In the words of a famous philosopher, Raph Waldo Emerson, “To help the young soul, to add energy, inspire hope and blow coals into a useful flame; to redeem defeat by new thought and firm action, this thought is not easy, it is the work of a divine man.” To the glory of God and for the benefit of mankind, in any generation, there are people God has atrength to the weak and hope to the weary.In this generation, one of such persons is Rev. Dr. Godwin Udofa, the President and founder of Wonder Life Care Mission International (also known as Lunatic Rescue Mission), a non-governmental organization (NGO) located at Ikot Afanga in Oruk Anam Local Government Area who in the past 20 years has been vigorously committed to the rehabilitation and reintegration of mentally retarded persons into the society. In this interview with Andrew Obot, this great man of God bares his mind on issues bothering the mentally challenged persons in the society, how to prevent or manage the situation, the role of government in the improvement of the inmates, the challenges and the way forward, as well as the need for the state government to create Bureau for Mentally Challenged Persons. Excerpts!
QUESTION: Let’s start by knowing you, Sir?
ANSWER: My name is Rev. (Dr.) Godwin Udofah. By the grace of God, I am the president of Wonder Life Mental Rehabilitation Centre, Ikot Afanga in Oruk Anam Local Government Area, Akwa Ibomn Oruk Anam Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State.
QUESTION: How long has the centre been established?
ANSWER: To the glory of God, the centre was established since 1997, precisely February. As we are in this month, February 16 will mark our full 20 years of existence as a non-governmental organization committed to the service of mentally challenged persons in the society.
QUESTION: What are the achievements of the centre so far?
ANSWER: Thank you very much. Right from February 1997 till date, we have been able to rehabilitate 292 mental retarded people. Out of that in Nigeria and in Cameroon, we have been able to restore and reintegrate them into the society. They have recovered and gone home to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of their families and to the society in general.
QUESTION: What are the challenges of the centre?
ANSWER: Well, before now as the rehabilitation centre, we have had a lot of challenges. We are all grateful to this present government under the leadership of Deacon Udom Emmanuel who by his compassion, graciously intervened in a remarkable way to give hope to the hopeless inmates in the camp. The Government House Prayer Team led by the special assistant to the governor on religious affairs, Rev. Daniel Akwatang, visited the centre last year and they brought a lot of food itemsand a cash donation to the camp. After that, they reported back to Governor Udom Emmanuel and he gave us a financial support which has gone to a large extent in improving the structures in the camp to enhance quick delivery of the inmates. As one can see, the government under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel has done well in almost all areas of human endeavour just for the advancement of living the standard of the people, ranging from training of youths, construction of roads, giving of grants to the small scale business men and women, embarking on groundbreaking of African Independent Television station (AIT) at Abak, ground-breaking of fertilizer factory, groundbreaking of coconut/cocoa farms and factory among others in the state. That is why, in the centre we are always praying every day that God should protect him and his family as well as sustain his government that has been able to intervene for the betterment of the rejected set of human beings who have been in distress for the past 20 years.
QUESTION: As the coordinator of this rehabilitation centre, how would you describe the state of the mentally challenged persons?
ANSWER: The state of the mentally challenged in the life of anybody is often pathetic. To me, it is the most devastating state of a man in the sense that as soon as it occurs, the person involved cannot speak for his or herself, and even in danger, such a person cannot help himself or herself. It is very unfortunate to note that lunacy ministry is one of the ministries of Jesus Christ that has been ignored by many pastors, individuals and groups in today’s society without minding the fact that lunatic spirits are serious threats that can destroy the life of the affected person, sometimes without one’s knowledge. So for these people to be given a sense of belonging,special attention should be given to them by the well-meaning individuals andeir plights and improve upon their welfare for the betterment of the society.For instance, recently there is rampant case of Lassa fever everywhere in the country, but these set of people in some parts of the state without no one caring for them, are sleeping and waking up from the gutters, eating from waste bins and staying around the rats. In the real sense, they are the people created by God, unlike other human beings on earth. ’’At all times, we always preach on the need for the general public to show love to those ones who by the grace of God have been rehabilitated. The public should also desist from stigmatizing them, ignoring their opinions and keeping them afar in the society. We are of the notion that the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly (AKHA) under the dynamic leadership of Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Onofiok Luke should endeavour to enact relevant laws that will protect the rights of the mentally challenge ones in the state, who in most cases are normally abused by members of the public. Also, the state government, under the able leadership of Deacon Udom Emmanuel should create a bureau or an office for the special assistant on mentally challenged persons in the state, where their welfare would be duly taken into consideration as it is rightly done inadvanced countries.’’
QUESTION: What are the causes of insanity?
ANSWER: There are many factors that give birth to this unpleasant situation in life. These include ancestral covenants, depression, drug abuse, demonic attack, repercussion of an act of indiscipline and other devices.
QUESTION: What are the remedies to the situation?
ANSWER: As a centre, we are thankful to God Almighty as well as the state governor for his prompt intervention through the Government House Prayer Team who on their visits graciously reduced the suffering of these hopeless inmates. Infacts, their visits alone have given them a sense of belonging in the society and enhance their rapid rehabilitation. This is because the inmates are well fed, at least thrice or twice a day the quality of food goes go a long way in enhancing their mental stability. Healthcare is another major remedy to this ugly situation. When there is a functional facility where these people can be consistently taken care of, trained health workers are at hand to administers drugs to them when due and the ministers of God are also attached to pray for them. Consequently their lives would be improved on daily basis. Clothing and shelter are also the essential remedies to the lunatics. That is why in this centre, the inmates will not stop praying for the success of thisadministration. This is because since the inception of this rehabilitation centre for almost 20 years now, this is the only administration committed to the uplift of the camp. By so doing, when completed, the ongoing building which is named after Governor Udom Emmanuel in the centre will in no small measure contribute to the well-being of the affected inmates.
QUESTION: Let’s digress a bit. On the recent victory of Governor Udom Emmanuel at the Supreme Court, what is your take?
ANSWER: Thank you! To us at the camp, his victory at the Supreme Court was not a surprise. This is because we were embarking on intensive intercessory prayers for his victory, knowing too well that God is going to use him greatly until there is a turnaround in this mission of giving hope to the hopeless.His victory, apart from deepening the democracy, is the practical affirmation of the divine mandate of our dear governor, as well as portraying the judiciary arm of government as the last hope of the masses. So we in the Wonder Life Centre are so much happy to be identified with him on this remarkable victory that was already given to him by the Akwa Ibom people during the April 11, general elections. On behalf of the organization, I congratulate His Excellency, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State and wish him and his wife, Martha, who is our daughter in Oruk Anam a successful administration that will make Akwa Ibom State the toast of Africa.
QUESTION: How would you describe the Dakkada Philosophy of the State Governor?
ANSWER: The Dakkada philosophy of our dear governor is symbolic in the sense that it changes the mental capacity of Akwa Ibom people to the greatness in all spheres of livelihood. It boost the spirit of greatness in the lives of everyone, both the young and the old as well as re-direct the mindsetsof the people to rise and take their rightful place in the society, ranging from academic excellence, industrialization boom, and agricultural advancement among others.
QUESTION: What is your advice to Akwa Ibom people?
ANSWER: My advice to Akwa Ibom people is simple, as Governor Udom Emmanuel is taking Akwa Ibom State to an enviable height, the people should shun political blackmails and character assassination. The opposition should sheathe their swords and join hands to support the governor to actualize his industrialization plans for the betterment of the general public as his eight-year tenure is not negotiable for the sake of justice and equity.