Theophilus Michael Odaudu was born a normal child, but when he became blind, he abandoned school due to stigma. He later overcame this and returned to school. Today, he is a lawyer.
Barrister Theophilus Michael Odaudu’s secondary school certificate shows that he made two distinctions and six credits. The distinctions were in Literature in English and Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) while the credits were in English Language, Mathematics, Economics, Agricultural Science, Biology and History. He scored 260 points in the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination, and won a fellowship to visit America while he was an undergraduate.He graduated with a Second Class Upper degree and has also been to other countries like Switzerland, Germany, Ghana and is presently in South Africa studying for a master’s degree.
Odaudu, who hails from Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State, was born on May 28, 1985 in Makurdi, Benue State. While in primary school, he suffered from cataract, which led to sight difficulty. His sight gradually deteriorated until he became clinically blind.
Unfortunately, due to stigma from fellow pupils and peers at home among others who mocked and didn’t want to associate with him, Odaudu quit school.
He said, “My father solved my problem when he relocated to Abuja where he was working in the office of the Head of Service. I was enrolled in the School for the Blind in Zuba before it was relocated to its permanent site in Jabi. I became free from stigma and was happy among my peers and was filled with a new zeal to learn because I detested begging. I was among the sixth set in the boarding school where we learnt how to type using the braille typewriter. I passed primary school in flying colours and gained admission into Boys’ Secondary School, Gindiri in Plateau State. It was a conventional boarding mission secondary school established by COCIN. I tried as much as possible to cope in my new environment. The students were wonderful teenagers who didn’t mock or stigmatize me but rather taught me how to speak Hausa, so I understand and speak Hausa ‘kadan, kadan’.”
One of the challenges he however faced during his junior secondary school days was the inability to own a personal braille typewriter because his family couldn’t afford one. Through the advice of an uncle however, he was able to get one from a former Kogi State governor Captain Idris Wada.
Theophilus recounted how he tried not to allow his disability stop him from living a normal life. He once told his father that he could travel unaided from Gindiri to Abuja for holidays and his father agreed. He said he usually tells commercial bus drivers to take him to a junction from where he would continue his journey to Abuja but he encountered two bad situations when the drivers told him to alight at the wrong side of the road. In both situations, he wandered until he asked for direction and a commercial motorcyclist assisted him while in the other situation, a good samaritan helped him.
At the University of Abuja where he studied Law, Odaudu admitted that his lecturers were very nice and cooperative. “Whenever I had an issue, I contacted them and they put me through.”
He continued using his braille typewriter to type lecture notes and when the typewriter was faulty, a technician who worked with the Federal Ministry of Education repaired it for him. Sometimes, he would realize that the paper he inserted into his typewriter was blank and the strike on the keyboard did not print what he was typing because the ribbon was not properly fixed. Despite the frustration, he would retype. Fortunately, he later got a personal computer.
Theophilus earned a nickname ‘Ladies. Man’ because female classmates usually flocked around him to ask for more explanation after lectures. He was lucky to cope with school hustles and meet up with tight schedules due to mates and friends who assisted him to and from class.
At the Nigerian Law School in Bwari, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), he experienced more challenges which were remedied later. For example, he said they did not consider allocating extra time for him during examinations, but they later became physically-challenged-friendly and started issuing him question papers in braille.
It was more than jubilation for his parents, Michael and Hannah Odaudu, when he was called to bar.
Theophilus, who did his mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Abuja, applied for employment and submitted it to the Kogi Government House instead of the State Civil Service Commission as there was a ban on general recruitment then.
The then governor, Captain Wada, offered him employment on May 2013 when he was 28 years old and he was posted to the Ministry of Justice where his work entailed drafting and researching. He sometimes accompanied his director to court. He said one of his challenges was mobility and accessibility to and from office because the secretariat is not by the side of the road where he alighted and this made him hire commercial motorcycles or tricycles.
The ‘Ladies Man’ may have dodged the advances of many ladies but a family friend, Joy, whom he met on Facebook, hooked him. According to him, “One thing led to another and we became a couple on November 29, 2014. We are blessed with a baby girl named Ranojo meaning ‘Run to God’.”
Theophilus won a fellowship for his postgraduate degree at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He said it covers his admission, tuition and accommodation but he took care of his flight ticket and feeding among others. But because of salary crisis in his state, he applied to different organizations for sponsorship to no avail, but a friend from the university, Okechukwu Effoduh, who is based in Canada, organized a platform for donation for his master’s degree and it was successful as he has spent two out of the twelve months programme.
During a recent visit to his alma mater, the School for the Blind in Jabi, Abuja, the young lawyer counseled the pupils with his success story and advised them not to use their handicap as an excuse.