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PWDs Urged to Engage in Active Politics: Stakeholders Advocate for Inclusive Governance in Nigeria

By Fabian Anawo

In a dynamic push towards inclusive governance, stakeholders have called on People with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria to assert their political presence by joining political parties of their choice. This rallying cry was delivered during a one-day Dialogue on Enhancing the Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Political and Electoral Processes, held in Lagos.

The event, organized by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), is part of a series of initiatives aimed at expanding the political space for PWDs. The dialogue attracted a diverse group of participants, including representatives from political parties, the judiciary, law enforcement, and civil society organizations.

Mrs. Florence Chima Austin, Head of Finance and Administration at CCD, emphasized the need to shift the mindset of politicians who often underestimate the political value of PWDs. “Our goal is to empower PWDs with knowledge about their rights and equip them to defend these rights when they are infringed upon,” she said. Austin underscored CCD’s commitment to fostering an environment where PWDs can actively participate in governance.

Miss Christiana Njoku, a Programme Officer with CCD, highlighted the organization’s ongoing efforts over the past three years. “We have engaged key players capable of opening up the political space for PWDs, including political parties under the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the judiciary, the police, and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps,” Njoku noted. She stressed that limiting PWDs’ political participation constitutes discrimination and violates the National Disability Law.

Representing IPAC, Mr. Richard Benson acknowledged CCD’s pivotal role in promoting inclusivity. He noted that political parties have provisions for PWDs, including reduced fees for expression of interest forms. “Every political party recognizes the importance of PWDs and offers incentives to facilitate their participation,” Benson stated.

Mr. Agbabiaka Yusuf Temitope, a councilor from the All Progressive Congress (APC) representing Apeno Ward in Oshodi/Isolo, shared his personal experience to illustrate Benson’s point. “I paid only five thousand Naira for the expression of interest form, compared to the over one hundred thousand Naira others paid,” he revealed. Temitope, who had to contest five times before becoming a councilor, candidly described the political terrain as challenging and urged PWDs not to be deterred. “Stay focused and determined,” he advised.

Barrister Lukeman Salami, Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, called on political parties to actively encourage and support PWDs in their political ambitions. “Many PWDs are highly literate and capable of holding any office, even the highest in the land,” he asserted. Salami criticized the exclusion of PWDs from political appointments, emphasizing that their involvement would benefit the nation.

Visually impaired politician Mr. Afolabi Kayode presented a compelling paper titled “Enhancing PWDs Participation in Politics and Political Processes.” He discussed the low self-esteem that deters many PWDs from entering politics and advocated for legislation reserving political seats for PWDs in the State and National Assembly. “The political landscape in Nigeria is tough, but PWDs must wake up and take the bull by the horns,” Kayode urged. He encouraged PWDs to register with political parties, attend meetings, and contribute meaningfully to be recognized and considered for party offices.

The dialogue concluded with a resounding call to action: PWDs must not only join political parties but also actively engage in political processes to ensure their voices are heard and their rights protected. The stakeholders’ message was clear: inclusive governance is not just a goal but a necessity for a truly democratic Nigeria.

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