Sunday, January 9, 2011

Disabled people support wheelchair user's bid for Nigerian House of Representatives

From Next:

The framers of the Nigerian Constitution completely disregarded the presence of the over 20 million disabled citizens in the country, a spokesperson of Nigerians with disability, Daniel Onwe, has said.

Mr Onwe, a lawyer, who spoke on behalf of ‘A Cross-Section of Nigerians with Disabilities,’ a coalition of different associations for disabled citizens, said it is frustrating to aspire for a fulfilling life as a disabled person in the country.

“This constitution is unfriendly to people with disabilities as against what is obtainable in other parts of the world,” Mr Onwe said. “The Nigerian Constitution is structured in such a way that it is as if there are no disabled people in the country.” As an example, he cited Section 42 of the Constitution which prohibits discrimination.

“The Constitution prohibit religious, tribal, ethnic, gender and political discrimination, leaving out discrimination against people with disabilities. Disability is something you do not have a choice over. You can decide to change your political opinion or your religion but as a disabled person, you have no control over your physical appearance and yet, the government refuses to protect us against discriminations. Worst of all, the Constitution was amended and despite our outcry, its hostility to people with disabilities was retained,” he said.

Also speaking on behalf of the group, Tobiloba Ajayi and Olusola Adeyefa, gave examples of the discriminations they endured aside the usual inability to get into banking halls and lack of walkways for disabled people on Nigerian roads.

“It was hell going to school because they are not accessible in this country. On many occasions, I fell while trying to get to class because there are stairs everywhere with no ramps because the school is structured without putting disabled people into consideration,” Miss Ajayi, also a lawyer, said.

While narrating his experience, Mr Olusola, an economist, said “During the past voter’s registration exercise, it was tough getting registered as provision wasn’t made for disabled people. People even screamed at me to return home so as not to get injured; but with the help of my friends who carried me, I successfully got registered. There are a lot of disabled people in the country and they have a right to vote and be voted for as well,”

In a bid to seek redress to the inequity they suffer, the group also revealed its decision to support Cosmas Okoli’s (a person living with disability) bid to seek election into the Nigerian House of Representative on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

“The aim is not to champion the cause of Mr Okoli as a person, but the cause that he represents,” Mr Onwe said. “It is the cause of over 20 million Nigerians who have been rendered voiceless in the society, who have no representation in the realm of politics and are not factored in, in the policies of this country.

That is the cause that Mr Okoli (pictured) represents and it is the cause that we are solidly supporting. And looking at it from a bigger perspective, it is not the cause for people with disabilities alone, but also a cause for the general public because what we demand will also benefit the able bodies alike.”