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A Review Of I Can, I Will By Mark Esho

May 8, 2019

I Can, I Will is the autobiography of Mark Esho, a Nigerian polio survivor and entrepreneur who has run many successful online businesses, particularly Easy Internet Solutions, and has recently set up a Youtube channel.

One of the first things I noticed, and one thing I particularly like, about the book is that there are Reflections sections after each chapter, and each chapter ends with a well-known inspirational quote.


Mark Esho was born on Friday, 17th August 1962. His Nigerian name is Yomi.


His mother, Titilayo, was born Muslim and converted to Christianity aged 15. She travelled to the UK from Nigeria in 1960 and met his father, Michael, on the boat.

Michael was an abusive, controlling, womanising man- first to Titilayo and later to Mark and his siblings.

At just six months old, Mark was privately fostered out to the Archer family in the UK, who had ‘hearts of gold,’ because his parents were students and couldn’t cope with a baby. Mark felt that he didn’t have a bond with his own parents, and loved Mrs Archer as his own mother. His younger sister, Ronke, also came to live with him at the Archers’ home, as their parents could not support her either. However, as his mother’s favourite, she was taken back to Nigeria with her parents when they left the UK, while Mark stayed with the Archers.


Aged almost 5, soon after getting a bike that he had really wanted and loved, Mark’s life changed forever when he contracted severe polio and was paralysed. Mrs Archer, who loved Mark unconditionally when he was a child, had also had polio, which had left her with a limp.


One of the most moving moments of the book comes when Mark describes how he was traumatised by the treatments for polio and would beg not to have injections. He describes feeling rage at being struck down by polio.


He first describes facing racism from the other children in hospital, who would call him racist names. However, his worries about racism became insignificant when he was given a wheelchair, which couldn’t be hidden.


At 7, released from hospital, Mark returned to the Archers’ home, which was adapted to meet his needs. He had missed five years of school.


Mark describes how his father wanted to abandon him because he was ashamed of his severe disability. Knowing what unconditional love is, Mark couldn’t understand this.


At 8, he went to Ashfield Special School, where there was no focus on education, but on playing and colouring in. As someone who has been disabled since birth and who attended a similar special school in the 1980s, I particularly related to this description, which brought back unpleasant memories of my own time in special education.


He describes his callipers and other rehabilitation aids. He found the callipers frustrating, but was also grateful for them because they allowed him to walk again.


Outside Ashfield School, Mark was stared at. He felt a conflict- he didn’t wasn’t to be different but he didn’t want to be overlooked either. He describes how his father felt even more shame because he was attending a special school in the UK, so he was taken back to Nigeria.


He grieved the loss of his family, the Archers, and his friends from the UK. He felt like he belonged with the Archers, and that his birth parents were strangers with whom he had no bond.


He got on the plane to Nigeria with his mother, but without his wheelchair. After landing, he became hysterical.


He describes the ‘startling’ difference that he felt between his homes in England and Nigeria, especially in the love. The way of life in Nigeria was ‘strict and harsh,’ particularly his father’s nature. He disliked Lagos, finding it busy, hot, dusty and noisy, and he didn’t speak the language.


One night, in the middle of the night, his father took him to a witch doctor. He experienced tribal cutting, which was very painful, and other rituals, all of which traumatised him.


His father wouldn’t let him use a wheelchair, so when his callipers broke he had no aids for movement.


His mother studied in France and while she was away, Mark says, the children had many ‘aunties.’ One was abusive towards Mark. His father kicked her out of the family home immediately.


He describes how he was carried to his mainstream school in Nigeria. This made him feel different- another feeling I personally related to.


He describes how the children used to take cakes to school on their birthdays. However, Mark couldn’t afford cakes, so he lied that it wasn’t his birthday, because he felt different.

At school, he was unable to take part in playground games so would do nothing but study. This meant that he was accelerated, completing his primary education in three years rather than the usual five.


He describes how he now thanks his father for refusing to let him use a wheelchair, because this forced him to start walking. He sees this as a silver lining to a very heavy cloud.


His father was a Jekyll and Hyde character, loved by outsiders, but Mark himself ‘lived in constant fear of a beating’ from him.


His father sent him to an international school in Nigeria just to show off, where he experienced a ‘nightmarish year’ of bullying, which he hated. The school facilities, particularly the sanitation and toilets, were poor. However, while school was a challenge, home life was a disaster.


One day, aged 13, Mark’s father beat him up for hours because he wasn’t coping at school. After that incident he hated his father even more. At one point he even took paracetamol from the cupboard to try to kill himself.


After a year at the International School, he spent five years at a Catholic school called Loyola College. He experienced bullying there too, but he had toughened up, so reacted differently to it. He was popular at the new school, and describes how he found his entrepreneurial streak there, selling comics and books. However, his popularity meant he neglected studies and repeated a year. His father beat him up for his poor results and would “help” him study after that, beating him up if he got anything wrong.


He describes how he used to pray that his father would have an accident, so that he wouldn’t have to see him again, but he felt guilty about these feelings.


He describes how Sports Day at school made him feel excluded because he couldn’t participate.


He describes how, when he liked a girl, his mother told him that the girl would never be interested in him. He was hurt by this and felt that his mother didn’t understand unconditional love.


He describes how his father was ‘mean with money’ for his family, and made him wear old clothes.


His father married a second wife in 1978. He kicked his mother out of the family home and also wanted to kick the children out but they were allowed to stay in the end.

In 1980, aged 18, Mark returned to the UK to do his A Levels in Leicester, but he found that everyone had changed. He had to cut all contact with the Archers after their children blamed him for Mr Archer’s sudden death. He faced racism in Leicester and decided to leave Leicester and college after a few months.


His parents were supportive about the racism he faced because they had had similar experiences. With his father’s permission, he moved to London to do A Levels in Maths and Economics. However, he started partying and neglected his studies, focusing instead on a DJing business, Ebony and Ivory, with his closest college friend.


After he failed his A Levels in London, his father forced him to go back to Nigeria for two years. He studied at a polytechnic he liked, lived with his grandmother and made new friends. He gained a Btech in Accountancy and returned to the UK in 1984 where he moved in with friends and girlfriends.


He met his future wife, Diana, in 1986, and felt ‘instantly accepted’ by her. She moved in with him within a few weeks. This was his first ‘loving relationship.’ Although they faced racism from the public as a mixed race couple, her mother and grandmother accepted them.


He faced racism from the police as ‘a black man in a car.’


Their first child, a son named Ren, was born in 1989. Mark couldn’t understand Diana’s bond with the baby as he had missed out on it with his own mother.


As is normal in Nigerian culture, Ren went to live in Nigeria as a toddler to be raised by his grandmother. This was a huge sacrifice for Diana but made the Esho family respect her more.


After studying for an MA, Mark became the only black employee at a disability charity, where another employee disliked him, and even rang the university to confirm his qualifications.


Their first home gave Mark a sense of security, but they faced racism from the neighbours from the start.


He describes developing post-polio syndrome, an after-effect of polio which causes fatigue.


He describes how he loved the Internet as it made him feel connected to the world. He set up his first online business in the early 2000s. The only really negative thing I have to say about the otherwise very interesting book is that Mark talks about his online businesses, from this point onwards, in a bit too much detail for my liking.


Mark and Diana have a daughter, Esmee, who is 13 years younger than Ren. They got married on her first birthday, 24th July 2003.


He faced racism yet again when he went to buy his dream car, a BMW, and was asked to leave the showroom from the back entrance.


One of his employees, Mike, was racist towards Mark but was sensitive to his disability.


He describes his interesting side businesses, which included a disability dating website called Cupid Calls and a gay dating website called Gay Arrangement.


He faced racism and disablism from his employees. One used to insult him on Internet forums and another offered to run the business for him while he stayed at home.


He realised how far he had come when he was nominated for the Entrepreneur of the Year National Disability Award.


The Disability Confident campaign inspired him to help more disabled people into work, which is now a passion of his.


Towards the end of the book, he describes how he has carpal tunnel syndrome and a benign tumour in his hand as well as post-polio syndrome.


The book ends with his final reflections, of things he would tell his younger self and advice he would give to his children.


In the final chapter, titled Karma, Mark describes how his father lost all his money and got bowel cancer.


The great length of this review perhaps shows you how much I related to, learnt from and enjoyed this book. I recommend it highly, particularly to disabled people and parent carers who want to be inspired by a disabled person’s attitude to their disability. Mark Esho is an interesting, inspirational man and this book will leave you in  no doubt that he can, and will, do and achieve anything he puts his mind to.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 8, 2019 7:57 pm

    Yup samedifference1 WON’T read ANYTHING from PLANET EARTH.

    “The Disability Confident campaign inspired him to help more disabled people into work, which is now a passion of his.”

    So why WON’T Fake news samedifference1 tell you who runs ‘The Disability Confident campaign’???

    Department for Work and Pensions”


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