The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) has expressed concern over non-election of candidates that are Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) at the 2023 General Elections.
Grace Jerry, Executive Director, IFA and Convener, VoteAbility Campaign said this in the group’s post-election statement in Abuja on Wednesday.
Jerry said that 36 PWDs contested for elective positions in the elections, saying that 12 contested at the national level, while the rest were at the state level.
She said that five candidates contested for Senate seats, while seven candidates went for the House of Representatives seats, out of which three were females making 25 per cent, while nine were males making 75 per cent.
“We found it worrisome that of the 36 PWD candidates in the 2023 general elections, none was elected into their contested office; mindful that a democratic election is a question of choice and number.
“While many factors could be responsible for this, it also shows that there is a huge trust deficit driven by disability stereotypes between PWD political actors and the electorate.
“Nevertheless, the IFA notes what could be the silver lining from Saturday’s poll, which is the possible emergence of Sen. Aisha Binani as the first elected female Governor in Nigeria.
“Should this happen, notwithstanding the negligible presence of women in the Nigerian political sphere, it will be a step in the right direction,’’ she said.
Jerry said that IFA was hopeful that it would inspire more women with disabilities to participate in the political process and birth new-found confidence in female political actors.
She encouraged the electorate and political parties to see PWDs as electable and equal stakeholders in the electoral process.
She said that this would bridge the gap between the former and the latter and make the electoral process more disability inclusive, because in the end, good governance usually start from the ballot and so of an inclusive society.
She said that the provision of assistive election materials for PWDs was also a challenge during the elections.
She said that during the Presidential and National Assembly election where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) committed to providing and did provided assistive electoral materials in many polling units.
Jerry, however, regretted that there was no such commitment in the Governorship and States Houses of Assembly election.
“As a result, assistive materials were made available only in pockets of polling units,’’ she said.
She said that regrettably, also, the elections were marred with violence across the country and this led to voter suppression and rendered PWDs vulnerable as easy targets of violence.
Jerry said that the consequences thereof, resulted in the disenfranchisement of many PWD voters who in such volatile situations would be more concerned about survival.
“Now that the elections have ended, we regret to say that this is not the election that PWDs expected from INEC and as such, we call for more deliberate steps to improve the process,’’ she said.
Jerry called on INEC to work toward building on the gains made to increase PWD’s participation in the electoral process as political participation was a civil right of all Nigerians, irrespective of their status.
She also urged INEC to expand the reach of PWDs’ disaggregated data in subsequent election as it would ensure the deployment of assistive electoral materials in more states and polling units across the country.
She said that INEC staff should also be given adequate training to ensure that assistive materials deployed for elections are used as such.
Jerry called on INEC and the security apparatus to ensure a more conducive and secure environment for voters to exercise their franchise in subsequent election.
She said that this would mitigate the susceptibility of PWD voters to violence and encourage more PWDs to go to the poll. (NAN)