It was not a “usual” wedding. It was by all standard a unique one. The uniqueness was not about the venue, which was the National Christian Centre, Abuja. Many wedding services have been held there and many will still hold in that house of God.
The unique nature of the wedding was the fact that it was an “all wheelchair affair.” The bride and all her bridesmaids stormed the venue on December 2 2019, on wheelchairs!
“I was disabled by polio and enabled by positivity. I have 99 abilities in me and one disability,” has always been Lois Auta’s slogan. This came to reality when he got married amid pomp and pagentry to her heartthrob, Innocent Udonkanta. The love story defies ethnicity and disability.
Auta has received awards and accolades for her role in promoting disabled sport globally. In the United States, she was able to attract personalities in government, civil society, diplomatic circles and international organizations. She is the founder of Cedar Seed Foundation, young global leader of the World Economic Forum and the candidate of Accord Party of the AMAC/Bwari Federal constituency as a member of House of Representatives in the last general elections. She said she had given up on marriage.
While Udonkanta hails from Abak, Akwa Ibom State, and works with Disabled People Leadership Initiative, Auta hails from Kagoro, Kaura Local Government of Kaduna State. She was only two years when she was struck by poliomyelitis.
The 39-year-old who said she had given up on marriage, got married to her campaign manager, Udonkanta. She scaled hurdles growing up but this is one hurdle she is so excited to have overcome.
Not only did she have a long and colourful bridal train, the outstanding thing about her train was that her bridesmaids all turned up in wheelchairs dressed in the colour of the day, tale green and orange.
Auta said the choice of having all bridesmaids on wheelchairs was deliberate: “I’m trying to change the narratives and wrong perception that women with disabilities are not worth marrying, which is not true. We are lovable, we are productive, we are good wives, we are good mothers, we are capable of being the best home handlers than anyone. Disability does not affect sexuality and true love knows no disability.”
It started in July 2018 when a friend introduced Udonkanta to her as a campaign manager when she ran for House of Representatives in the 2019 elections: “In the course of campaign activities, Mr Innocent proposed and here we are today.
“When he proposed I felt excited because it was a dream come true. I gave up on marriage but God said I am not done with you yet becoming married to Mr Innocent is one of my dreams come true. Now that I am married, I dream to have a happy home, a heaven on earth matrimonial home, a home based on Godly affairs and a home that is ready to touch humanity.”
On the qualities that endeared her to husband, she said: “When we went for introduction in Kaduna State that the same question was asked, and I said because he saw ability in disability. I see my disability as a lesson, a bridge and not a barricade, my disability can never stop me and it can never stop me from being a good wife, mother not only to my family but to the nation.
“It can never stop me from being a passionate social entrepreneur and I believe with him by my side we are going to do exploits. So disability and love is a different perspective and so people should begin to see people with disability as good wives and good mothers.”
Udonkanta gave reasons he married Auta: “Early enough I noticed in her innocence, simplicity and child like sincerity and that alone did not allow me to leave her like that.
“Some family members encouraged me and some attempted to discourage. When they noticed my resolve they knew they could not stop me.
“On the day of proposal, I told her I would love to marry you if you don’t mind and she told me she would pray first. And I said as far as my God is concerned you are helpless and she laughed.
“For men who will find themselves in similar situation, I have this to say. Most of those we brand disable are in fact more capable, more active than people without disability and so we shouldn’t under rate them.”
Rev Mike Agbon, an officiating minister said: “The wedding is unusual because apart from our regular non-denominational service under the auspices of the Christian Association of Nigeria, today we wedded a couple, one who is special and unique because the bride is physically challenged.
“We felt it will be wonderful time to come and encourage the men in that category, who are physically challenged to let everybody know that the decision of the groom, is an expression of his love and also goes to show that in spite of any challenge that anybody would have, that those challenges are not limitations, that with those challenges you could actually live a normal life, have a normal love life, a normal matrimonial home.
“Our sister, Lois is someone who is very much endowed and brother Innocent has been able to see beyond the physical challenge and see those gifts that the Lord has given her. They have come together under the law and under the church in holy matrimony.
“The message I have for them is to remain one. The Bible says Adam and Eve after they were made at the beginning before they sinned were both naked and not ashamed. What that means is that from this day onward there are no secret between them, they must be able to dialogue together, share everything that they have.
Once they are transparent and they have the fear of the Lord, then they will have no problem. You know at the fall of man, man was cursed and he was told he will work and from the sweat of his brow he will feed his wife and the desire of the wife will be unto the man. But after Jesus died and made a sacrifice on the cross of Calvary and his resurrection, the Bible said we have been redeemed from this curse of the law.
“So we have a new order now, the wife is supposed to look unto God and the husband is supposed to look unto God as well. So as the wife honour her husband in the fear of the Lord and the husband honour the wife and loves her in the fear of the Lord, you will have a union that is perfect under God and the union will last the test of time and withstand any kind of challenge that they will have.
“My advice is for them to look unto the Lord and let the Lord be the standard for which they relate with one another. Once you make the Lord the standard then it will be bliss all through.
“This is certainly the first time this type of marriage is taking place, the first marriage on a Sunday morning and a marriage between a man and a lady who is physically challenged. We look up to that kind of marriage.”
Pastor Ehichoya Oluwaremilekun, the couple’s friend and one of the groomsmen said: “The couple are good friends. I actually know the wife through my wife who is also physically challenged. They are ambitious, focused and they will make a good couple. My candid advice is that they should be patient with each other and share their dreams together. They should make God their father in-law, report any matter to God not people so that that will have a clear focus in life.
“I have been married for 13 years, and one of the key advise is for them to trust each other, don’t allow any third party to come between them and they shouldn’t have any secret. They should learn how to listen to one another because most times couples don’t take time to listen, they should weigh the pros and cons before taking decisions. We are not saying everything will be palatable but if they can as much as possible leave third party out of their marriage.”
One of the bridesmaids, Mrs Naomi Ebiakwe, who is a friend and a colleague to Auta, couldn’t contain her joy: “I am grateful to God for a day like this that has come to pass. Where people who are not physically challenged cannot even get a husband, God has favoured my friend and she is married, I have come to return all the glory to God.”
Another bridesmaid Kena Nezim: “I am one of the bridesmaids. I am so happy for this new home that has just been established, I pray for God’s blessings, understanding between the couples which is the most important thing, even if it is water they will take the whole day, let them be contented with what they have. I’m so happy she made us part of her bridal train, seeing us you will see that there is ability in disability.”
Kelechi, also a bridesmaid said: “Whenever there is a celebration it means there is something good happening so, I’m really grateful and excited. I know the bride we actually took part in Miss Wheelchair Competition about nine, 10 years ago.”