Also lost first son to the plight
Not deaf from beginning
Al-Makura’s deaf story is what goes beyond just the ordinary. It is the depiction of the failure of our system. The man, who is now governor, was born, hearing. He even grew to adult life and became a father with his hearing intact. Al-Makura is a man with good education background, a graduate of Education/Sociology from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. That was after his initial NCE from the Federal College of Education, Uyo. While all these happened and he also managed his family business after some paid employments, he had his ears and hearing intact until that fateful encounter with some carpenters, who posed and claimed to be medics in 1990.
“That year, calamity befell my family,” he said. My two sons then, the first and the second and I took ill. We had typhoid. But the medics that handled the matter gave wrong diagnosis and later wrong medication in line with the diagnosis. That was what led to my total loss of hearing. I was completely deaf and lived with such disability for 20 straight years, notwithstanding the efforts to have it corrected.”
As if that was not enough disaster to the family, Al-Makura’s two sons were not spared. While the first son died of the effects of the wrong medication, the second was luckier. Yet, he did not escape without the scar of the wrong professional impact. He too lost his hearing like his father. The boy was just four then and that must have been a heavy burden to manage a child of that age that had not started schooling through his formative years not hearing the world he found himself in.
The governor’s story would move anyone to sympathy and as he recalled the incident, he would touch his ear and say: “It was two years ago that I found an alternative. I wear hearing aid as you can see. I got it after 20 years of living in a silent world. Right now, my eardrum is completely replaced with an electronic eardrum to enable me hear through this device I wear.”
Because of the son’s disability, he had to be sent to the United States of America (USA) where there is availability of facilities to make sure he got education.
Sometime last month, the young man, got married after his education and, good enough, to a lady who was his course mate. They met in school and the lady also has hearing challenge. I am happy they are married and happy,” the governor said.
He said the story of his management and coping with the disability is the reason he decided to host people to a reception for his son’s wedding after the ceremony in the USA. Here in Abuja, Al-Makura hosted many people to celebrate his son’s victory over disability. And he said it was also for his own conquest of the same besetting incident of his life.
“Many people said what they never knew about the reception I held in Abuja. I just wanted to use it to make a point. Naturally, I am not the loud or flambouyant type of human being. Before I became a governor, all those that know me also know that I don’t come from a poor background. I was born into a family of means and I inherited the family business from my father after my education. I am a businessman and don’t believe in wasting money or any resources. So, there was a set of people I invited to the reception. They were all people with one form of disability or another – the dumb, deaf, blind, crippled or otherwise.
“I brought them together for a reason – to make them know that I also have disability and that I battled it for over 20 years before I got some respite. Even when I lived with it fully, I was never deterred or weighed down. I also wanted to make them know that they too can conquer disability because I had the problem when I contested and won political offices, even before becoming governor. The problem never stopped me from making well in business. So, I hosted them to be a definite statement that ability does not stop one unless you intentionally decide to stop. People who didn’t understand this made politics of it but I know what I did. I remain on my position that the disabled should be encouraged and empowered also to live a meaningful life.”
Coping with it
While running the hectic schedule of the governor, Al-Makura had to device a means of handling the problem with wisdom and equanimity. He reminds that the device is so much reprieve but far from perfect or adequate alternative to natural hearing without defects.
He had to co-opt his younger brother into his team of close aides. The brother and another aide go with him, sit around him whenever he is with people. Their job is exciting and wonderful. Because Al-Makura first explains that there are things you say he might not pick out clear, he has them handy at all times and that role, they dutifully handle. He also explains very often that: “I don’t hear perfectly with this, especially with the public address system. When it is used in address, the sound becomes so high for the device to fix and interpret for my hearing. So, I often go with my two aides, including my brother to help out.” That is exactly what the duo does because every now and then, they slot in pieces of papers or put in words to come to his aid.
After listening to the Nasarawa chief executive tell his story in very good diction that signposts his good education and intellectual depth, you must commend his tireless effort that has paid much dividend to conquer disability. That means whenever you want to look for role models in overcoming disability, you don’t need the textbooks. Governor Tanko Al-Makura is a ready and available one. Just listen to him and you get the inspiration you need not to throw in the towel in the face of daunting trials. He said: “I want people to learn from me because I was already in the state when I won and took part in the Constituent Assembly in 1994. I held other political posts. I remained a rallying political point with the hearing challenge, to an extent that no political dispensation left me out. Even when I didn’t hear properly, and had also not mastered lip reading, the people still explored my political importance and rallied round me for contribution and I never withheld that. Even when they knew so well that I had the challenge, they nominated me a gubernatorial candidate and I won on the platform of the CPC against all odds.”
Can you beat Al-Makura’s prowess and never-say-die inclination to life?
Not a deterrent
Like a parting shot, he would explain that “hearing challenge has not stopped me from identifying the problems of my people and solving them as much as I can. Mine is the poorest state on the federal allocation rating and we have done well with what we have. I inherited heavy a debt burden, but I have paid over N32 billion with just about N2 billion more outstanding. In all these, I have kept to the rule of running the state without taking a single kobo loan. I manage the state within the available resources and still we have done things for the people to see. So, disability is just that, depending on how you handle it.”