The European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria programme, on Thursday, advised
President Bola Tinubu and state governors to appoint persons with disabilities into government positions across the country because they will perform better.
While strongly canvassing its position, the organisation noted that there cannot be strong, effective and legitimate democratic institutions without the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities, as most of them are well armed academically with Masters and Ph.D degrees.
The EU-SDGN programme observed that in spite of the fact that majority of persons with disabilities were not elected at the just-concluded general elections, there is still an opportunity for their inclusion in top positions in government at the national and state levels.
The EU-SDGN is a European Union funded programme which aims at reinforcing democracy in Nigeria through six component areas that include – support to the Independent National Electoral Commission; 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 Organisations.
Members of the EU-SDGN cohort include – the DAI Global, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, Yiaga Africa, Kukah Centre, International Press Centre, Institute for Media and Society, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, ElectHER and TAF Africa.
Others are – the SOS Children’s Villages, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, Justice, Development and Peace Commission, Justice Development and Peace Initiative and Justice, Development and Peace Makers Centre.
Speaking during the “Able to Serve” event, Jake Epelle, Chief Executive Officer of TAF Africa, and implementing partner of the EU-SDGN said the nation, especially the current administration should heed the voice of the PLWDs and know that they are qualified for any and every appointive office.
Epelle stressed, “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 can not 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 bodies, but we have the ability in our brains.
“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,” he added.
Epelle maintained, “Persons with disabilities are very prepared. We have Ph.D holders and master’s degrees, but it’s not about the degree you have. It is your preparation for leadership. And we have the right people who 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 TAF Africa boss insisted.
The Founder and President, Network of Women with Disabilities, Lois Auta, in her remarks reminded policy makers, decision makers, traditional leaders, clerics, student groups, civil society organisations, media institutions, and all the key actors and stakeholders that persons with disabilities have the right to be appointed and elected into a public office.
The Founder, Centre for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment, Dr. Chike Okogwu, in his submission, said the programme would increase the 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,” Okogwu remarked.