14-year-old Suwaiba Abdulwahab was born without arms. But her incapacity has not hindered her ability to carve a niche for herself during her years in primary school: she was one of the best pupils in class.
At birth, evil spirits were blamed for Suwaiba Abdulwahab’s armless physique. Her father, Malam Abdulwahab, was contacted by many self-acclaimed sorcerers with the promise to “bring her hands out from hiding.” However, Abdulwahab’s conviction that the condition of his daughter was decreed by Allah made him not to succumb to the demands of the sorcerers. He therefore embarked on prayers.
Abdulwahab said: “I was disturbed when Suwaiba was an infant. My trouble stemmed from the thoughts of the type of life she would live in. I was in constant thought, worried about her. When I realised that my constant thinking could make me hypertensive, I surrendered everything to Allah, praying to Him to make life easy for Suwaiba.”
“As you can see, Suwaiba is overcoming her challenges. Because of her condition, I of course give her more attention. She likes competing with other children and if you attempt to stop her, she becomes upset. For example, when her mother calls for someone to bring my food, Suwaiba would be the first person to answer and she would use her feet to bring the food to me, wherever I am.”
He explained his readiness to support Suwaiba achieve her ambition in life, despite being a low income-earner. Abdulwahab identified his daughter’s courage and determination as his motivation. “I see the potentials of a great lady in Suwaiba. Throughout her primary school, her position during examinations was usually between first and fifth. She writes with her feet, but her writing is better than some of the pupils who write with hands. I thank Allah for this gift,” he stated, adding that she performs ablution, as well as domestic chores, all with her feet.
Suwaiba completed primary education last year. She would have been in Junior Secondary School (JSS I) by now but for her inability to secure admission at the school close to her family home, and she hopes to continue her education next year. When Daily Trust visited Suwaiba’s home, she was busy with her bowl, frying tiger nuts, a local sweet snack called ‘Aya’ in Hausa. She said that since she had to wait for a whole year before she continues with her education, she decided to engage in petty trades to help out at home.
“Because of my condition, I need to enroll in a secondary school that is close to my home. The principal of the school said he cannot admit me because his classes were overcrowded. This made me to wait till next year. Instead of staying idle, I decided to start frying and selling Aya. You know how life is now. I have to help myself, and my parents,” Suwaiba said.
On her ambition, she said: “I want to be a paediatrician. I want to be a doctor, assisting children with difficult conditions like mine. I want to replicate the assistance offered to me to others. Without the sympathy of others, particularly my parents, I wouldn’t have been here telling you my story. As you can see, I am trying to overcome my challenges by working hard. Of course, I face challenges of discrimination and even situations where some people tend to look down on me. I don’t allow that to disturb me, because I know that I was not the one who created myself. Allah who created me without arms knows my condition and is providing a way out for me.”
As she waits for the next school session to continue with her education, the prayer of Suwaiba’s parents and other well-wishers is for the Almighty to give her the wisdom to realise her ambition of becoming a doctor. However, the lingering questions are whether the medical profession – or patients – would react to or accommodate a practitioner without arms. “When we get to that bridge,” Suwaiba said, “We’ll cross it.” For now, she’s simply a bright, bubbly, happy teenager full of life, nursing a laudable ambition.