Abdullahi Kebi National President of the National Association of the Disabled, in an interview with Solomon Odenii, expressed frustration at political parties and candidates’ lack of consideration for people with disabilities as the 2023 general election heats up doing.
selection A few days away. How would you rate the different campaigns by candidates competing for different positions in the country?
We are not satisfied with the way candidates and political parties have treated us. How many times have you seen a sign language interpreter present at a gubernatorial or presidential campaign rally? Is it because they don’t have it, or because they disrespect people with disabilities in general?
Apart from this, their campaign materials are not accessible to our people. I have yet to find campaign materials that are accessible to people with multiple disabilities. It does not mean.
But were your members nominated to the various campaign committees of these candidates?
Some, but not all, political parties include persons with disabilities on various campaign committees, to no effect.
I personally feel unsatisfactory, and the members feel the same way. Many of the candidates included people with disabilities on their campaign committees just to tick a box. I mean they did this to make it look like they were doing it. Many of the members on these committees are not following the plan. We noticed that the committee members were not given any role. These people are just there for the world to see that disabled people are being carried along.
The parties have previously promised to bring you in, and have fulfilled that promise by appointing a disabled person to the campaign committee. What do you think went wrong?
We say we cheated. Again, what many candidates have done is simply use their campaign committee representatives to tick the boxes. They are not involved in many of their programs. We do not fully understand what they do. They simply trick us into believing that they have representatives on their various committees.
The candidate has released a manifesto. Do you think they care about your immediate needs?
A manifest that some members do not understand. Some political parties do not think we exist because of their actions. This is despite the large number of us. In Nigeria she has over 25 million members. Have you ever seen a presidential candidate write a manifesto in Braille to understand blind people? I’m just there.
Have you personally tried to find out what is written in their manifesto so that your members are not undermined?
Personally, I have I have yet to see anything that specifically states that he does this for disabled people. doesn’t work. If they say they’ll build the infrastructure, but PwD can’t access it, how do we benefit from it? I don’t think they know we exist. we have special needs. What we need is special consideration to address some of our needs. I have never seen anyone from a state governor to a presidential candidate put up a manifesto and declared that he would address his A, B, and C issues facing people with disabilities. We are not happy with the whole process.
What impact do you think this will have on members heading into the election?
This will prevent many people from voting during the 2023 General Election despite having permanent voter cards.
For example, all these presidential candidates are busy campaigning, promising this, promising that. How do you think blind people will understand them and vote for them? Some members are unable to make informed decisions about the status quo. In all honesty, if these issues are not resolved quickly, disability participation will be low.
Low voter turnout is not good enough for our democratic system of government. How is the association addressing this issue?
While we do our best to ensure that the public gets to vote, political parties should ensure that these materials are used by the public to make informed decisions about who to vote for. I have to be able to. As president, I do not belong to any political party. Therefore, I cannot tell the public what Party A or Party B would do if they were elected. We have tried to meet with some of the parties on the ground to understand the issues. Make them aware that when they market to Nigerians, they should do it in a way that allows people in our community to put the key in their message.
What would you like your presidential candidate to include in their manifesto?
In 2018, the President signed the Disability Discrimination Act into law, enacted legislation, and established a commission. To gain the support of our community, candidates must ensure that the law is fully implemented nationwide.
It will also require a review of this practice to bring it in line with current reality. Also, Articles 11, 17 and 20 on inclusive education for persons with disabilities should be addressed to enable them to attend school with able-bodied persons.
We now have segregated schools that are themselves discriminatory. I want to go to the same school as the able-bodied, and I want the school to be easy to attend. Disabled children and special needs schools are all segregated schools, and segregation breeds discrimination.
Also, proper health care is necessary. There are already provisions in the law to deal with this, but more than that, they must be fully implemented so that members can enjoy the best possible health care in health care facilities without being discriminated against. , there are situations where pregnant women with disabilities cannot go to the hospital because they cannot access doctors. We want a president who will ensure that all forms of discrimination end. Infrastructure is another thing we want. For example, many government offices and other buildings are inaccessible.
Also, the way roads are built in Nigeria, disabled people cannot walk alone. Otherwise he will be knocked over by a car. There is no specific path indicating that this is where his PwD should follow. The lack of all these things is why life is so expensive for disabled people. A blind person should always be accompanied by someone.
Are you satisfied with the measures INEC has put in place to ensure that many members can participate seamlessly in the 2023 elections?
Honestly, INEC has tried to do better than many parties to participate in the 2023 general election and be able to exercise its right to vote. We have worked with them and they have promised to make the polling unit accessible to the disabled.
They also promised to allow blind people to use magnifying glasses to see who they would vote for. They promised to have a sign language interpreter at each polling place. In fact, they made many promises to us.
I hope they do everything they say, even if they can’t do it all. Leave a good portion of them to them, and we’ll still be happy with them.
Are you thinking about sponsoring candidates in future elections to ensure that the interests of people with disabilities are fully taken into account?
we have financial problems. The political system in place in the country is too expensive. For example, if I want to run for president of her APC, he will have to pay 10 million naira to buy the nomination and expression of interest form. I don’t think he has the money in Nigeria that he would want to spend on something like that. That’s the main problem. If I were to contest the Senate seat in my constituency, when I went to party leaders, the first question they would ask is, “How much do I have?” There are politicians among us. There are individuals who can change this country. We want to be an executive branch of government, but the problem is we don’t have the means to get there: money.