Governorship candidates of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Valentine Ozigbo; have allegedly declined to attend an event organised by persons living with disabilities in Anambra State.
Other candidates for the election except Senator Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) shunned the event.
The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) had invited the candidates to their event held at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church Conference Hall, Amawbia in Awka South LGA but only Andy Uba sent a representative.
Chairman of the group in the state, Ugochukwu Okeke, told newsmen that the event was an interactive session with the governorship candidates to find out what they have in stock for them if any of them wins; especially as it affects government policies.
“We expected to hear directly from the candidates what programmes and policies they have for persons with disabilities including plans towards an inclusive government and inclusive governance.
“But to our greatest surprise, only Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC), sent a representative, others did not show up despite our official invitation letters sent to their various offices. This is sad”, he lamented.
Members of the association who attended the event went home disappointed. Some of them were heard murmuring and complaining.
Okeke said that the group had come up with the interactive session because they would not want to be relegated by the next administration.
“Disabilities community will not be happy to see their involvement in governance to drop against the high level of engagement initiated by the present administration with persons with disabilities”, he said.
Regardless, Okeke said the group has about 400,000 votes to cast on the election day and that they have already started mobilizing their members. He said that they were, however, yet to decide who to vote for but would not forget their latest treatment by the politicians.
The state chairman talked about “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) Article 29, Nigeria Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019 and Anambra State Disability Rights Law 2018, where it was clearly stated and expected that political rights of Persons with Disabilities at all level shall be guaranteed together with, the opportunity to enjoy them on equal basis with others.”
“And also political parties are expected to have a clear policy document for inclusive participation of every member of their party including persons with disabilities.
“However, over 400,000 persons with disabilities in Anambra State have decided that their votes must count in the forthcoming election and as a result, looking for a candidate that has an inclusive plan that will continue to see issues of persons with disabilities from the angle of rights instead of charity.
“We appealed to politicians in the country to always include persons with disabilities in their political activities and not to judge our conditions or see us as second class citizens; after all, we contribute 60-65 percent voting strength in the country’s electoral system”, he stated.
One of their members, Mr. Chizuba Okafor, who seriously felt disappointed over the development, appealed to the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Civil Society Organisations, religious and traditional leaders, and others to rise against the discrimination and political marginalisation of their members in the country.