As a kid he wanted to be the best in everything he participated in. As a young boy with a beautiful heart and an imaginative mind, Danjuma Attah, was plunged into visual darkness following a visit to a hospital because of a troubling redness in his eyes. After applying what the health centre gave him to use – what he described as a wrong prescription, Attah began an ugly descent into blindness. But today, he claims that his loss of sight is part of God’s plan in his life. Blind but boundless, Attah runs an NGO that caters to the need of visually impaired people and also runs three different companies. Born into the Attah Royal family in Kogi State, he tells Stanley Nkwazema about his life as a blind person and how blind people can see beyond the ordinary
My Life, My Family
“Danjuma Attah is nobody. But he is somebody doing what he believes in. I believe in selfless service to the people. Selfless service is what I believe in because that is the only thing I will take with me when I return to God. I was born in Okene, Kogi State, to the family of late Shehu Attah and Aisha Attah. It was a very wonderful world knowing full well that I am from a royal family: from the Attah family in Igala land. I had a smooth experience, growing up with so many wonderful people. I started my primary school education at Christ the King Nursery and Primary School. It is a missionary school. My secondary school education was at Abdulazeez Attah College in Okene.”
A Turning Point
Danjuma said it was at JSS 2 that he experienced the saddest moment of his life. That was when he lost his sight due to lack of proper medical care and poor facilities.
“What was just a redness in the eye rendered me blind because the health centre I got to then gave me a wrong prescription which I used for my eyes and that destroyed my eyes completely. Then I thought all hope was lost but thanks to my wonderful mother (now late) who then made it clear to me that it was what God wanted me to be in life and that gave me hope. Then as a child I loved listening to BBC Radio. My father had this radio which I normally used to listen to BBC World Service programme and news. Then one day, I was hearing about Stevie Wonder and I was motivated. That day I said to myself: ‘If Stevie could be Wonder in the United States of America, why then can’t I be Wonder in Africa?’ That was the spirit (I had).”
Adjusting to a state of blindness, Danjuma said, was a process designed by God.
“He wanted me to see the other side of life which I give thanks to the Almighty God, the owner of the universe. You can imagine somebody who was living in a palace with all manners of people around him suddenly found himself in a school for the handicapped, with the deaf and dumb around him. It was a tough situation that I passed through. But I was very happy I passed through it because it made me to live the other side of life.”
The Danjuma Attah Eye Foundation
Danjuma said it was through his foundation that he fully discovered himself.
“The challenge I discovered about Africans is that many of us don’t know who we are. If you don’t know who you are, you can never set a goal. If you cannot set a goal you can never activate success. That is my belief. I never knew what God was making me to pass through was for me to become a humanitarian service provider. But you see, in business, in 2010, I was again on my way to Kogi for a contract I was pursuing when I got involved in a ghastly motor accident. That was when I thought it was all over. On that day I said to myself, ‘if I die now, I am very close to my home, you will be buried and what will you be remembered for?’ That was the question I asked myself. That kept coming into my mind till I got to Abuja, in Wuse 2. At the hospital I visited, the nurse I met thought it was the accident that made me lose my sight. He made me to meet an ophthalmologist. Interestingly, when I met with him, he kept quiet. I never knew he was a man of God. He said ‘Do you know that God wants to use you to prevent blindness and also champion the cause of people with disability in the country?’ I said, ‘that is always what I wanted to do but I don’t know how to go about it.’”
It was the man that started the process of establishing the eye foundation. By the time they were through with the registrations, behold, the man got another job and left Danjuma to carry on with the mission.
“The amazing thing is that I am a business person. I turn everything I have in business, into the foundation. By the grace of God, today, we have given sight to thousands of people and we have built an 18-bed eye centre and donated it to Kogi State Government with no conditions attached. It was the same hospital that gave a wrong prescription that destroyed my sight. We built the eye centre single-handedly without any donor, apart from one or two of my family members.”
His Kind of NGO
“We will keep on doing what we are doing. Those that have seen what we are doing can come and partner with us because we have a vision and we have a dream; that dream will surely come to pass. I understand very well that whatever you want to do, do it alone. Only when you want to go further that you can involve others. I don’t want to put a price tag to the hospital.”
On World Sight Day, he is planning to donate some equipment to the centre.
“I am also going with a medical team for free cataract surgery. They are all volunteers and the foundation wants to make a success out of it.”
Finding Love and Marriage
“I am married to a beautiful woman with two lovely kids. My wife is not physically challenged in any way. It is interesting and I have an interesting answer. This is where we have an issue. So many of us don’t even realise that the eyes you use to see are what is giving you limitations. I believe in the power of the mind that sees beyond what the eyes cannot see. I will let you know that it is very possible that I am seeing you and what you cannot see right now. I am seeing beyond what your eyes can see. It is the power of the mind. My mind makes me see what other people cannot see. The beauty in my wife is seen by me and I appreciate it from the inside and not from the outside.”
Meeting her, he said, was a miracle or divine intervention.
“I met her and called her on the phone one day and she came (to me). I told her my intention (of wanting to marry her). Initially, she was not forthcoming but eventually she honoured the meeting and we sat for over 30 minutes and had a very fruitful discussion. At first she did feel too good at it but eventually she began to see what I was seeing, knowing that she is no more seeing with her eyes but the mind that made her to see beyond the ordinary. She is a banker.”
“There is nothing called disability. You don’t see anybody with any form of physical challenge and keep on pitying the person. Rather, encourage that person. That person can do more than you can ever imagine. The way the society is looking at persons with physical challenges has been giving me a lot of concerns and I am not too comfortable. I am appealing to the media to educate people to have the right view of people with physical disabilities.”
Dealing with Sceptical In-laws
Naturally, her would-be in-laws were not too enthusiastic about his plan to marry their daughter.
“It is normal; some people will say you are a spirit, ghost or that you belong to a cult. But you don’t have to blame people in Africa. But where we are now, that is the way we are created until when we are removed from where we are that we can begin to see things the way it should. It was not an easy thing but by God’s grace when you have God in everything you do, it becomes very simple for you to achieve. God has been so faithful and wonderful.”
Blind but Boundless
“I will be fulfilled when we have nothing less than a thousand people directly on our payroll. I run three companies for now: a travel agency, a security outfit and a communications outfit. Another one is coming and I am collaborating with a financial institution. It will be unveiled shortly.”
Society and People Living with Physical Disability
“The society should start to do things that will make the government to understand that this is what the people want. Everybody in this country does not care about the next person.”