Today, 3rd of December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Some three decades ago, the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 47/3 proclaimed the observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons. The Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
The theme of this year is; Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. An estimated one billion people live with some disabilities worldwide. As many as 25million Nigerians are living with sundry disabilities. They face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society, the most unacceptable being stigmatization. People Living With Disabilities (PLWD), often do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, in critical areas of housing, transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. United Nations has observed that the right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society. This year’s observance of IDPD assumes a special importance. It takes place on the eve of nation wide, Presidential, Assembly and Governorship transition elections. Would politicians and political parties initiate policy ideas on the worsening plight of fellow compatriots living with disabilities. There should be a JUST TRANSITION for people living with disabilities from the current exclusion in governance and economy to inclusion and participation. In 2019 Nigerians inclusive of those with disabilities should not be the usual “voting cows” used and dumped by self serving politicians. All citizens must be active to vote and ensure that their aspirations for better lives be reflected in electoral outcomes through election of credible candidates and credible policies. 1999 constitution with all its limitations commendably envisages inclusive governance and development. Chapter II dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy section (2) says The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring:
“that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.” How many elected office bearers remember their oath of office and the constitution? With as many as 70 per cent of citizens “economically disabled” through poverty, huge housing deficits, lack of basics like water and light, insecurity, most Nigerians live with disabilities indeed. It is double jeopardy for those who combine social economic deprivations with physical disabilities, in a country without social security. It’s time for a kinder and caring Nigeria. Survival of the fittest (and often the wicked and corrupt) must give way to solidarity and collective compassion to lift all Nigerians into prosperity. Nigeria already missed on 2015 critical eight Millennium Development Goals. No thanks to corruption, bad and uncaring governance!. Happily this election takes place again at the time United Nations and the caring world had launched 2030 Agenda for 17 new Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). The global commitment is to end (not alleviating!) poverty and set the world on a sustainable path to inclusive development. Nigerians living with disabilities have already demonstrated that there are abundant abilities in disabilities. We must urgently enhance their capacities and support them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.
It’s time Nigeria implemented the robust recommendations of the 2014 National conference with respect to Persons living with disabilities (PLWDs). There be “a Special passage ways for PLWDs in banks, hotels and airports where metal detectors prevent entry or exit; Separate lift carriers in high rise buildings for PLWDs to avoid injury by overcrowding; A law should be passed for compulsory assistance to persons living with disabilities by able-bodied persons while crossing the road;. Albinos should enjoy free medical care including provision of sun glasses; and that the Electoral Act be amended to allow PLWDs (especially lepers) to exercise their voting right during elections. The Key Action Proposal: To strengthen government institutions and organization of person with disabilities to participate in the democratic process and other development efforts in Nigeria using the Right-based Approach, this involves not charity or simple economic development, but a process of enabling and empowering those not enjoying their social/political rights to claim them. This includes being aware of their own potentials, resources and responsibility to hold government/political leaders accountable to their needs and development. Government should also support relevant MDAs and Disability Organizations in the formulation of a National policies. Government should promote awareness on the rights of person with disabilities at the National and community levels, highlighting all forms of barriers faced by PWDs around issues of Access and participation; There should be an amendment of the current provisions of the Constitution through insertion and deleting of clauses that do not guarantee the rights and freedom of PLWDs; and Relevant provisions should be inserted into sections under Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution to address the gaps so exist in the constitution”.
Issa Aremu mni