Sopeju’s footsteps

•Cerebral palsy patient who bagged a university degree shows disability is no obstacle

His is a model for triumph over misanthropic nature. It all came into the open when Joshua Sopeju graduated in computer science at the National Open University of Nigeria in Abuja. He was a standout because he did not allow his disability of cerebral palsy to cripple his goal to earn a bachelor of science degree.

The qualities of cerebral palsy are anathema to full rigours of a university education: a group of permanent movement disorders with such symptoms as poor coordination, stiff and weak muscles as well as tremors.

Sopeju has lived with this since childhood for 30 years. For a university degree of a four-year schedule, he bore the burden through gruelling eight years. He never relented even though at one point he felt like “giving up.” For a person who had to go through such a backbreaking exercise and to pull it through cast a big slur on all the mendicants and other persons displaying their medical cases as excuses for indolence on our streets.

His sister who witnessed his ordeal through childhood revealed her ecstatic joy on social media: hear her: “For 30 years, you lived with cerebral palsy. Yet, you didn’t give up. Yours was a case of prolonged labour. As an infant, it took you almost a whole day to utter your first cry. I remember how we, your siblings, took turns to carry you on our backs to church and school. Our backs ached as you grew older. But we carried you all the same. We took turns to bath you, clean up and get you set for the day.”

What her sister, Mrs. Mojola Sopeju-Mufutau related is a window on not only the sufferings of the patients of such disability but of other such handicaps across the country. It also expresses the quiet heroisms of the families who care for the disadvantaged among them. His parents, Pastor Victor Sopeju, a former National Youth Coordinator of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, and his mother Grace Sopeju, deserve high commendations.

As she relates, she, his younger sister left him behind even though both of them wrote Common Entrance Examination together and moved to secondary school also together. “I remember when reality set in and Samuel gained admission into the university. You were alone, afterwards; staying indoors for 14 years. But you were strong. Now see how you have made us proud.”

If families can do it, the society should even do better by forcing governments to amass resources to enhance the lives and dreams of the disabled among us. The nation witnessed that recently in Nasarawa State when Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura built a special school for the disabled of a variety of afflictions in primary and secondary schools and it is for free.

Sopeju’s own narrative of his experience in school is breathtaking. “I was born with cerebral palsy,” he emphasises, which affected my psycho-motor. But it did not affect my intelligence.” He said he opted for computer science because he liked “to play games,” as a boy. Yet it was no easy engagement studying computers.

“The greatest challenge was movement,” he narrated, “It prevented me from having access to my facilities. I was not able to ask them questions about the things I didn’t understand. As a result, I had to depend on my course outlines and on personal research.” So arduous it was that “I felt like giving up.”

He revealed something education policy makers should take to heart: “If you add up all the money they (his parents) spent on me to graduate from school, it is enough to finance the education of three or four children up to the university. This is what I call sacrifice.”

If his parents made the sacrifice and Sopeju never gave up, we should follow in their glorious footsteps.


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Author: Editorial