He does not live with a physical or mental disability, but Abiodun Enilari Paseda, a Business Administration and Marketing Management graduate of the Ogun State University, Ago Iwoye, and University College, Birmingham, respectively, is consumed by a burning passion to alleviate the plight of the disabled and the needy in the society, INN learnt from source.
Abiodun, who runs a Non-Governmental Organisation, called Focus on Disability Foundation, communicates how effortless altruism can be, especially when targeted at those who are not in a position to reciprocate. Abbey, as he is fondly called, states the reasons every person should endeavor to give and why they must treat citizens living with disabilities the same way they treat the able-bodied.
How would you describe yourself ?
I am the founder of Focus on Disability Foundation UK. Born on December 27 in Lagos, Nigeria, I see myself as a reputable international campaigner for social justice for the vulnerable and disadvantaged people, especially people born and living with disabilities in Nigeria and Africa.
In this humanitarian function of yours, what are your core concerns?
My major interests are anchored on social inclusion, human rights protection of the vulnerable, prompt response to humanitarian crisis, global awareness and not forgetting general world campaign on issues with peculiar to disability.
You are not disabled. What prompted your concern to lose sleep over the disabled?
In case most people don’t understand, the disabled are the most important yet most neglected people in our society today. It is really a sad commentary of how we treat our disabled people. When I travelled to the United Kingdom and some other countries in Europe, I was privileged to come in contact with the special ways these countries treat the disabled. In the first place, there is a disability law which we don’t have in this part of the world. As a result, the disabled have no place to fall back to, and this explains why they are treated the way they are.
Having seen the two very different ways disabled people are treated in both Nigeria and Europe, I felt I should reciprocate the European standard in my country in the little way I can, and with what little resources I can lay my hand on.
How did you kick off?
My kickoff point was Abuja, and because it has already become my passion, I made it mandatory to distribute materials to those suffering any form of disability wherever I am privileged to meet them. I must say that the turning point of my disability focus initiative began when I relocated to London. I have a Business Administration background and had a stint with the defunct Intercontinental Bank as a graduate assistant before finally moving to London.
I had been making voluntary donations before I felt that there was a need to give the act a platform, and that gave rise to Focus on Disability (FOD) Foundation in 2010. The foundation was completely saddled with the responsibility of dishing out unconditional charity and passionate assistance to the less privileged in Africa and the United Kingdom. I started with the Leonard-Cheshire Cancer Centre, UK, and Global Care International where I was involved in voluntary work for children with disabilities in Africa.
Itemize some of the activities your foundation has been involved in
FOD has really been involved in a lot of humanitarian work including the distribution of 60 wheel chairs and other disability aids in Kano and Kaduna in 2012; distribution of crutches, wheelchairs and other disability aids in Ogun State in March 2013. In September of the same year, FOD was involved in the distribution of food items to towns around South West of Nigeria.
Your organization is supposed to be international, why is your presence basically only in Africa and UK?
Yes, we are international, but we are limited by resources and fund, and that explains why our activities for now are restricted to the shores of Africa and UK. We most times depend on the generosity of well-meaning people to work. These people include but are not limited to churches, mosques, faith groups, social groups, communities, corporate bodies as well as individuals.
What challenges have you encountered so far in the selfless work?
The major challenge we face is getting the people to participate. You know most people don’t believe in charity, but God is giving us victory in every way, and good Nigerians sometimes come to our aid.
Has your organization so far received any government attention, and in what area do you need government attention?
As at now, there is no government attention, no there is none. If the government come in by enacting a law or laws to support disability and the disable, we will so much appreciate it. Again, there is the need to introduce inclusive education where both the able bodied and the disabled can co-exist using the same educational facility like it is in Ghana.
It must interest you to know that we have reached out to the National Assembly on the matter, and it is believed that before long, something good will happen to the benefit of people living with disabilities. In 2011, we were among those that protested against the government of Donald Cameron when they tried to cut off the disabled. We got him to change his mind. I believe such is possible in Nigeria much as we are a difficult people. Howbeit, we are working towards getting the National Assembly to enact a law supporting the disabled, and we believe that no matter how long it takes, we will achieve it.
How have you managed to achieve the progress you have made so far?
I return all the glory to God for his steadfastness. Again, my team has been very supportive. They are everywhere doing a great job. Our presence is felt in Nigeria, Ghana, and we are not resting on our oars. We are sold out to supporting children and adults with disabilities.
Who are your mentors in the affairs of life… people you look up to?
God has remained the first and foremost. There are many others. However these ones I’m about to mention are really special, and selfless. They include my loving and caring wife, Mrs. Esther Paseda, Reverend Mother Esther Ajayi of Esther Ajayi Foundation, who is an epitome of giving; Chief Dele Momodu of Ovation Media Group, Henry Cofie-Squire, Dr. Dapo Williams, Dr. Abbey Akinoshun among many others. I am inspired by these people and they make me learn every day. In fact, I love moving with people who has something to offer.
What is your greatest desire as a person and as a professional?
I wish above all things that disabled children and adults are included as equal members of the society with equal rights with their able-bodied counter-parts. At FOD as well, we are developing a project where disabled adults will learn a vocation.
Any message for the society at large?
We all must know that disability is not a respecter of persons. It can happen to anybody at any time. Everyone should rally round the less privileged; help and love everyone equally.
And to the young ones, focus is the watchword. They must understand that the likes of Dangote, Otedola and others we celebrate today would not have got to the level they are today if they had derailed from their set objectives and goals.