Obasanjo caused my spinal cord injury—Maureen Okorafor, ex-corps member

With a heavy heart and emotion-laden voice, Miss Maureen Okorafor, a 29-year-old Zoology graduate of the University of Ibadan, narrated how the convoy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on February 21, 2005 caused an accident that led to her spiral cord injury thereby shattering her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
Okorafor, a pretty light skinned and intelligent lady, believed so much in putting smiles on the faces of people around her. While graduating in 2004, she conceived an idea of becoming an entrepreneur after her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in order to be able to provide jobs for many Nigerians, but fate has dealt a big blow on her as the service year turned to be a sad adventure and placed her on a wheel chair in the last five years. This is as a result of the encounter she had with Obasanjo’s convoy.

Maureen, who hails from Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State, revealed that because of the tragic incident that has led to her partial paralysis she has changed her name from Maureen to Mitchell so as to forget the ugly past.

After series of medical treatment from teaching and private hospitals, respite is yet to come the way of Maureen. Now she is desirous of walking on her feet again. She believes her injury can be treated in Indian where she has made contacts with some hospitals.

The Zoology graduate is now passionately appealing to Nigerians to assist her with the sum of N3 million for surgery in India believing the treatment would bring succour to her.
Below is her account:

How it happened

I was involved in a motor accident on February 21, 2005 while travelling from Abuja to Jos during my service year. I was serving then in Jos North, Plateau State.
On that day I went for the wedding of a corps member friend in Abuja. It was on our way back from Abuja to Jos that the accident took place in the outskirt of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). On that day, the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his convoy were passing and every vehicle was forced to leave the road because the presidential convoy was passing. We left the road and packed our vehicle, but in the process, the driver of a trailer behind us lost control and bashed into our Station Wagon car which was parked beside the expressway. There were a lot of casualties in the accident. The three passengers at the back died instantly while the remaining people in the commercial vehicle sustained various degrees of injuries. I and my friend sat at the centre of the car. My friend survived the accident with minor injuries.
I became unconscious right from the spot and from there I was taking to various clinics and hospitals. Later, I didn’t even know what happened until I came to life after being unconscious for 14 days. While I was unconscious for 14 days, my mother, cousins in the North and many people have come to see me after which I was taken to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, Abuja. I was there for some days and it was after four days the doctor told me that I have a spinal cord injury but they didn’t know the gravity of the injury because they didn’t have the equipment to determine that.
My consultant told me to choose an orthopaedic hospital in Nigeria, either the one in Igbobi, Lagos; Kano or Enugu. I chose Enugu considering that I have people around me in the South-East. So, I went to Enugu and it was there they discovered the effect of the injury as a partial paralysis. After that I was on medication for a long time till I was discharged from the hospital. I was actually going there until I started my trado-medical treatment.
The unfortunate thing is that when the accident happened, the presidential convoy just passed us by. It was a drastic accident that no passer-by could have ignored.

My feeling about Obasanjo

 

I believe if the presidential convoy had not passed, that accident wouldn’t have happened. Ordinarily, we would be going our way without being asked to pack without any trailer bashing into our car. So, it was Obasanjo’s presidential convoy that caused the accident.

Sincerely, I don’t feel good about Obasanjo even though he didn’t know about the fate that has befallen me, but he was the cause of the accident. That is why I don’t like seeing his face on TV and on the pages of newspapers or even listen to his voice on radio. Although as a child of God, I have forgiven him but the incident is an unpleasant thing. If I can see him face to face, I will tell him what his convoy had done to me. His convoy caused the accident that left me with the spinal cord injury. That is the truth. Seeing his face reminds me of the agony he has caused me. Though he might have not known about my ordeal, but it is a painful thing for me and I don’t really like it.
NYSC’s reaction

The incident happened during my service year, about six months to our passing-out parade, which was held in August. Some NYSC officials were notified about my condition, but they refused to do anything on the account that I didn’t take permission before I travelled to Abuja. They were not really involved in it; they just felt like it does not concern them and saw the whole incident as my business.
Betrayal by some NYSC officials

While I was in the hospital, the management of the NYSC was paying my allowance but I was using it to settle the NYSC officials so that I could get my discharge certificate. The management of NYSC was supposed to pay my allowance into my account but they didn’t pay it, therefore somebody was collecting it and he would later give it to one of the officials who knew about my accident. The friend with whom I travelled was luckier in the accident because she didn’t sustain serious injury. She was the one helping me to settle some NYSC officials, and at end of the service year in August, she was the one that collected my discharge certificate and gave it to my cousin that brought it to me.

No room for resistance
I actually informed the officials at the local government level but the authority at the state level may not likely have known about my accident then. I thought it was only some few officials that knew about it and we had to tip them in order for me to have my discharge certificate. I had no option than to cooperate in using my allowance to settle the NYSC officials; it is not official. The man was told about the accident but he kept collecting my allowance. I needed my certificate and that was why I parted with my allowance. I strongly believe the management of the NYSC was not in the known. Since that incident, I have not been to Jos.

Survival
The doctor told me that I was going to be in wheel chair all the rest of my life but I said no; I don’t want to be confined to the wheel chair. I refused it from the first day because I was not made for that kind of a thing. I believe God and I told Him that I didn’t want to be in wheel chair for long. It was even through miracle, not medically that I even survived. At a time, there was no sensation from my heap to my legs. No sensation there; it was dead as firewood but with time I began to improve and become better and better. Now I have sensation, when somebody touches me I know, I feel it when something is hot or cold, then the strength is renewed and I am actually getting better now. I am on a lot of physiotherapy drugs and the remedy now is; travelling to India for surgery.

Awaiting solution
One of my aunties recommended the India surgery to me. She said one of her tenants had a spinal cord surgery in India. She said the tenant had a spinal cord injury and she could not walk for about five years. She was confined to wheel chair but he was able to go to India and now he is walking. So, we contacted him and she said we have to talk to a consultant. We got to the consultant and he said the expenses will be between N2.5 million and N3million to have the operation in India. He assured us that if I had the operation, I will be fine. I have made contact with one of the three hospitals recommended and I was told to send my x-ray to them.

Appeal to Nigerians
I want to be on my feet again. That is my first wish in life now. I have really missed walking. I want to be back on my feet. I want to be myself again. I am appealing to people to help me raise the N3million because I need the money for this operation. It is very important because it is like having my life back. I believe God that He will use people to restore my mobility to me.

My ambition

My ambition is to become a reputable entrepreneur because I like doing my own things. During my NYSC, I thought of venturing into personal business after I would have worked in some organizations. If not for the tragic event, by now I would have got a job, raise a capital and do the things which I really wanted to do. I wanted to go for my Masters degree programme abroad. I wanted to start my personal business because I have this mentality of being self-employed. I have my dreams and aspirations. I believe I have this global thinking in me that I can assist a lot of people by employing them because I wanted to set up my own company and have people working under me. Then I will go for my Masters abroad, after which I will come back and get married and be a relevant person in the society and help build a better Nigeria because I believe Nigeria is one of the best countries in the world.

The impact on her relationship
I was in a serious relationship before the accident, but he ended it because of the accident. He couldn’t wait, he gave up on himself. After the accident, he didn’t stay with me for more than six months before he left. Thereafter, he used to call me once in a month, later once in six months and it finally turned to about once in a year. That is not the kind of a man I want. I want somebody that will love me for who I am but not somebody that will love me because I am beautiful or anything. I want somebody that will be there for me always. Then he wasn’t born again too. I actually told him to leave and I don’t regret it.
Pains and regrets

I hate to regret things. The only thing I don’t like about the whole thing is that this terrible thing could happen to somebody like me. It is like you have a lot of love and aspiration, all of a sudden something terrible just happens to change the course of your destiny. I didn’t understand the gravity of what has happened to me for about a year or two. But God has been there and he has been faithful. The only thing I hate is that I am in wheel chair; I hate to depend on people because I am an independent person. I hate the fact that I have to depend on people now to do one thing or the other. I don’t like it. I want to be independent again and be myself – how God has created me.
Whereabouts of the friend I attended her wedding

The person that I attended her wedding in Abuja heard about the incident but she didn’t come to see me in the hospital; she only spoke to me on the telephone. I don’t know where she is now. I heard last from her about two or three years ago.
Faith
I have faith that I will walk again, perfectly and normally. I am not going to live the rest of my life this way because I am not meant for the wheel chair. I am going to walk perfectly again. I know so and I believe so. I know it must materialize because God cannot lie.
New man in her life
I am presently engaged to somebody; he is even ready to marry me. He is faithful and committed. I don’t know why he has not run away. He is a child of God and he knows that there is nothing God cannot do. At present, he is joining his faith with me and we believe God that I will walk on my feet again.

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