By Wale Ibrahim, Lokoja
Just like Oliver Twist, in Nigeria, there has been a continued call on the governments at all levels as well as the private sector to be inclusive in their day-to-day dealings given the plethora of challenges confronting People with Disabilities (PwD).
The call became imperative to improve the living condition of PwDs in society.
While critically examining some challenges facing PwDs in Nigeria in particular, it is obvious that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to tackle these challenges considering the present harsh economic realities.
At this stage, social amenities such as schools and public hubs (hospitals, markets, banks, offices, and hotels) are supposed to have provisions for people with special needs or disabilities to give PwDs a sense of inclusion aimed at improving access and reducing harsh economic realities.
But this is yet to be achieved as the case may be because corruption has remained a cankerworm which had eaten deepened into the fabric of society.
Even when the government deemed it fit to formulate laudable laws, programs, and policies for the benefit of PwDs, implementation of these policies remains a dream as the system would not hesitate to divert such funds to the detriment of the intended beneficiaries.
For instance, in Kogi State, there is no special school for children with disabilities built by either the Federal or State government, except for the Christian Missions in Many Lands, CMML Special School, Iyale, Dekina Local government area.
CMML is playing a major role in modeling the life of PwDs.
The school has produced many illustrious people in various endeavors. An example is the former Chairman, Kogi Chapter, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, JONAPED, Mr. Solomon Yahaya of Radio Kogi.
A PwD Rights Activist, Comrade Ishaq Dan -Imam laments there is no budgetary allocation for PwDs in Kogi, thereby making life more difficult for the community.
He urged the government to rise above the board to create an enabling environment for disabled people.
He suggests that there should be a modified inclusive educational system where special education teachers and care providers will attend to the needs of the children or students with disabilities.
Dan-Imam called on the State Government to establish at least one special school in each of the three Senatorial districts to enable PwDs to realize their educational ambition and contribute meaningfully to the development of the state.
According to him, PwDs are in dire need of formal education to enable them to acquire the necessary qualifications and skills to contribute to society.
He urged parents and guardians to free their minds from any form of self-stigmatization against their wards with a disability because there is always ability in disability.
Kogi State Chairman, JONAPED, Mr. Solomon Yahaya commended the government at all levels for the policies toward ameliorating the suffering of the PwDs.
Yahaya explained that: the issues of inclusion and integration of PwDs in recent times have become a source of concern for governments.
He disclosed at a recent one-day training workshop on disability reporting in the media held at Riverton Hotels in Lokoja, organized by Stallion Times Media Services in collaboration with the Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism, supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
Solomon commended the Kogi State government for domesticating the Disability Laws and subsequently established the Disability Commission.
“These efforts are aimed at ameliorating the suffering, inclusion and full integration of the disability community,” noting that the Kogi state government is working to meet the required 5 percent in the area of employment in the civil service.
He, however, calls for full implementation of Disability law and a functional Commission in the state.
Yahaya argued that with the steps being taken so far in some states of the federation, members of JONAPED are hopeful that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Speaking at the event, the Editor-in-Chief, Stallion Times, Isiyaku Ahmed said: “The training on Reporting Disability in the Media is an activity under the Participatory Governance and Media Literacy project tagged “Get Involved, Dialogue and Improve (G-DRIP)” being implemented by Stallion Times Media Service in Kano and Kogi states.
“This training is necessary because of the common negative stereotypes of PwDs which have penetrated the public, the media, and the governance eco-system in Nigeria.
“The objectives are to promote issues-focused reporting on Disability to gain prominence in the mainstream media that would influence national action, to train journalists to report on PwDs issues for print, broadcast, and digital media.
“The media is in a unique position to reshape the public image, improve the living condition of PwDs through research and proper reporting of critical issues of disabilities in Nigeria.”
In an interview, a 52-year-old PwD, the Sarkin Guragu (leader of Cripples), Alhaji Abdulahi Tanimu Baba, admonished his colleagues to come out of their hiding places and learn a trade or seek employment rather than begging and languishing in poverty.
He said the present economic realities in the country have automatically disabled many people and the spirit of giving alms is gradually going down.
He pointed out that despite being physically challenged, he was enrolled in primary school and later gained admission to a Local Government Secondary school in Lokoja.
“When it was increasingly becoming difficult getting to the school on the top of the hill, I sought to transfer to the popular Bishop Delis Catholic Secondary School in Lokoja to complete my education, I sat for West African School Certificate Examinations and passed.
“I couldn’t further my education because my parents were poor.
“I was so determined to make it in life despite my physical deformity. With much struggle, I was able to buy a big motorcycle tricycle which I now use to transport grains, planks, and other food items on market days.
“To the grace of God, I am making between N2,000 to N5,000 as the case may be.
“I am calling on my colleagues not to engage in begging, but rather to stand up and face challenges of life.”
There are many children with disability who are out of school in Kogi state because of the difficulties people like Alh Baba went through in his days.
Meanwhile, only recently, the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Adoza Bello gave a PwD, Mr. Emmanuel Aduku Bob, an automatic political nomination to contest Ankpa 1 State constituency under the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC.
Mr. Bob participated in the primary election at Government Lodge in Ankpa and won. But his candidature is being threatened by powerful people who do not want him in the race.
He appreciated Gov. Bello’s good works for PwD, pointing out that the governor’s action which received global applause should not be undermined.