Inclusive and fairness go together. However, the word “inclusion” is crucial not only for a fairer society but also for a stronger economy, healthier Democracy and good governance.
Inclusive government implies not only including “Youth and or Women” in politics and governance but also marginalized/ minority groups otherwise known as group of Persons with Disabilities, PWDs.
Wait a minute, let me borrow one quote from my research project titled ‘Democracy and the Challenges of Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria’- “Persons with disabilities everywhere continue to face challenges and barriers to participation in political engagement and government.
They are often far discriminated against and excluded from participating in the decisions that affect their lives, their absence from decisions making process reinforces barriers to full participation in society.
The enjoyment or right of persons with disabilities to participate in decision making including participation in politics and public life, is interrelated to their enjoyment of other human rights.
However, in Nigeria, persons with disabilities have encountered a number of challenged from enjoying such rights.”
For long, people with disabilities suffer discrimination, exclusion, negative perception etc which hinder their participation in decision-making process including such decisions that affect their lives.
If I may say for instance, during my research, one person with hearing Disability said and I quote, “No one in government consults us disabled. The government does not see us as individuals who can provide solution to some of the problems confronting the country. We are capable but just that we have not been given opportunity to do so”. Imagine. So deep!
Similarly, in an interview conducted on another person with physical disability, (crippled), he said and I quote, “It has been impossible for government to give us any appointment; the government does not consider us when it comes to making political appointments and giving people the chance to be part of the administration.
In Nigeria many people believe that the Borno State Governor Prof. Babagana Zulum is running an inclusive government just because he carried everyone along and empowered PWDs with N30,000 monthly for self-reliance, though such gesture is highly commendable and equally appreciated, but when we speak about inclusive government, I beg to differ. Inclusive government simply means carrying everyone along in government including the most marginalized groups not just in employment and empowerment but also in political appointment to give every group a sense of belonging to the government irrespective of religion, ethnic, gender, and or physical appearance.
I recently saw it that the Borno State Governor appointed 31 Special advisers, and I hurried to get the list and their portfolio, unfortunately I can’t find a single PWD in the list and despite the fact that there is a Special Adviser on Women, Agriculture, Religion, IDP, etc, there is nothing like Special Adviser, Disabled Matters.
Mind you nothing gives PWDs a sense of belonging than including one of their very own in government. This is perhaps the reasons why almost all deaf and disabled from Plateau and Anambra State love, supported and cherish their Governors. I give examples of the two State Governors because they have been running the most inclusive system of government so far. They even have office of the S.A on Disabled matter and Agency for persons with disabilities aimed to protect and promote the rights of PWDs. This is the real meaning of inclusion.
Another important thing to note by appointing an S.A on Disabled Matters is that they will not only serve as a link between the government and the disabled community but will also serve as an informant to the government on any Disability-related matter because from my knowledge, several normal people and their so called organizations/NGOs have been using the disabled as a tool for enriching themselves.
Meanwhile there are some self-appointed disabled organizations that will use disabled names to benefits themselves also by writing a letter of fake proposal or request for assistance etc to support disabled but to be sincere some of them are only trying to benefits themselves and the few not the majority of disabled they claimed to represent.
Imagine if the government had an S.A on Disability who is one of them, registered and active in their associations? He would have helped the government to avoid approving fraudulent requests and advice on genuine requests. Unfortunately many of our State Governors (including Prof. Zulum) are not aware because they don’t have advisers or informants on Disability-related matters. Sentiment aside, as a politician you need to have informants also.
However it will be unfair if I didn’t mention anything about my state government. Although His Excellency Governor Inuwa Yahaya promised us that he will send a Bill to the State Assembly for the establishment of an agency for PWDs, it’s unfortunate that PWDs are still not included not just in the government but also in his recent Empowerment programme such as the 3G.
As the public relations officer of Gombe State Association of the deaf, it irks me that no single deaf or PWD got the Empowerment programme of N5,000 to N7,000 monthly while many normal people including the children of the rich are benefiting. This is supposed to include at least 5 per cent of PWDs because they deserve it more considering their situation, for self-reliance.
Meanwhile though the government promised us equal employment opportunities and already collected our documents, we are still expecting and praying for the best.
Meanwhile I recall one of our programs held in Abuja titled ‘Promoting the Participation of Persons With Disabilities and their Leadership: Taking Action on the 2030 Development Agenda’ where the Chairman, Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Hon. Betty Apiafi, who represented the Senate President Ahmed Lawan at the occasion, said that “The disabled people in Nigeria are indeed very capable with tremendous abilities and should not be overlooked.” PWDs have sound minds and abilities and therefore must be given all the support they deserve.
We are happy that the Disability Bill has been signed into law. We believe that with new technology we will surely make it easier for people with disabilities to be propelled into participating in leadership and be more involved in all strata of our economy.”
It’s my hope and prayers that the government at all levels will stick to these very important recommendations.