By Ibrahim Ramalan
The Persons With Disability, PWDs, have written an open letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, urging him to prioritise the inclusion of PWDs in his cabinet appointments, to foster an inclusive and representative government.
Jake Epelle, the Convener of Disability Inclusion Nigeria, a Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, on Thursday in Abuja, during a media conference said that the letter had been dispatched to the Office of the President.
He said that it was an unfortunate reality that PWDs in Nigeria often face significant barriers to accessing basic rights and opportunities.
“In spite of the progress made in recent years, we continue to witness the marginalisation and exclusion of this significant population.
“As the leader of our great nation, you have the power to change this narrative and make a resounding statement about the values and potential of PWDs.
“By including PWDs in your cabinet, you would not only ensure their representation in decision-making processes but also harness their unique perspectives and expertise”, he said.
According to Epelle, the experiences and insights of PWDs can greatly contribute to the development and implementation of policies that address the specific needs and challenges faced by the community.
He added that their inclusion would bring about more comprehensive and effective governance, fostering a society that truly upholds the principles of equality, diversity and social justice.
“Furthermore, appointing PWDs to influential positions in your government would serve as a powerful symbol of inclusivity, sending a clear message that Nigeria embraces and values the contribution of every citizen, regardless of their abilities.
“This act of leadership would inspire other sectors of the society to follow suit and create a ripple effect of positive change that extends far beyond the political realm.
“It will also send a powerful message to the society, dispel misconceptions and prejudices surrounding disability as well as serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for countless PWDs who often face systemic barriers and limited opportunities due to societal attitudes and biases.”
Epelle recommended that Tinubu should establish a transparent and inclusive selection process that ensures equal opportunities for PWDs to apply and compete for positions.
“He should encourage other public and private sector organisations to follow suit and promote the inclusion of PWDs in their leadership positions.
“Invest in disability awareness and sensitivity training for all government officials and employees to foster a culture of inclusivity and eliminate discrimination.”
He also called for a National Inclusion Policy which would focus on women, youth and PWDs.
Christian Obiora, the Chairman, National Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities FCT Chapter, said that a section of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act provides that five per cent employment quota be given to PWDs.
“That is where the PWDs are hinging on to demand that this aspect of the Act be implemented by the President for PWDs to also be appointed to be part of governance.
“This is because we will not have inclusive governance if PWDs are overlooked.
Chike Okogwu, Founder, Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment, CARE, said that about 15 per cent of Nigeria’s population are PWDs who also contribute their quota to the Gross domestic Product, GDP.
According to him, not being included in the governance process is risking losing 15 per cent of the nation’s GDP.
“So if you capture 15 per cent of us into your programmes by creating access and opportunities, you would have upped your GDP by 15 per cent.
“So now that Nigeria is broke, we are looking for opportunities to survive, bring us in and we will give you more ideas, because these are areas where you’re not looking at.”
Agada Jacob, the Chairman, Nigeria Association of the Blind FCT Chapter, said that the disability community is one aspect of the community that strongly believes that if it is given equal opportunity or asked to prove its worth, would make every commitment and would be dedicated to duty.
“In the society, we believe that everybody has a stake. We have an issue, or we have a contribution to make to the development of our society and we do not want to be left behind, we do not want to be discriminated against as it used to be.”