The European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) programme has called for the appointment of persons with disabilities in government positions across the country.
It noted that there cannot be strong, effective and legitimate democratic institutions without the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities.
It further noted that while the majority of persons with disabilities were not elected in the just concluded general elections, there is still an opportunity for their inclusion in appointive positions in government at the National and State levels.
The EU-SDGN, which is a European Union funded programme, aims to reinforce democracy in Nigeria through six component areas, including: support to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); support to the National Assembly and Judiciary; support to Political Parties; support to Media; support to Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, and support to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
Members of the EU-SDGN cohort include: DAI Global, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Yiaga Africa, Kukah Centre, International Press Centre (IPC), Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), ElectHER, and TAF Africa.
Other included: The Kukah Centre, SOS Children’s Villages, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Justice Development and Peace Initiative, and Justice, Development & Peace Makers’ Centre (JDPMC).
Speaking during the “Able to Serve” event, Chief Executive Officer TAF Africa, and implementing partner of the EU-SDGN, Jake Epelle said: “We want the whole nation, especially the current administration to hear their voice; to hear that they are qualified for any and every appointive office.
“The President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should take the bull by the horns and appoint persons with disabilities as Ministers. Let him take pride in being the first President to do that. Elected Governors across the sub-national should also appoint persons with disabilities as Commissioners.
“We are grateful that in the past, we’ve been appointed Special Advisers and some other Heads of Establishments, especially establishments for persons with disabilities, but we need to go a notch higher. Who says we cannot be Ministers?
“Let them appoint a person with disability as a Minister, hold me responsible, and we will make sure that that person will perform. We may be disabled in our physical body, but we have the ability in our brain.
“If you take us out of governance, then what you’re going to run is an exclusive government, and an exclusive government is not a government of national unity. If you truly want to run a government of national unity, then that government should be inclusive of all, irrespective of their gender, irrespective of their status, irrespective of their religion, whatever needs to be done so that everyone will sit on the table is the way forward.
“Persons with disabilities are very prepared. We have PhD holders, master’s degrees, but it’s not about the degree you have, it is your preparation for leadership. And we have the right people that will make us proud. Just give us the opportunity, that’s what we’re asking for. When you pursue true inclusion, it eliminates cultural stereotypes.
“Service is not written on anybody’s face. Give everybody that is qualified the chance to serve. Don’t give us a Minister because we’re persons with disabilities. Give us a Minister because we have the ability to run that office, make a difference and be part of nation building.”
The Founder and President, Network of Women with Disabilities, Auta Lois, in her remarks said: “We want to remind policy makers, decision makers, traditional leaders, the clergy, student groups, civil society organizations, media institutions, and all the key actors and stakeholders that we have, that persons with disabilities have the right to be appointed and elected into a public office.”
The Founder, Center for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment (CARE), Dr. Chike Okogwu added: “The impact of this kind of programme is that it’s going to increase inclusion of persons with disabilities in governance. Including persons with disabilities in governance should not be only because they are persons with disabilities. Beyond them being persons with disabilities, their capacity to deliver on the job given to them should play another important role.”