My name is Meshach Solomon Ogenefego, I am from Delta State, Isoko precisely. I am married. I have two children: a boy and a girl. I met my wife seventeen years ago shortly after secondary school. Her elder sister was a teacher in the school I worked as a school bus conductor. You know that holiday job, that after school job, ehn ehn. So, I got fond of her two girls. One of the days, I went to visit her and I met her younger sister (my wife). Somehow, there was Physics, Chemistry and Biology.… Lol!
I wasn’t born blind. It all started when I was thirteen or I noticed it when I was in JSS 3. I used to be a very ferocious reader but I started having issues with my eyes and reading was becoming difficult. One thing I know then was I couldn’t tell my mum about it because I had just lost my father. She was still trying to get over that trauma so I just kept it to myself. One day, my principal called my mum and told her they needed to see her in school. They didn’t tell her why they wanted to see her. So, when she came in, what I didn’t want to see happened. She burst into tears and kept asking why terrible things were just happening to her. Two weeks later, she took me to the hospital and I was told I had glaucoma. Glaucoma is a blinding disease. If it’s detected enough, it can be stopped but the damage can’t be reversed.
In 1996, the doctors asked me to do a surgery that will cost #20,000. Unfortunately, we couldn’t gather enough money for it. In 1999, three years later, we were able to gather the money but they told me it was too late. I remember the first day the doctor gave me the diagnosis. He said to me ‘You will never be able to see again’. I tell you I went blind immediately. I left my house seeing but I walked home blind. Coming back home, my mum picked a bus somewhere else, trying to go get money for surgery so, I was to go home by myself. I got to Cele- Express, and crossed that pedestrian bridge seven times. I wasn’t seeing anymore. What kept pounding in my head was ‘You will never be able to see again’. The seventh time, I came down from the bridge and tears rolled down from eyes. So, I approached someone to help me get a bus to Ikotun and he said ‘We’ve been watching you as you have been moving over the bridge’. it’s on the other side. So, I climbed again the eighth time and walked to the bus myself without any help. But you know, that moment, I was in shreds. I couldn’t help weeping because I thought it was over.
Another high point of my experience was in 2009 when I had a deadly bike accident. I said to myself after being unconscious for about four hours why didn’t I just die? Again, I was diagnosed of hypertension and diabetes and I was like how come I’m not dying? This was between July and September the same year. In 2010, I had another deadly accident along Ori-Oke bridge. This time, it was my left knee and the prediction was that I was never going to walk again. And when people came saying sorry to me where I was, I was like I don’t see why people should be sorry for me. If God took the eyes and He thinks that the leg is the next thing, maybe He should just take all of them one by one. But the truth is this, it won’t change what I feel for Him because I had let go of worries at this time and I had become strong in God. I also remember that in 2004, May 11, fire destroyed our house and destroyed everything that I had including my certificates and the things I was buying to make a house. You know, it was like one step forward and ten steps backward. But somehow, I managed to draw out confidence in Him.
And I usually say something, I heard this quote from one of my mentors Bishop David Oyedepo ‘If you have lost something, God is the reason why you haven’t lost everything’. My pastor Sam Adeyemi would say the same thing‘If you have lost something, God is the reason why you haven’t lost everything’. Everything doesn’t go down the same time, there must be something up. Find that thing that is up. I was able to find the courage in me to pick up again.
I resumed work in 2000 or 2001 and I just had to cope. You know how it is as a man, you need to make money, take care of some bills, etc. I had to do something. So, the bus conductor job was the available job for me at that time. It was in this condition I met my wife. From day one, I told her ‘Please, this young man would go blind some day’. She had issues comprehending that. Her faith or our faith as Christians…it didn’t go down well with anybody. But I knew I had to sensitize her. She needed to know at the time that it was something that was going to happen eventually. We grew prepared together. When I finally lost my sight in 2006, I remember I picked up my phone that morning and said ‘Ke… I finally lost it, I can’t find it any more’. Even though we weren’t married, we were ready to face it together. We met in 2000 and got married in 2010. We had a lot of turbulence. A lot of people tried to make her change her mind but thank God, we stuck together.
In 2003, I put in for a Diploma in Communication at Lagos State University and I finished with a lower credit in 2005. I was very dissatisfied. I just felt like it wasn’t because I didn’t know what I was doing or have the knowledge but I just didn’t have the best sight or skill to communicate my knowledge. In February 2006, I walked that morning and fell into a ditch that had just been dug over the weekend. I didn’t know the pit was there. It was very early in the morning between 6 and 7 am. The driver of the bus was sleeping. After I came down from the bus, he slept off. So, I was in that pit for about an hour and my phone was completely drenched. So, the lady whose child I was to pick that morning became worried, she kept saying what’s happening? When she came out of her house, I heard her voice where I was and screamed. In fact, that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
After that experience, I decided to go to a rehabilitation centre. It was at that rehab I picked up skills like typewriting, how to use a system, a phone and all of that. It was a whole new phase for me, the phase where I had to learn, un-learn and re-learn like learning to read abc, 123 and how to communicate with people differently. Right now, my head is expanding. I have a couple of phone numbers in my head. I also have a speech software in my phone and computer. I operate my computer like every other person all it takes for me is to activate my software.
I remember one of my lecturers, Mrs Odunayo Amao, at the rehabilitation centre one morning on the assembly because we used to gather every morning before going to class, said ‘Have you ever thought of what life would be like after the centre? For some of you, you have one year, for some of you, you have two years’ and I had one year. ‘ What exactly would you be doing?’ It wasn’t the first time I would hear those words but I think it just time for me to hear them that day. I didn’t go to class. I went back to my room and I was sobbing. Like for crying out loud, for the first time in my whole life, I never thought of what life would be like after rehab or what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to become an engineer but the blindness was excuse for me. I changed my decision of becoming an engineer to becoming an agricultural economist. Yet, I did so well in Agric but didn’t remember to check that I needed to do Chemistry to become one. Now, blindness again. For a long time, blindness was an excuse for me. When I went to LASU for Diploma in Communication, I just wanted to do something. At that point, my orientation changed and I realized I needed to do something with my life. So, I enrolled for a degree in Mass Communication same school and I decided to pick up a skill, it was weaving bags. Every other blind person was weaving but I needed to do something different. I picked up styles.
Exposure was another thing for me. I knew that everywhere I went, I would sell at least a bag. By God’s grace in 2008, I hit my first 500 bags. That was a record that no blind person at a time in the area had. I decided to teach people how to make bags. I decided to make slippers out of this same material. I decided to make purses out of this same material…. something stylish, something different from the usual. So, I was invited to Nigerian Television Fashion Show by Galaxy Television. My things were on the run way for a while. Maybe it was because of the television exposure or because I studied Mass Communication, I was able to explode fast. A lot of TV, radio and newspaper interviews made it work so much for me. In fact, I dare say that the major income I had at a time was from making those things. I had customers I never met till date. We only had to speak on phone, connected on Facebook. Social media was another platform that helped me a lot.
Today, I boldly sit in this chair as the administrator of a school. Today, I boldly manage the team of thirty staff and more. Today, I boldly manage a team that controls over three hundred and fifty students. I can boldly talk about a growing empire only because I found a part of me that was useful to making life relevant. For me, it’s not about me but people. Today, I did not just finish from secondary school or do communication studies. I discovered that there is a part of me that yearned for management. So, I picked up courses in Communication Technology and Business Enterprises at Peacock College in the UK, 2013. I did another one that same year in People Management and Supervision. So, I have this passion for leadership and management and that’s what I’m following till date. The major drive for me now is that I don’t want to let everybody down. It’s not about me again but people. I don’t know if I would wish to see again. I have lived about 20 years of my life being blind and have achieved a lot than when I could see.