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Robbers plucked out my eyes because I had no money to give them, says 49-year-old PhD holder living with blindness

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Dr. Michael Ebonhor was not born blind but lost his two eyes at the age of 23, when armed robbers attacked him and plucked out his eyes. The Guidance Counsellor shares with ANGELA ONWUZOO his traumatic experience and how he refused to allow disability to rob him of his dream of becoming a PhD holder.

July 20, 1995 remains a day Dr. Michael Ebonhor will not forget in a hurry. It was a sad and horrific day for him. It was a day that armed robbers plunged him into a world of darkness by plucking out his two eyes, simply because he had no money to give them when they came to rob his neighbourhood.

The robbers, numbering about six, had struck that fateful day and raided his room when he was a 200-level Geography and Social Studies student at the Tai Solarin College of Education (now Tai Solarin University of Education) , Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.

While Ebonhor’s roommate was lucky to have escaped the furry of the robbers who had come with dangerous weapons, including guns and machetes by running away, the Delta State indigene was not that lucky, as the robbers descended on him for not having money to give to them.

The horrific experience was made more traumatic because he was the one struggling to pay his school fees and fend for himself while schooling. He was working part-time as a bus conductor as a student.

Ebonhor, however, even after the unfortunate encounter with the robbers, vowed not to let his loss of sight truncate his dream of becoming a PhD holder.

Although Ebonhor’s blindness was shocking and sudden and was greeted with sadness by his family, the father of two said he has overcome the regret of losing his sight in such a manner, noting that he has no bitterness for the robbers that blinded him. He said will even forgive his assailants if they are eventually arrested by the police.

 I was the only one injured because I had no money

Sharing his traumatic experience with PUNCH HealthWise, Ebonhor who is now a Guidance Counselling Officer with the Federal Ministry of Education, Ogun State, said, “I was not born blind. It happened on July 20, 1995. Then, I was 23 and a 200 level student of Tai Solarin College of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. I was studying Geography and Social Studies at the college and was living off-campus.

“So, that fateful night, a group of armed robbers came to our neighbourhood and raided about six buildings. My building was the fifth that they raided.

When they entered my room, they demanded money. I had a roommate and he was the first person to be dragged out by the robbers. But he was able to escape. When they pursued him up to a distance and could not get him, they came back for me and I didn’t have money to give them.

“When they could not find anything, they asked me to come out and lay on the ground. I was surrounded by six men. Two were holding guns, two were holding cutlasses and the other two were holding an iron.

They used the guns to hit me on the head and used a machete to torture me and in the end, they plucked out my two eyes.

Sadly, I was the only one that was injured during that robbery attack. Those of them that had money and gave it to them were not injured. They were not hurt.”

 I was unconscious for hours after my eyes were plucked out

Ebonhor told our correspondent that he nearly lost his life during the attack as he became unconscious for several hours before help came his way.

More traumatic was when he woke up and saw darkness everywhere, wondering how he would sojourn in life without sight in his prime.

“In the morning, my neighbours took me to a nearby hospital where I was given first aid and later I was transferred to the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, Ogun State.

“I was hospitalised for six months. When the attack happened, I became unconscious. But after some hours, I woke up. So, when I woke up, I saw total darkness and when I realised that my two eyes were gone, I was so devastated.

“Initially, the doctors would come and tell me not to worry, assuring me that all would be well.

“When I asked the chief consultant about my fate, she kept telling me all would be fine. But to what extent, she could not answer.

“Now, there was a day I was taken to the bathroom by a nurse and I hit my shoulder on the wall. That made me shed tears. I just wondered how somebody that was agile and independent would suddenly be led by people here and there. I just imagined how I would be relying on people for my movement.

“So, I asked the doctor after that experience if my eyes would function again and he wondered what brought about the question. I told him that someone wanted to donate an eye for me.

“It was then that the doctor told me that he had to be frank with me, that my eyes were gone and there was no remedy.

“He told me that even if someone donated an eye for me to see again, the nerves connecting my eyes and the brain had been damaged.

“So, nobody can donate an eye for me that will work”, Ebonhor narrated.

 I prayed for four days and God asked me to forgive the robbers

He went on, “At that moment, my emotions dropped. For the next two days, I stopped taking my drugs in the hospital. I was not eating regularly.

“From the report, the chief matron had to send for my pastor. The pastor came and with a lot of religious counselling, my mood started changing for good. He asked me to pray to God and ask why the robbery attack happened.

“So, I prayed for four days and the inspiration came. And God asked me to forgive my assailants. From that moment, my mood changed and I forgave them, since God wanted me to forgive them. From the moment I did so, I started getting support from students and staff of Tai Solarin College of Education – my school. And that saved me from an extreme reaction.

“The college rose in support for me. When the incident happened, it was reported to the Odogbolu Police Division in Ogun State and the police conducted series of investigations. But, to date, no arrest has been made. Even if the assailants were arrested today, I would forgive and preach Christ to them.”

Journey of coping with blindness

Six months after the guidance counsellor was discharged from OOUTH, he was sent to a special school for rehabilitation, to enable him to cope with his new phase of life and to be able to live independently again with the right support.

He said, “After I was taken care of medically at the teaching hospital, I went for rehabilitation at the Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo State where I learnt how to do my chores and live independently again despite the disability.

“The college authority kept on visiting me from time to time. And they facilitated the movement of my transcript from the college (TASUED) to Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo State.

“They supported me with money also. Basically, I can say that their support is what has been keeping me going.”

Ebonhor said he vowed not to allow the sad incident to stop his journey of education halfway, even as the unfortunate development brought pain to his parents who had been happy that he overcame poverty to send himself to school.

 My blindness brought sadness to my parents

“My parents felt so bad about it. They were not happy. They felt that as a hard-working and jovial young man, I would now depend on others to survive. They felt I would not be able to continue with my education. So, it brought a lot of sadness to them,” he added.

Continuing, Ebonhor said, “When I finished the rehabilitation in Oyo State, my transcript had to be transferred from Tai Solarin College of Education to Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo State, where I completed my National Certificate in Education in Social Studies in 1998.

“From there, I proceeded to Olabisi Onabanjo University, where I did Guidance and Counselling in Education. From there, I proceeded for my masters in 2003.

“In 2007, I commenced my PhD programme in Applied Psychology in OOU. By 2014, I had completed the programme. After that, I got a job with the Federal Ministry of Education between 2015 and 2016. But before then, I was working as a Guidance Counsellor at Mayflower School, in Okene, Kogi State. It has been my dream to have a “doctor” attached to my name and I am happy that my dream has come true, despite living with a disability.”

Getting married was not easy, I suffered rejection

Speaking about his marital life, the guidance counsellor who is also Chairman, Employment Committee, Nigeria Association of the Blind, said getting married was not easy for him as he suffered a lot of rejection from the ladies he approached as a result of his vision loss.

He, however, succeeded in 2005 after several unwavering efforts.

“Getting married was not easy. I got married in 2005. Prior to that time, I had approached some ladies for marriage but it didn’t work out as a result of rejection, owing to my disability.

“I suffered a lot of rejection. But I met my wife in Mayflower School,in 2003, where I was working as a Guidance Counsellor. She teaches in that school and isn’t living with a disability.

“Sometimes, when I was going to work, she would side-guide me and that was how we developed an interest in each other. My wife is from Oyo State. By the grace of God, the marriage has been doing fine and we have two kids,” he said.

Disability does not give me any cause for regret 

Asked if he has any regret in life, occasioned by his sudden blindness, Ebonhor noted, “The only regret I have concerning this disability is my inability to play football. That is the only thing. As I am here now, I am into farming. There is nothing that able people can do that I cannot do, except driving.

“Disability does not give me any cause for regret but rather I feel that it has made me who I am today. It’s a blessing in disguise for me. Why am I saying this? Prior to my blindness, I used to come to Lagos from Tai Solarin College of Education to come and work as a bus conductor before I could pay my school fees.

“I started doing that from junior secondary school because my parents had no money to pay my school fees and I had vowed to go to school. So, I am happy that my dream finally came true, despite all odds.”

Punch Healthwise

Health

86% of COVID-19 infections in Africa go unnoticed – WHO

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About 86 per cent of all coronavirus infections in Africa go unnoticed, the World Health Organization reported on Thursday.

The WHO puts the number of all infections on the continent at 59 million, over seven times more than the eight million reported cases.

It said: “The high number of unreported cases can be explained by the fact that health facilities have so far focused on testing people. People with symptoms of the disease has led to extensive under-reporting.”

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said with limited testing, the continent is flying blind in far too many communities.

“By comparison, the United States, with about a third of the population, had conducted more than 550 million tests.

“While Britain, with less than 10 per cent of Africa’s population, had conducted more than 280 million tests.”

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In total, more than 8.4 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in Africa, including 214,000 deaths.

According to WHO data, less than half of the African countries that received vaccines have fully vaccinated an average of about two per cent of their population.

dpa/NAN. “By comparison, the United States, with about a third of the population, had conducted more than 550 million tests.

“While Britain, with less than 10 per cent of Africa’s population, had conducted more than 280 million tests.”

In total, more than 8.4 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in Africa, including 214,000 deaths.

According to WHO data, less than half of the African countries that received vaccines have fully vaccinated an average of about two per cent of their population.

dpa/NAN.

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Entertainment

BBNaija winner, Whitemoney hospitalized in Lagos

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Winner of the 2021 Big Brother Naija, BBNaija, reality TV show, WhiteMoney, has been hospitalized.

 

WhiteMoney was hospitalized on Tuesday morning.

 

Although the cause of his illness was not revealed, he was sighted on drips.

 

Alongside an Instagram video of the 29-year old receiving treatment was a caption that read, ”Good morning, break in transmission. We will be back shortly.”

BBNaija finalists have been going for media rounds since their exit from the house. His tight schedule may be responsible for his breakdown.

 

WhiteMoney emerged winner of the ‘Shine ya Eye edition’ ahead of Liquorose, Pere, Cross, Angel and Emmanuel on the final day of the show.

 

He walked away with N30million in cash and prizes adding up to N60million.

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Health

FG stopped residency payment after strike suspension – NARD

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FRESH crisis may be brewing between the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors and the Federal Government as the association accused the government of already deviating from the understanding reached before it suspended its strike last week.

This was as the association also accused the government of causing confusion among its members and suspending the payment of the Medical Residency Training Funds

The National President of NARD, Dr Dare Ishaya, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja on Monday.

But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said there was no truth in the claim

The PUNCH had reported last week that the association, after interventions by the Nigerian Medical Association, suspended its industrial action with the aim of holding a meeting of the National Executive Committee to review the activities of the Federal Government six weeks after.

The NARD commenced its industrial action on August 2, 2021.

Sources familiar with the matter told our correspondent on Monday that since the association suspended its industrial action, the Federal Government stopped the payment of the medical residency training fund which it commenced before the strike was suspended.

“They paid 20 centres before we suspended the strike and they promised they would pay everything immediately we suspend the strike and the salary arrears.

“But the moment we suspended the strike, till now, we have not heard anything from them. Thirty-four centres have not been paid (medical residency training fund) and salary arrears, even the one for August and September have not been paid,” one of the sources said.

The National President of NARD, Ishaya, confirmed the development.

However, Ngige confirmed the aspect of non-payment of salaries, saying the case was still in court while government was working towards an out-of-court settlement.

He said the striking doctors would not be paid for the months they did not work.

On the residency fund, the minister said the payment was suspended because some individuals who were not resident doctors were paid.

The minister said, “Do you pay somebody who didn’t work in August, September? The truth of the matter is that the August and September salary is a matter that is still in court. So, when we go to court, we will try to see if we can do out-of-court settlement. But for now, nothing like payment.

Punch

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