By Friday Omosola
Persons living with disabilities have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, government agencies and stakeholders for total inclusion in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
PWDs made the call at the 11th edition of the Southwest Zonal conference of the Nigerian Association of the Blind, held at Aquinas College in Akure, the state capital.
Speaking The Hope, the Southwest Youths Coordinator of the Nigerian Association of the Blind, Comrade Sodeyi Oluwadamilola, emphasised on the importance of space for persons living with disabilities in government parastatals.
Comrade Sodeyi requested that persons living with disabilities should be given appointment in government parastatals, saying that they are the ones that know the problems facing them, not able-bodied individuals.
Similarly, the Ondo State Public Relations Officer of the Association, Nasirudeen Oladele, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to sensitize its staff on proper ways to handle PWDs on election day.
Nasirudeen stressed that if PWDs are handled properly, their involvement in the electioneering process would depict the achievements of the electoral body.
In the same vein, the Board Chairman, Agency for Welfare of Persons with Disabilities, Princess Shade Arise lauded Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for being the first government to recognize and create an office for the PWDs.
She stated that being disabled is not an exclusion from participating in the election process, stressing that there is ability in disabilities.
Delivering his speech on a theme ” The Importance of visually impaired youths participation in politics”, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on Youths And Students Affairs, Mr Muyiwa Ogunyemi disclosed that refusal of youths PWDs to participate in politics would continue to pave way for old ones to speak on their behalf.
Ogunyemi who said youths participation in politics had been lacking for decades, urged the youths— persons living with disabilities to speak out not by violence but by participating in politics and governance.
While saying active participation in politics always led to change, he maintained that citizens’ participation bolstered the economy and political strength.
Similarly, the Ondo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Rufus Akeju in his address, stated that democracy is all about participation and it is an all-comers affair, adding that the commission had in 2018 developed a framework for access and participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process.
Akeju who was represented by the State Public Affairs Officer of INEC, Mrs Dolapo Alo, said the exclusion of certain groups from decision-making would not only create a divided and less peaceful society but limit the excluded group in protecting its interest.
Akeju said to maintain the inclusion of PWDs, a bridge modular training workshop on access and participation of persons with disabilities was organized in Lagos to see how the aggregate data of PWDs can be collated for inclusive and effective participation in the electoral process.