By Martin Tachio
I have known Lois Auta’s siblings for over 30 years, since I was a school boy, back then at Government Secondary School Kagoro…the secondary school my disciplinarian Dad insisted I attend.
I never knew her then because she was always at home and hardly seen outside. Her elder brothers, Christopher and Scobby (now deceased) as we called him then, though were my seniors in that same school but we somehow got along.
It never occurred to me that these schoolmates of mine had a kid sister that was incapacitated by polio and was attending a different school nearer home.
My attention was eventually drawn to her after over 25 years since I left Kagoro; when in 2014 she was awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship which entails some form of training at the University of Arizona, USA.
Since then, she has intervened and spoken for many disabled persons – including those with Hansen disease (leprosy).
She continues to do so for many other noble causes including an unsuccessful attempt at been elected into the Federal House of Representatives under Accord Party, AMAC/Bwari federal constituency.
I sat down with her on appointment at Tobix Garden, somewhere near next to Cash & Carry in Kado, Abuja, to talk about her early life and as the CEO of Cedar Seed Foundation, an NGO that she uses for interventions for the most vulnerable and disabled.
Recollecting the journey of her life, she said: “After my secondary education in Kagoro, my father walked up to me one day and told me, ‘Lois sitting in this village will not help you, you would have to go to the city…either Kaduna town or Abuja so that someone can see you and help you. But here, no one would. He told me and so I heeded to my father’s advise so shortly afterwards I arrived Abuja to stay with a relation.
‘Well, life was not that easy for a young girl on wheelchair. But thankfully, then the mobile phone business had started booming in Nigeria, so I started selling recharge cards and facilitating phone calls for people. Along the line, Iwas able to secure admission at the University of Abuja to study public administration at Diploma level.
“While in university, I cannot forget Mrs Lois Maikori who placed me on a monthly allowance to ensure things go well with me…may God continue to bless her.
” So after school it was time for industrial attachment (internship). I was among the few posted to the Pipeline Products Marketing Company (PPMC), asubsidiary of NNPC at the towers. There, I was doing my work not knowing that the human resources manager was observing me and talking to my supervisor in school about my conduct and grades…may God also bless Hajia Mariam Sani, she is retired now. After my internship, Hajia Mariam ensured that I was retained to work as a support staff in the NNPC.
“I want to tell you that these two women helped in guiding me and making me whom I have become today as my father envisaged when he told me in the village that it is in the city that someone will see and help me.
‘My father, may his soul rest in peace, did not live to see me go to the places I have been now or people I am helping in turn. While at NNPC, I got the Mandela Washington Fellowship and as a support staff of the firm I was not eligible for leave of absence. But thankfully my big uncle Engr.Andrew Yakubu who then was GMD approved it for me to go…so without Andrew Yakubu, the story would have been different because I may have to abandon my job which was sustaining me for the fellowship and return back and start afresh! So Engr. Yakubu is part of my success as well. I remember clearly that he was the one that gave me my first car.. Then subsequently Engr Yusuf Matashi, who was also in the NPDC, all of these individuals and organizations helped in no small measure in assisting me help others as I turn 41 today.
“The United States embassy in Nigeria, words cannot explain how resourceful and critically helpful they have been to me and Cedar Seed Foundation. Other international bodies and missions have all contributed immensely to the cause of the disabled in this country.
“As we move forward, I want Cedar Seed Foundation to intensify more outreaches for Hansen disease. You know Leprosy is curable but yet we keep raising leper colonies like in Yangoji near Abuja. That is the way forward now, asides from other outreaches.”
Lois Auta is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cedar Seed Foundation and has received awards for promoting disabled sports globally in the U.S and was among thirty young Nigerians hosted by President Mohammadu Buhari for technology innovation and Creativity.
She has advocated for the rights and betterment of the disabled in the Society for the past seven years.
In the cause of her advocacy and Cedar Seeds outright interventions, she has held meetings with world leaders such as John Kerry, Linda Thomas Greenfield, US Assistant Secretary of State African Affairs, Ambassador Rice, US Senators, Nigerian Presidents and other Global leaders.
Lois Auta is currently the Assistant National Coordinator of Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative; President of the FCT Disabled sports Club Abuja, board member Federation of Civil Servants staff with Disabilities Multipurpose Cooperative Society, among several others.
In disability, she is quintessential at 41.
Martin Tachio, an Abuja based Multi-Media journalist and good governance enthusiast, writes from: Martins.firstname.lastname@example.org