For Dr. Christopher Nwanoro, April 5, 1995 was the day his life underwent a metamorphosis.
The day was like any other until about 1.00pm when he suddenly became
blind inside the lecture hall. He was in his third year, as an
undergraduate of History/International Studies at the University of Uyo.
Nwanoro, now a PhD. holder in International Relations from Isiukwuato in
Abia State, said his world suddenly crumbled on his head that fateful
day. He acknowledged that the incident was an admixture of frustration
and inspiration, arguing that it was, however, the turning point of his
Putting the impediment behind him and soldiering on, he has since broken
several barriers to carve an enviable niche for himself both in Nigeria
– as an awardee of the Presidential National Honours – and in the
United States where he currently heads the Trade and Investment
Department in the Nigerian Consulate. Dr. Nwanoro is indeed a proud
Nigerian blind ambassador.
How he became blind
He told the reporter the events that led to his blindness. “I was born
normal with my two eyes, but I suddenly lost my sight in my third year
on April 5, 1995. It was a sudden drop in vision that I could not see
again while in a lecture hall at the University of Uyo.
“I didn’t have any eye problem before the incidence. I did everything
like every other person until that fateful day during a lecture on
Research Methodology. I had some sensation in my eye and by the time I realized it, something like a dark cloud covered my vision and I
couldn’t see again.
“I thought it was a joke and didn’t know whether to shout or cry. I
tapped my friend and told him that I could not see again; he became
worried and hinged it on the sun. There was no premonition, there was no
fiction or accident, there was just nothing.”
Coping with life as a blind man
He revealed that he contemplated suicide initially when confronted with
frustration arising from his blindness. According to him, blindness is
synonymous with poverty and hopelessness.
“I wasn’t enlightened or aware that blind people can go to school then.
The blind people I used to meet on the streets were usually beggars and
hopeless people. What would have killed me was how I could cope as a
blind man,” he stated.
However, left with no option, he braced up for the realities and
challenges of redirecting the ship of his life by returning to
kindergarten school with other visually impaired people to learn
alphabets with the kids. He said: “After several failed efforts to
restore the sight, I finally left the university. People, friends and
well-wishers came to sympathise with me and after few months, somebody
informed me of the blind school in Umuahia, Abia State.
“At first, I didn’t know how to start all over with the children to
learn alphabets and numbers. The people there were shocked to see an
undergraduate joining them. They would size me up and ask me questions. I
had no option. But the blind people were very happy people. They would
“I resolved that if these people could survive it, I would survive. I
started adapting, though it wasn’t easy. Everybody wanted to be my
friend – the teachers, the people and visitors; I became the rallying
point and everybody showed me love.
“They were all interested in teaching me that I didn’t even have time to
sleep. One would teach how to type and another would teach me mobility
because I couldn’t move from one spot to another then. It takes about
three years to learn Braille but because I was determined, I learnt
Braille and typing within six months. In fact, I even type faster than
my teachers. I perfectly mastered the keyboard of the manual typewriter
within a short period,” he informed.
But unknown to him, a bigger challenge awaited him over his reabsorption
into the university. Casting his mind back, he explained: “I passed the
exam and returned to the university during the Sani Abacha strike that
lasted for close to one year. By then my classmates had graduated. It
became a serious tussle because I was the first blind person to be
admitted in that school.
“The school authorities didn’t know what to do when I refused the option
of sending me to University of Jos with the biggest department for the
school of the blind and special education because I didn’t want to go
there and start life afresh.
“Having mastered some areas at the University of Uyo, I could still move
freely and probably meet one or two persons, who knew me before now.
The university authorities sat many times to deliberate. They examined
me and were left with no option than to readmit me.
“However, something extraordinary happened. I improved in my academics
more than the time I was sighted. It was impressive that some students
completed their lecture notes through my recordings. One thing that
excited and kept me going was the love that people showed me. Everybody
wanted to help me in the university.
“People would ask what they could do for me. Some would wait to assist
me to the lecture hall and take me home. I was the only blind person in
the school but I didn’t see it as a challenge again. I was able to fit
in within a short time.”
The trauma of seeking medical treatment
The battle to regain his sight was a torturous and traumatising one, but
the most memorable, according to him, was when a friend suggested he
visit a spiritualist, who could transfer somebody’s eyes to his through
some metaphysical force.
He recalled: “Seeking medical treatment was a terrible experience. I
didn’t believe in traditional medications. A friend had suggested I see a
man in Port Harcourt, who could restore my sight by invoking someone
else’s eyes into my own and transferring my own into the person. But I
asked him why such person should merit such treatment. Yes, I want to
see, but it should not be at someone else’s detriment.
“My saddest moment was when my friend told me he would die if he was in
my shoes, but I rebuked him. Today he reads about me everywhere. He
still has a first degree while I have more than that,” he quipped.
Coping with stigmatization
Dr. Nwanoro confessed that he had got a fair share of stigmatisation.
“In Third World countries, there are people willing to show you love,
but most Nigerians, out of ignorance and illiteracy, think sight is
their making. They refused to understand that it could be anybody.
“On the flip side, there are people so compassionate, especially the
women. They are ready to assist and sacrifice for physically challenged
people, even to their own detriment. Sometimes, people want to pay my
fare and would feel bad when I reject such assistance,” he noted.
Speaking on the fate of disabled persons in the developed world and in
the Third World, he thundered: “The gap is wide apart. The disabled are
treated like kings with special provisions inside the buses, trains,
banks and other places. The state and country provide for them and will
never trample upon their rights.
“Most of my colleagues working in Nigeria face many difficult challenges
that we don’t experience in the US. They marginalise the disabled in
the offices in Nigeria. The machine I use in the US is not even in
Nigeria. We have so many benefits overseas.
“The cell phone I use now is a special customised iphone. It is more
than a phone to me because everything is encompassed in it. But how many
blind persons in Nigeria can afford $1225, well over N300,000 to buy a
He also spoke on how his transformation came about. “From day one, I was
always determined and dogged in all things I do. I don’t want sympathy;
I don’t want people to attribute my mistake to my blindness. After
graduation, I did my NYSC in Rivers State with the resolution to turn
“I was serious, focused and never gave out any opportunity to come out
the best corps member. Luckily, I was posted to serve with the Shell Oil
Company and I resolved to be generous to those with similar problem. I
spent almost my earnings on challenged persons.
“I visited less-privileged homes in Port Harcourt, got involved in
enlightenment campaigns to educate people on stigmatisation and
marginalisation of the disabled. I emerged the best corps member in the
state, received national award with an employment opportunity and that
was how I came to Abuja to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“God supported me to climb from one level to another. I was posted to
work in the United States in the Nigerian Permanent Mission in the
United Nations and after one year I was moved to head the Trade and
Investment Department in the Nigerian Consulate. I always do things
extraordinarily to ensure nobody blames any mistake on my deformity. I
have been from one glory and one level to another,” he said.
In spite of his achievements, he regrets that he can no longer fulfil his childhood ambition of becoming a trader.
“As an Aba boy, I like trading. I had made up my mind that schooling was
just to obtain a degree and that I would start a business at Ariaria
“That was my dream as an Aba boy, but the blindness became a turning
point in my life because I had no option than to continue studying. I
got my PhD. in less than 10 years, doing all my programmes full time.
“It has not been easy, especially in Nigeria where people see disability
as a stigma, curse and failure. But my happiness is that many of us
have been able to turn around the impression and let them know that it
is no longer so, though it is difficult to wipe it out in their hearts.
“I emerged the best out of 193 countries in the Society of Foreign
Consuls in the United States. The first runner-up was sighted; he’s from
Paris. It was an open forum but I know that if it is in Nigeria, people
will doubt my capabilities to be given the appointment,” he noted.
Having scaled many hurdles to climb to the top, Dr Chris has one ambition: to become the president of Nigeria.
“I know, God willing, I will be able to find myself in a bigger elective
position one day. If I find myself as the President of Nigeria, it will
not be a big deal to occupy the position. I know one day, I will be
privileged to be the first blind President of Nigeria. I have no iota of
doubt that it will happen,” he said joyfully.
Difficulty finding a wife
Usually, a blind man might have some difficulty finding a wife. But such
was not the case with Dr. Nwanoro. He informed the reporter that eight
ladies fought the battle of their lives all in a bid to walk down the
aisle with him.
He said: “Some people have challenges about relationship, but I didn’t.
When I was about to marry, I had about eight ladies waiting for me. They
were all too close to me; perhaps, they saw something in me. The only
problem I encountered was who to marry among the eight ladies. It was so
serious that I had to even seek the face of God through prayer and
“When I met my wife, she was so much comfortable for marriage with me.
But at a point, her parent, brothers, sisters refused her marrying a
blind man. They wondered why a beautiful lady should settle for me. They
accused me of hypnotising her with juju and even attempted delivering
her from the devilish juju.
“The pressure, sincerely, was so much on her but she stood her ground. I
was not bothered while the drama lasted since I had many other options.
The highpoint of it was when her uncle left Abuja to convince her
against the marriage, warning her that she would die poor, marrying a
“She became so confused, especially when they told her to drag me to one
church or spiritual home to restore my sight. Informing me of such
decision almost cost her our marriage but for the intervention of my
friends. Frankly, she is a very wonderful woman and we are now blessed
with wonderful and beautiful children, all living with me in the US,” he
Advice to persons living with disability
As a man, who passed through hell and burning furnace to build himself
into an international brand, his wealth of experience would certainly
serve as a motivation to others in what many of them would regard as a
“I want to encourage the physically challenged, especially the blind and
those who will still join us in future, that blindness or disability is
not the end of the world. They should be happy in every situation and
not look at the problem but upon God who can turn around one’s life.