no longer want to associate with me. I just live my life the way I can now. If you don’t want to be my friend, I will let you be and continue my life.

Were you the only one who got injured during the attack by the soldiers?

When I was shot, I could not even think about any other person. I fell into a state where I could no not comprehend what was happening around me. It was a few days later, when I was at the hospital that I found out that somebody, who was also shot by the soldiers, had died. I also heard that there were some other people who sustained injuries like me. I know one of them. I saw him on the day of the first EndSARS memorial. Those are the only people I know.

What challenges have you been facing since you lost your limb?

A lot of challenges. Walking is a challenge, feeding is a challenge too. I am a graduate, so I have the responsibility of taking care of myself. I am not a child who can depend on parents. But after losing my limb, I am no longer able to do the little things I used to do to get money.

What kind of  job did you do before the incident?

Before then, I sometimes worked at construction sites; sometimes I worked as a motorcyclist or a tiler. After my ND, I went to work as a security guard in Abuja. I only came down to Auchi because I wanted to further my education. I was working as a caretaker in Auchi before this unfortunate incident.

What do you do now?

I am currently running a laundry business here in Auchi. It is situated inside the school but patronage is low because the location is hidden. I can’t afford a shop in open spaces yet. I don’t have such money. This is what I do now to get by.

Have you tried to look for job with your HND certificate?

 If I get a pen and paper job I will be thankful. I studied Business Administration. The leg I usually used to support myself is no longer there. Sitting to work will actually be a good idea. I also hope to expand my business and start a family.

Has anyone ever discriminated against you?

Yes and no. Some feel people like they can’t talk or have a conversation with me because of my situation and that what I say doesn’t matter and no one would want to listen. In some other places,  I am accepted and we flow smoothly. My motivation is that as long as I breathe, I will definitely make it in life. I look at the like of singer (Yinka) Ayefele and he is just a motivation to me. He is doing well in his craft and life.

Did you take any steps to get justice for being shot by soldiers?

Till now I don’t know the person that ordered the guys in military uniform to come and shoot at us on that day and we have not been able to provide a concrete evidence that they are from the government. After a panel of enquiry was set up to investigate the issue, nothing has been done. No one has taken responsibility for giving the shooting order. I don’t have anything against anyone.  I just want Nigeria to be a safe place for everyone.

What would be the Nigeria of your dream?

The Nigeria I hope for is one where government will serve the people and public office holders will understand that they were elected for a purpose. I hope for a Nigeria where the youths will have a say and there will be job opportunities. I want a Nigeria where there are no killings and hatred. I want a Nigeria where the citizens can live quality life.

 The government has denied what happened and I don’t expect much from them either. Only if they had acknowledged that this really happened.

What was the government’s response to the incident?

The Deputy Governor of Edo State visited me and gave me  N100,000 while I was in the hospital. He told me he would settle the hospital bill. He gave me his PA’s  phone number to call anytime I needed something but in the long run, different stories began to come up. When the need came for me to buy drugs, injections and pay my hospital bill, I would call the number and the response I got each time was that the Deputy Governor was busy or that he was not around. There were some drugs that the hospital didn’t provide and I had to go out to buy them. The day I was to be discharged I was given my hospital bill, which amounted to about N300, 000 . I was told  that I should place a call to the PA of the Deputy Governor but she told me Oga was busy.  After that I kept calling and I was told to give the phone to the Chief  Medical Director. On getting to his office, he told me that it was not proper for him to call the DG since he was the one that needed a favour from him. The CMD told me to tell the DG to call his office directly. After all, he had access to his number.  That was how I tried everything I could to make sure the DG contacted the CMD but he didn’t. Because I was an EndSARS victim, the CMD sympathised with me and said since I had been able to settle some of my bills and bought my medications, I should go. He said if the DG pays he would be glad but if not, there was no problem.  Out of his own goodwill, I was discharged without paying the rest of my bill. Another friend of mine who lives abroad bought a prosthesis for me. But at the moment the type of prosthesis I have is not suitable for someone like me. When I went to make enquiries to see if I can upgrade the one I have, I was told that because I am an active person the type I need is almost N1.8m. I also have to get a knee and some other things. For me to get a good one, I will need a lot of money. I walk about doing one or two things to earn a living, hence the need for me to upgrade my prosthesis.

What advice do you have for people living with disabilities?

My advice for them is for them to stay strong and be determined. With determination one will make it in life. They should never be discouraged in any way. What people say about them dose not really matter. It is what they think and say about themselves that matters .