After celebrating the completion of his final exams at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Stephen Ohimai Azekhame looked forward to a bright future. He had just rounded up as an HND 2 student of Business Administration.
His high hopes, however, have since taken a hit.
On October 19th, 2020, he was hit by a bullet from officials of the Nigerian Army during the #EndSARS protests at Jettu Junction in Auchi, in the Owan West Area of Edo State.
His right leg was later amputated.
Stephen says he joined the protest as a concerned Nigerian youth. It was peaceful, he says, until some army officials punctuated it by opening fire.
"They started shooting, scattering us in different directions,” Stephen remembers. “I was hiding inside a caravan on the side of the road when I was hit by a stray bullet from one of the men. It went into my thighs, and destroyed my bone, the veins and every other thing.”
Stephen cried out for help, but everyone else was busy trying to save their own lives. He passed out. He later learned that help had come when he was unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was revived.
"The doctor at Skyview hospital initially told me my leg had to be amputated because of the dead tissues,” he remembers, “but I resisted. I said, ‘this is not my portion!’ But when we got to the Irua Specialist Hospital and they said the same thing, I had to accept my fate."
After the amputation, Stephen spent two months recovering in the hospital. His friends and family had initially supported him financially, until his case got the attention of the Deputy Governor of the Edo State, Phillip Shuaibu, following a public outcry.
The Deputy Governor offered to pay Stephen’s hospital bills. Sympathetic Nigerians who have heard of Stephen’s case have also organized for the purchase of a prosthetic leg for him, though he is yet to receive it.
Stephen is traumatized. He is unsure about how his life will pan out now. But he is learning to carry on, a day at a time. “It has taken a lot of courage for me to continue with life,” he says.