Hey, everyone. Alot of people have requested that I concluded my story about Oke. I apologize that this post is coming late, I have being really stressed out with work and managing Lagos hectic lifestyle. However, I know that going back to my village is not an option *laughing*
February 25, 2012, it was sanitation day as usual being the last Saturday of the month. I had already made plans with Erobo Mayuku (Nee Igbrude); I was going to ride with her down to Festac to visit Oke. My car was vandalized three weeks back at Surulere and I had just gotten it the previous day from the Insurance company but was not willing to drive Etiosa (smiling……named my car after my bini name) down to Festac.
We had to pick other classmates on our way to Oke’s house in Festac Town. By the time we got to his house we were four in number (Erobo, Chinedu Elue, Chinedu Osamah and I). I had thought we were going to be more in number but I guess others already had personal commitments to attend. However, Thelma Mordi was on-time to join us.
He was sitting on sofa right at the entrance of his house, as I walked in my eyes went straight to his feet. They were all banged up and clutches were by his side. I did not know how to react; this was a guy that I had little or no knowledge about and here I was standing at the entrance of his house wondering if it was proper to greet him as a friend.
And then I saw the smile on his face already welcoming me as if we were buggies and I did the only right thing I could do at that moment and said, “Hello, my name is Ejiro Gegere” and I gave him a hug.
We took our seat and suddenly the room became silent, I guess we were each waiting for someone to say a word and I couldn’t help but wandered how difficult it is to visit someone in pain or in serious ailment because no matter the words of comfort you say, you can never understand another’s pain.
“So, are you the only one at home?” I asked. “No, my parent are around and my cousin is in his room”, he said.
Another awkward moment of silent.
“So, when did you find out that you were diabetic?” I asked again.
He breathed deep and smiled. “Well, it stayed when I was 12 years old. I was living my life as a regular boy until I fell ill in my JSS2. When, I found out that I was diabetic, my parent had to withdraw me from F.G.C, Warri to Command Secondary, Ojo just to make sure they can monitor me here in Lagos,” he said.
The conversation was becoming really emotional, as we sat quietly listening to Oke tell us his story just as we sat years ago listening to Tales by Moonlight or Story land on TV. I began to hold back tears and kept sniffling in air.
We presented a cash gift and other items, spoke to his family, laughed and joked about our days in FGC, Warri and prayed with him.
Then we took our leave. My heart was heavy and I couldn’t wait to getting into the car before I told my friends that we have to come up with better ideas to raise funds for Oke’s surgery because our currently plan might just take forever.
For weeks, we (Federal Government College, Warri. 1999/2000 set) have being deliberating on how to raise the funds (N5 million) for Oke’s surgery. We wrote letters to various organisations, associations and individual and it all seems we were moving at a very slow pace.
I had just received pictures of Oke’s feet which were taken and used by Vanguard newspapers for a publication about Oke. I remember, the moment I saw the pictures like it happened today. I had just gotten to Ikota shopping center, Ajah to visit the gym that evening after work, when I decided to view my mails on my Galaxy Tab. Immediately, I saw the pictures, I threw my tab away and it fell on the back seat of my car. I began to shake; I could not imagine anyone and not even Oke living with his feet in that state for six years. I was so scared; I had to call off my gym time that evening and ran home. I shared the pictures with my classmates on our bbm group that evening. Deep into the night, I could sleep, I kept awake for hours and left the light in my room still switched on for fear that something might happen to my feet if I slept in the dark.
During the week, I got a call from my friend, Niyi Adeosun that he had sent the pictures and details about Oke to Linda Ikeji and had pleaded that we needed financial assistance for Oke’s surgery from Nigerians. On March 17, 2012 we waited anxiously to read Oke’s story on Linda Ikeji’s blog and by evening his story was published on her blog.
Oke’s story on Linda Ikeji’s blog changed everything for him; people began to talk about it via all social networks and the #SaveOke project was born. The next day an online payment channel was set up for him to enable people make their contributions to his account and it was through the post on Linda Ikeji’s blog that the Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan heard about Oke’s case and decided to pay for all medical expense for Oke’s surgery in India.
The Scam Claim
Oke was on admission at a hospital on the island and I often visit him at the hospital after work before heading home.
Tuesday, March 19, 2012, I had just walked into Oke’s room when I noticed his gloomy face initially; I thought he was in pain or ill due to his ailment.
He greeted me briefly but I was so eager to press on when he said, “Ejiro, have you heard? People are saying that I am a scam and the news is over the internet.”
I was shocked. “Where, did you hear that from,” I exclaimed.
“This lady, Ify from Nairaland came to my house during week and said that she came to verify my story that was posted on Linda Ikeji’s blog. So, she spoke to me, asked me some questions which I answered, now she goes back to say that I was wearing a trainer (sneaker) when she came to my house and that I was not even at home and someone with my feet shouldn’t be able to walk or go out,” he said pained.
I was pissed; I dialed her number right away. I wanted to put her in her place and tell her to withdraw the post from Nairaland but sadly our conversation did not go as planned.
We all know that bad information spread like wide fire, especially in Nigeria and when it involved money. Oke kept on receiving calls from the public about the Nairaland story and some people were mean. I couldn’t leave his hospital room; I couldn’t leave my friend in such a devastating state. I was so worried and I called everyone, I knew you could help contact Nairaland to pull down their story from their site.
I remember what Oke said to me that evening, like it happened today. “The most painful part of this story is not that I opened my door to welcome her into my house but that my surgery which I have being waiting to have in the last six years is finally here and she wants to take it away from me.” And then the tears fell.
The most important thing at that moment was that my friend’s story was true, his family and friends were behind him and his health was our priority. Ify from nairaland (as we called her) never matters then and never still matter to us now.
It was Sunday, April 1, 2012; I woke up so anxious and excited because Oke was leaving for India. His family and friends has come together to see him off to the airport. The mood was joyful, this day was a dream come true, and I cannot even imagine his thoughts. Oke has being bedridden for six years, like his whole life is put on pulse.
As he was wheeled away to go board his flight, I was sad because I was going to miss my friend but happy because I knew that when he gets back he will surely fulfill his promise to dance with me.
Note: Oke got back to Nigeria on Saturday, June 30, 2012 and he is currently recovery from his surgeries on both feet. So, as you guessed I am still waiting for my dance with Oke.