From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The Ose Okwodu Market, Onitsha in Anambra State, known for foodstuff sales and food condiments, is one shopping centre that holds out to all.
Unlike in the other markets in the commercial nerve centre, Ose Okwodu Market has able-bodied and physically challenged persons, particularly the deaf and dumb doing business in it.
The market which is mainly dominated by women opens for business as early as 5:30am and has no specific closing time as the market shifts to the roadside when it is officially closed at 6pm.
It is interesting seeing the deaf and dumb traders transacting business with the able-bodied persons in a competitive manner.
One may wonder how the deaf and dumb manage to do business in the market owing to communication difficulties with their customers, which are essentially through signs.
In the market, there are over 15 deaf and dumb traders, married and unmarried, who are shop owners.
They manage their businesses successfully without any hinderance like their able-bodied colleagues in the market.
When recently Oriental News visited the market, this reporter saw a 33-year-old Ifeanyi Ezeonu and his wife, also deaf and dumb with their four-year-old daughter who is a normal child.
Also seen was another deaf and dumb couple, Chibuike Ekwumise, 30, whose wife recently put to bed.
Other deaf and dumb traders in the market included Chibuike Ohaga, Chukwudi Chukwere, Friday Omeh, Uchenna Ugbana, Paul Edu and Amah Ukpai, who are all dealers in food stuff and condiments.
In a chat, Ifeanyi Ezeonu, said he and his wife own two shops of food condiments where they sell melon, stockfish, crayfish, ogbono, rice, dry pepper, among others.
Ezeonu stated that he started his business in 2011 with N15, 000 his family members raised while another person lent him additional sum, which he is still paying back.
He disclosed that it was the proceeds from the business that he used to marry his wife in 2013 whom he met in Aba, Abia State in 2012.
He said that he makes between N10,000 and N15,000 per a day, saying that people (customers) always want to patronize them despite the fact they do not talk and only communicate with their customers through use of the calculator in their bargain.
Another deaf and dumb trader, Chibuike Ekwuise, who is also married with two kids said that he decided to do business because he wanted to be self-reliant rather than dependent on anybody or taking to alms begging.
He said God has a purpose of creating or making them deaf and dumb, saying that what a normal person could do, they could even do better.
According to Ekwuise, “everything I have achieved in life was through this business. I started the business after my secondary school in Imo State and from the business I got married in 2014.
“I want to advise other deaf and dumb and physically challenged persons not to see their condition as an excuse to be lazy and always depend on others by begging for alms. God can bless you through your little business. We have so many customers who buy from us in this market,” he said.
A trader and neighbour to Ekwuise, Mrs. Ada Nwamadi said deaf and dumb persons in the market were doing well, saying that they even sell more than her because people always have sympathy for them and would want to encourage them to continue in business.
“We are not envious because God knows how to bless his people. We even help them to sell and they help us to sell too, if a customer demands for a particular good and I don’t have it, I will collect from his shop. They are good people, they don’t look for your trouble, but if you look for theirs they will face you squarely,” Nwamadi said.
A customer, who was in the shop of the one of the deaf and dumb traders when this reporter visited Miss Chioma Udemma, said she patronizes them not because she knows how to communicate in signs, but because she wanted to support and encourage them to continue in their trade.
“I must tell you, these people are different, for the past 10 years now, I have been buying condiments from them to support them; this is because there are others like them out there begging for alms, but these people are here doing their businesses, showing good example to others. They do their business with cheerfulness and that is why they are doing well and people like them,” she said.