Ifeanyi Okechi, Enugu
The crowded schedule of the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr.) Emmanuel Chukwuma, was recently topped with another responsibility as physically challenged people in the South-East appointed the vocal cleric their spiritual director.
In an elaborate programme by Initiative for Eradication of Poverty and Empowerment of the Disabled (IFEPED), a platform advocating the wellbeing of indigent and physically challenged persons, hosted at the Cathedral of Good Shepherd, Independence Layout, Enugu, they gave Chukwuma the mandate to continue to speak for them.
IFEPED president, Victor Ugwu, in his address, stated that they had suffered neglect, rejection and stigmatisation by the larger society: “It might interest you to know that it was in the year 2014 that a group of people decided to champion the cause of physically challenged and indigent citizens, under the aegis of IFEPED. This is because, over the years, people living with disability and indigent citizens suffer neglect, begging for alms and leftover materials for survival. Some live indoors from time to time, eating only food aimlessly like pets.”
Despite daunting challenges confronting the organisation, Ugwu noted that some philanthropists and individuals like their new spiritual director had always come to their rescue.
In a citation on the archbishop, Ugwu described him as not only a servant of God but also one with principle and discernment in the area of human empowerment and less privileged individuals: He has assisted and still assisting people living with disabilities and indigent citizens especially IFEPED. He gives donation to widows and people living with disabilities from time to time particularly on the 23rd of every December. He speaks for the voiceless including in the area of neglect and down trodden. His support and care for humanity especially members of IFEPED attracted him to serve as the spiritual director in the NGO. We believe that he will do more in the service of humanity through IFEPED.”
Regardless of weak sponsorship, he said the group had recorded some achievements, one of which was rural electrification at Urobo, Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, realised through assistance from Igwe Kenneth Orizu of Nnewi and others, following request by their first member from Ebonyi State, Enyi Joseph Nwabueze.
He also said that a street beggar in Enugu State, Mr Ogu Haruna Angama, who hails from Nasarawa State, has benefitted from IFEPED’s scheme and is currently a student of the College of Education Akwanga.
According to Ugwu, Haruna is not the only street and market beggar to be so converted as many others from northern and eastern regions are under the care of IFEPED through the support of Dr Emeka Nwandu and others.
Daily Sun gathered that IFEPED has also immortalised literary giant, Prof. Chinua Achebe, by instituting the Chinua Achebe Literary Writers; a platform aimed at empowering people in literary writing.
“This move is also made because Achebe died as a physically challenged person and will be remembered by IFEPED through his profession.
“IFEPED also immortalised the late Mr. Chimezie Nwizu from Ideato, Imo State, with the Chimezie Nwizu Competition (CNC) as one of the first physically challenged persons to be immortalised in Nigeria. His name will be used for any contest that will be organized from time to time by IFEPED,” he stated.
He therefore, appealed to government at all levels, philanthropists and religious organisations to come to their aid by empowering people through the activities of IFEPED.
Speaking after the inauguration, the archbishop promised to secure appointments for them in government including representation in the state Houses of Assembly in the South East, regardless of their religion or tribe: “I cherish IFEPED more than anything and that is because of my passion for the poor, disabled, widows and less privileged; I don’t want any of you to be discouraged.
“I am discussing with the southeast governors; they must create a special programme for the disabled and make space for them in the state House of Assembly, also one of you (the disabled) shall be appointed special adviser to the governor on disabled.
“I believe that begging is not the best for you, I shall make the society see that there is ‘ability in disability’, you have equal opportunity just like another person out there”.
He further advised them to be steadfast in prayer and spread the gospel at all times, because it is the fundamental thing to do.