I can’t afford to be emotional about my person – 45-year-old disabled accountant, husband and father

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Contracted June 2nd 2012, guests at their wedding betted that the marriage was for the moment, that reality will hit the lady and she will walk out. Our features desk located the physically challenged accountant and his lovely wife to usher our readers into the New Year’s delight and lo, he found the couple are now parents!

John Sunmonu is an accountant with Freedom Park in Victoria Island for three years on. The physically challenged young man caused a stir in 2012 when he walked down the isle on his hands, refusing a wheelchair to say ‘I do’ to with lanky Ruth, also an accountant, at the marriage altar.

Speculations trailed the marriage with guests expressing fear for the young lady and other betting that the marriage won’t go the distance.

His disability

John was not born disabled; a freak feverish symptom mishandled by some hospital staff resulted in this permanent disability.

Of this he said, “I was about one year old, or a little more, according to the account of my mother; I was trying to walk like any other normal child would do; but there was this illness I had and because of lack of proper care, it resulted in my inability to use my two legs.

“I don’t really know what the illness was; I was just told it was an illness that took me to the hospital; I was given an injection and I reacted to it as a child and it resulted to this. It happened in Lagos here.

Born on October 6th, 1970, John calculated and expressed surprise; “How time flies, I am actually over 45 years old!”

Coping with the society

“Well, society itself is the place that motivated me to where I am now. Coping with society is like learning from the society to be the best I can because society throws a lot of challenges to you, especially if you are physically challenged.

“So as an individual I have to make use of the challenges to bring out your best so that society will not say, because he is like this that’s why I could not make it in life; but they could say it the other way round that despite the fact that he’s like this, he’s still pulling through.

“Also society has people with different ideas, thinking and different mentality; every day they want to portray those attitudes to you to see what your reaction would be, but knowing the kind of society I belong to, I always brace myself to take up those challenges, work with them to bring out the best in me.

“For example going to and fro my office, I meet all sorts of people that react to me in different ways. There are many people that give me alms and when I reject it they feel embarrassed; and this makes some of them to say ‘ah, what’s wrong with this one: are you not begging?’

“They just want to force you to talk, to react, but I have come to realise that if I react, it gives them something more to talk about, like they would say: okay, it’s because he’s like this that’s why he’s reacting like that; they feel I am, or could be violent.”

Are you violent?

“The tendency to be violent is on the high side, so knowing that, I weigh in a twinkle of an eye what my reaction will be; if it’s on the bad side, I ignore it, and if it’s on the good side, I respond appropriately.

Three years and a baby girl

Social science says it is usually after tying the knots that every marriage experiences the storm of differences, character, and temperaments some of which can be irreconcilable. In your particular marriage, many betted that Ruth’s boldness and confidence will crack, but here you are: How has it been three years down the road?

With a voice a sea captain will envy, John, full of life and confidence began:

“Three years down the road has been full of challenges, ups and downs, but we bless God in spite of everything; our marriage has been splendid. Both of us coming from different backgrounds, we have our different behaviours and characters and, whether one of the two is physically challenged or not, those characters have to manifest.

“So when the characters come up, it’s only left for the head most times, to either take a bow and allow peace to reign, or the lady understands that this is the head; for now this is what he wants; but later when he calms down, I will express my views concerning the matter to him; then I will see how I can warm him up to myself so that peace can reign.”

Courtship

We’ve known ourselves right before teenage; we grew up in the same neighbourhood; but in the sense of courtship, it wasn’t up to one year. Even the period we may call courtship, we were just praying for ourselves for God to see us through our decision to get married.”

Your baby girl is two years now; was there anxiety in the almost two years you waited for the baby to come?

“No, none whatsoever; we just waited for God to have his way and He did.”

You rented this apartment just before the wedding; how did neighbours receive the new couple?

“The reaction was a bit different from what everyone would have expected. You see, my case is a lot more different because I don’t use wheelchair; I move around the neighbourhood, and everybody stared and reacted expectedly as human beings. “There was this spoken and unspoken question of, ‘Ah, who’s this person?’ I agree they did not take me now the way they received me at that time.

“I am someone who likes to stroll around my neighbourhood, buy one or two things on my own. When I do that, I see a lot of reactions but they bother me; I have long adapted to that.”

Is there a reason you must stroll around? You could send your wife to pick up things, for example?

“The reason is that there’s a message I want to pass across to onlookers and I can’t afford to be emotional about my person because if I do that I’ll not be able to pass that message across.

“The message is quite simple: being physically challenged does not mean that you can’t live a normal and better life; you can live your life in your condition to the best that God wants you to live; let me not say to the best of your human ability because it is God that decides destiny in His great Wisdom.

For example, it is possible that I would not have been like this if the hospital staff that attended to me had been a little cautious when I was treated in the beginning, but they were not, and God let it be so.

“On the positive side, I look at the fact that there is hope for someone that is physically challenged than for the person that is mentally challenged because you can’t tell when his mental illness will heal if it will heal at all; himself can’t tell; he doesn’t even know what he’s doing. But for someone physically challenged, there’s hope for tomorrow.

“Fine, I am physically challenged, but the fact that God still keeps my life means there’s something he wants me to do in this life and (it is His decision that) before I achieve that thing I must go through every process in life to discover and attain that thing. So that’s the message I am passing to everybody that cares to know.

 “So when I first strolled around for the first time in this neighbourhood, there was that reaction, but I found out that as time went on, they began adapt to seeing  me too; I could sense them say to themselves, ‘okay, he’s like this, he now lives in our neighbourhood, he’s trying to be part of us’ and so on.”

John and Ruth had another surprise for their neighbours

“The day they discovered I was married, that was a different thing entirely; even up to date when we’re going out in same dress, we trek from our house.

I like her to be in front of me when we go out; it’s not as if she’s covering me up, no: the reason is, by the time they see how pretty she is, they will say ‘ah, who’s the man behind her so?’ By the time they look and see me, they exclaim ‘ah, it’s this man? Waoo!’ That’s my reason and my message. The right thinking people would say ‘ah, if God can do it for this man, then who am I? to complain?’
“And we joke and play a lot when we’re strolling and it is not as if we are putting up a show; like you saw at our wedding. She would even push me on the street, and people wonder and say ah, Iyawo e ni (she’s his wife!). From there everyone in the neighbourhood got to know us as a normal, healthy family. So, convinced, they say, ah, he is part of us now, he is even married, that’s his wife!

“And now God has blessed us with a daughter who is loved by everybody. I don’t know how that happens, but when they see her, everyone warms up to her, ‘ah, baby girl how are you?’ And she’s fast in responding, ‘Thank you, ma, Thank you, sir; Thank you, uncle.’

“Our daughter is very close to our hearts; she clings to me and  we stroll out to see some friends. We have that bond of mother-father-daughter and people see it when we move around.”

UpNext: John lets Daily Times into his world with the public as he goes to work from Ahmadiya area of Lagos Mainland to Victoria in public transport, among others.

It is a must read.

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