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Opinion

The Oracle: Ethnic Nationalities and Emerging Challenges in Nigeria (Pt. 2)

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By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

ETHNIC CONFLICTS AND NIGERIA

Nigeria is befuddled with grave ethnic conflicts. This deprives her of the much needed National Unity. No Nation can ever develop along those fundamental fault lines of ethnic disharmony. National unity is thereby endangered.

National unity is the most important factor that holds a country together. It occurs when people live and work together in harmony and love. It allows leaders to harvest citizens’ commitment and contribution to nation-building and national development. It serves as one of the most effective weapons of preventing internal conflicts which are capable of draining the internal resources of a nation and derailing its progress. Most people do not care about a country parting or breaking up. No country can develop meaningfully without an idea of national unity. Nigeria, according to Prof Onigu Otite, Nigeria has 374 ethnic groups, speaking over 500 languages. This ought, ordinarily, to amplify her rich plurality and diversities in a positive way. But the reverse appears to be the case.

These groups are broken down along religious, linguistic and tribal lines. These divisions had always existed, but were further broken down at independence into a multi-ethnic nation state.

With these centripetal and centrifugal divisions, the nation has been battling with the problem of ethnicity on the one hand, and the problem of ethno-religious conflicts on the other, as has been witnessed severally when ethnic and religious intolerance led to ethno-religious conflicts.

Even from the atavistic tone of the names of organizations championing the Niger Delta struggles since independence, the mobilization efforts sketched above present a challenge for analysts, many of whom have simply interpreted the motivations and agendas of grassroots struggles in the Niger Delta as primordial, exclusionist and particularistic; in other words, as fundamentally ethnic and capable of undermining national renaissance. It is important to mention here that, ‘ethnic group’ refers to the social identity built on the mythopoetry of language, history, cultural practices, myths, symbols and (in the case of Nigeria also) geographic location. This working definition in no way endorses primordialism ideas of frozen or fossilized identities, and does certainly take account of the constructivist notion of changeability and manipulability. It does not accept extreme constructivist ideas of ‘ethnic group’ as something entirely invented or fabricated.

A notable scholarly attempt to dissect the Niger Delta struggle and similar tendencies in other parts of Nigeria, which contains case analyses of the mobilization activities of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Odwua People’s Congress (OPC), and Arewa People’s Congress (APC). Ikelegbe tries to show how, contrary to popular notions of ‘civil society’ as “the beacon of freedom, the fountain for the protection of civil rights and of resistance against state repression, the objectives, methods and roles” of ‘civil society’ organizations could undermine the democratic project. The IYC, which as earlier indicated, has been involved in the Niger Delta mobilization since the 1990s, is portrayed as only speaking the minds of the Ijaws and at least parts of the Niger Delta’ – a prime example of what the author terms ‘perverse’ civil society.

Accordingly, the author offers an insight into what the term ‘ethnic’ could mean, by contrasting it with ‘civic’ or ‘ideal’. He argues that ‘ethnic’ mobilization tends to be ‘sectional’, ‘criminal’, ‘anarchic’, ‘parochial’ and ‘centrifugal’. The three organizations in his analysis are therefore ethnic movements ‘masquerading as civil society’. This focus on the activities of formal activist organizations, rather than on the narratives and lived worlds of the ordinary people the organizations ‘represent’, presents analytical difficulties of its own, as shown later. For one thing, it makes it easy to cast local struggles as ‘sectional’ and ‘parochial’. The organizations are also portrayed as ‘criminal’ and ‘anarchic’ on account of their protest methodology. Their key protest strategy is believed to be ‘violence’. The ‘tendency for aggrieved groups to take up arms in their encounters with the state and other groups and the support the groups enjoy from ‘civil groups of elders and political leaders’ are deplored. This is despite sociological arguments that violence is sometimes a ‘smoke from the fire’ of unjust public institutions, state policies and the political process, or injustices in the corporate and transnational spheres.

Cesarz et al also hinted that the Niger Delta mobilization could be disguised ethnicity. For them interethnic violence is a longstanding feature of the oil-rich Niger Delta, and Ijaw militancy in particular is viewed as a risk to international oil interests and to Nigeria’s future as a united and stable polity. Local groups, the authors suggest, are no longer to be seen as ‘a loosely organized ethnic, sporadic movement, they are now an ‘armed ethnic militia’ capable of derailing Nigeria’s new-found democracy. Reacting to that line of analysis are Douglas et al, who challenge the use of the term ‘ethnic militia’ to describe local activist groups. Such a depiction, they argue, misrepresents the essence of the Niger Delta struggle.

However, whether the two groups of analysts are operating from different epistemic platforms is another matter entirely. For one thing, Douglas et al view the emerging coalition-building efforts among community groups in the Niger Delta as constituting a ‘bulwark against the ethnic majorities’. Now one will simply ask, what is the empirical basis for suggesting that ordinary people in the Delta as mobilizing against the ‘ethnic majorities’, and how is this view different from Cesarz et al’s suggestion that the local activists are involved in a disguised ‘ethnic’ warfare?

There is also the argument that while local struggles might stem from economic and political disparities in Nigeria, they might fundamentally be attributable to “communal pressures that have characterized the Niger Delta and many other parts of Nigeria”. Welch calls these ‘communal pressures matters of ethnic self-determination, maintaining that economic and political change in a multi-ethnic milieu like Nigeria invariably triggers ethnic conflict.

Short of portraying Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities as fundamentally incompatible social groupings, he posits that Nigeria as an entity ‘came into being long before a substantial number of its residents felt themselves to be “Nigerians”. While Welch uses this essentialist analysis to interrogate the concept of individual rights and to make a contribution to the ‘group rights’ debate, concerns might be raised as to whether his argument does not in fact distort the complexity of the Niger Delta crisis. A more nuanced insight into the Niger Delta conflict might be gained from Bangura’s ‘three crises’ of post-colonial African state – those of ‘capacity’, ‘governance’ and ‘security’. The works of Osadolor, Agbola and Alabi, Agiobenebo and Aribaolanari and Uga, among others, are more explicit in ‘revealing’ what it is that engenders disaffection between the oil-producing region and the major ethnic nationalities. They argue that it is the ‘majority groups’ that determine the framework for petroleum exploitation (as well as interethnic relations and political governance) in Nigeria and unfairly profit from it. As Agiobenebo and Aribaolanari put it: “the ethnic minorities of the Niger Delta are treated as objects (property) owned by the majority groups to be dealt with according to their whims and caprices”. There is even an implicit (but erroneous) assumption by these analysts that it is on behalf of their own people that the major ethnic groups ‘control’ political power in Nigeria and suppress socio-economic development in the Niger Delta. It is noteworthy that Obi places the protests and demands of Niger Delta groups such as MOSOP within the rubric of grassroots struggles for broader societal transformation. He suggests that the Niger Delta conflict must be seen in terms of its connection to “broader popular social struggles for empowerment and democracy”. This line of analysis, which forms part of what Idemudia and Ite call an ‘integrated explanation’, and which speaks directly to the conflict’s deeper social character, has been obscured in so much of the literature.

The above review also shows that while some analysts have acknowledged that the issues in the Niger Delta struggle transcend ‘local concerns’, and that the struggle makes a strong statement on the pains that a ‘distant state’ has inflicted on the Nigerian society as a whole, the failure of governance at the national level is not given the explanatory status it deserves. This begs the question as to why the search for empirical information on grassroots struggles such as those in the Niger Delta almost inevitably proceeds from an ethnic frame of reference. Could it be, as Mamdani has conjectured concerning conflicts in Africa, that the bifurcated nature of the state shaped under colonialism, and of the politics it shaped in turn, had now appeared in the theory that tried to explain it?

However, the next section sheds some light on this question. Some of the aforementioned analyses, especially the strand that suggests that the Niger Delta struggle is a way of ‘striking back’ at, or at least resisting, the major ethnic nationalities, who appropriate the ‘lion’s share’ of Nigeria’s petroleum revenues at the expense of the oil-producing region, have all the ingredients of the ‘competition theses of ethnic mobilization. I will also opine here that, where state policies appear to disproportionately benefit some regions of a multi-ethnic society, heightened ethnic awareness and collective ethnic action across the society become common tendencies in the society in question. As Feagin puts it, ‘competition occurs when two or more ethnic groups attempt to secure the same resources’; besides, ‘ethnic competition destabilizes group relations.

Seen from such a perspective, the geologic fact of petroleum not being evenly distributed across Nigeria can be a basis for ethnic competition. However, the competition becomes exacerbated and produces invidious socio-political outcomes for the entire polity where state policies driving the utilization of resources seem to favor some geo-ethnic groups while disadvantaging the others.

The works of Osadolor, Agbola and Alabi, Agiobenebo and Aribaolanari and Uga generally make this point. Since groups in the Niger Delta could not be mobilizing simply for the sake of doing so, the insight that these analysts attempt to proffer is that the Niger Delta mobilisation must be for the maximization of sectional interests, with the non-producing ethnic groups a target of their grievance. Also, Akpan stated thus, It would of course, not be correct to assume that the ‘unfair’ appropriation of national resources by some leaders from the major ethnic groups has been fundamentally for the ‘greater good’ of ordinary people in their geo-ethnic regions.

Flowing from all of these, in a bid to address these ethnic nationalities challenges, the CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE AND ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC) in collaboration with FRIEDRICH-EBERT-STIFTUNG (FES) NIGERIA with support from the European Union recently held a stakeholder’s consultative forum on Peace and Security Challenges in Nigeria themed “Ethnicity, Ethnic Crises and National Security: Casual Analysis and Management Strategies”. The stakeholders drawn from both military, lawmakers, security and paramilitary organizations, as well as civil societies, tackled the causes of such ethnic crisis which is presently breeding security challenges across the country and in essence threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria. Essentially, the stakeholders advocated for dialogue of all ethnic nationalities and inclusiveness if the issues are to be addressed holistically.

Interestingly, the organizer’s objective for the forum was to cross fertilize ideas, analyze gaps and the threats of separatists’ agitation across the country and its implication on national security and develop a policy recommendation; to also raise awareness on implication of ethnic champions and its threats to national security; and enhance cooperation and collaboration between state and non-state actor as a collective response to unionism.

FUN TIMES

“I will never date short guys again, imagine Ushers in my church were dragging my boyfriend to children’s Department”. –Anonymous 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“True equality means holding everyone accountable in the same way, regardless of race, gender, faith, ethnicity – or political ideology”. (Monica Crowley).

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Adding Value

Adding Value: Of Fear and Faith by Henry Ukazu

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Dear Destiny Friends,

Fear and faith are two great rivals in the affairs of man. Where one is found, the other takes a leave. They can either make or mar any progressive being, and anybody who truly wants to succeed must know how to activate and control the inherent powers of these two great forces.

According to Dr. Yomi Garnett, “viewed from a spiritual perspective, fear and faith can be said to be opposites…and what each of them brings to our life is also opposites. Fear can lead to failure, while faith will lead to conquest”.

Question: Do you want to live in fear, or would you like to be associated with a conquered fellow?

One of the major killers of vision is fear,  and one of the enablers of life is faith. When one is possessed with the spirit of fear, it will be difficult for that person to achieve their heart desires, but when one’s spirit is activated with the right amount of faith, even the highest fear will fade out.

One may be wondering, how fear and faith can be positively activated to attract success, ab at the same time be the destruction of man, if not properly managed.

What actually inspires a success-oriented mind? Obviously, several things activate one’s mind. To a lot of people, their greatest fears in life is poverty. These sets of people abhor being poor can mitigate their success in life, and as such they put in all their efforts to succeed.

To some, their greatest fear in life is failure. They can’t imagine the shame and defeat that come with failure, and as such they put in their best in whatever productive work they engage in.

Wen fear becomes extrem, it turns to phobia and dreaded. It’s instructive to note that some people have the phobia of height and flying. Some others have the phobia of pregnancy, traveling on water, approaching, or talking to people due to rejection, making mistakes, threading on new ground, among others.

To conquer this fear however, one needs to activate the inherent power of faith. Faith is the belief in what is not seen but hoped for. Any creative mind that wants to succeed in life must have faith not only in themselves, but in their businesses, academics, personal and professional developmental endeavours.

No great person has ever succeeded in life without faith. They believed in the possibility of their business even when there’s little or no hope of survival. They dared to succeed.

In contrast, fear has been th singular reason for most of the failures men have recorded. Some people even give up before they begin their project because of lack confidence and hope.

In some cases, this fear is projected by friends, family members, mentors or even trusted persons who don’t really know or understand what the person is working on. They just simply believe the project is bound to fail based on the prevailing circumstances or challenges surrounding the person or business.

This is how to activate and stimulate the subconscious and inherent power of faith. Imagine as a young man, you have interest in a lady, but you are wondering how to approach her considering her perceived response. It is not out of place to have a perception of the kind of respinse expected, but then, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

One of the best things the guy can do is to dare to succeed by reaching out to the lady. In the worst-case scenario, the lady might say no. In that case, the man will be satisfied he tried his best because the worst feelings to have in life is the feeling of regret.

Alternatively, the lady might like the guy and just play to the gallery just to gauge the man’s intent and seriousness. If the latter is true, the man is deemed lucky for daring to ask.

As a student, business owner, parent, teacher, government official, or pastor just to name a few; if you have a project or task in mind, don’t allow the fear of failure, disappointment or obstacles to weigh you down, look into the future with bold eyes, and with the mindset of faith in the impossible.

In conclusion, fear and faith are two necessary criteria needed in the journey of life. The ability to nurture both will go a long way in shaping not only our personal lives, but also our professional lives.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator.  He’s the founder of Gloemi. He’s a Transformative Human Capacity and Mindset coach. He is also a public speaker, youth advocate, creative writer and author of Design Your Destiny and Unleash Your Destiny.  He can be reached via info@gloemi.com

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Opinion

Voice of Emancipation: Leadership with Compassion

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By Kayode Emola

One of any government’s key roles is protecting the lives and properties of their electorate – a function which seems to be lacking in Nigeria’s leadership. It would appear that the Nigerian government has been, at best, absent in the large majority of Nigerians’ daily lives. Many were hoping that the election of Bola Tinubu as president would bring about positive change; but there seems to be little evidence of this so far.

The problem with the Nigerian system is caused in part by the lackadaisical attitude held by the people regarding their own welfare and the government’s absenteeism. Since the 1970s, successive leaderships in Nigeria have gradually eroded the welfare subsidy without any outcry from the people.

First, the Nigerian government stopped free food to school children, but no one objected. Then they stopped paying training teachers their monthly stipend, but no one objected. They started introducing school fees in tertiary institutions, and similarly removed many other subsidies, and yet our people remained silent.

The silence of our people permitted successive governments to continue removing any and all forms of welfare in existence. Included among these was the progressive selling of government properties until there was nothing left except the petroleum subsidy. Tinubu removed this last remaining subsidy early in his term, but its removal has not translated into the promised savings for the government, who is set to borrow another ₦2.5 trillion through bonds from the market.

The northern leaders are keenly aware of the dire situation of Nigeria and exploited it to their advantage during their time in government. Manipulating the currency enabled the creation of jobs for their racketeers, hence the need to constantly have a parallel currency market in the country. They have used this system to amass vast wealth both for themselves and their cronies during the decades when they were in power.

The currency market provided a means for them to rapidly generate revenue without having to manufacture anything. Through their access to the Nigerian treasury, they could obtain hard currencies – e.g. dollars – for cheap government prices, which they then sold at a profit to a multitude of buyers who needed these currencies to conduct their international business. This chicanery was enjoyed by many northerners selling currency for a living within the bureau de change industry.

When President Obasanjo came into power in 1999, he stopped this practice and floated the naira. This caused the currency to initially lose value against major currencies, but its value quickly steadied. For example, during the Abacha years the government rate stood at $1 to ₦22 and the parallel market was $1 to ₦88. When Obasanjo became president and the currency was floated, it rapidly rose until it peaked at $1 to ₦135 in 2005, but then remained stable at $1 to ₦120-₦130 until he left power in 2007.

The next president, the late Yar’Adua, reintroduced the parallel market upon taking office. Fast forward to 2023, upon Buhari’s exit the official government rate was $1 to ₦460, whilst the parallel market was exchanging at $1 to ₦763. This caused the currency manipulators, mainly comprising of northern racketeers, to benefit massively.

When Bola Tinubu became President of Nigeria, he announced his intention to create policies that would generate money for the national treasury. The only means of accomplishing this were either to raise taxes or remove subsidy. With nothing else remaining, he decided to remove the petroleum subsidy and float the naira.

Floating the naira was meant to benefit the people but, as it turns out, it has had precisely the opposite effect. The currency is on a free-fall to oblivion, with the current exchange rate at $1 to ₦1,515 and still rising. Aside from Venezuela and Zimbabwe who experienced dramatic declines in their economy due to sanctions imposed by America, never in my lifetime have I seen this degree of economic decline over such a short time.

All this demonstrates the abject lack of compassion in the successive governments’ leadership. They have taken and taken from the people until there is nothing left. It is only their very lives that the people have remaining, and, if care is not taken, the leaders will start taking these next. Already, the economic hardship is causing people to go days without food, as it is impossible to make enough income to meet the high cost of living.

The simultaneous removal of fuel subsidy and floating of the naira has generated sufficiently huge shock waves that even the government is feeling the pinch. The Nigerian Customs Service recently announced that it cannot fix the cost of clearing goods and would instead have to convert their price with the prevailing exchange rate of the day. This shows that even the government is now indentured to currencies like the dollar to set the benchmark value of goods and services in the country. This situation is capable of inflicting untold hardship on the people.

If only the leadership in Nigeria cared about the people that they govern, life would have been very different for both the general populace and those in power. Instead, the absence of compassionate leadership has brought the country to a position where the only viable option is to wind down this country and allow the indigenous nationalities within Nigeria to independently go and develop their lands and people. If the current president truly cares, this would be the best gift that he could give to Nigerians.

Anybody who thinks that Nigeria can be fixed is still living in a fool’s paradise. President Tinubu worked for over 20 years to become President, promising heaven and earth with the hope of changing Nigeria for good but as it stands, he is making Nigeria even worse by the day. Every day that the Nigerian government remains is another day of increasing pain for the people.

The better option is that we hold a sovereign national conference, with no holds barred, on how to effect a peaceful separation. It is clear that Nigeria is living on borrowed time and, if care is not taken, the low-level rumblings of chaos may escalate, with mass protests on the streets and the loss of many lives. We would be better to quickly tackle this situation by dialogue rather than allow a disorderly separation.

I hope those in Aso rock are listening to the cries on the streets, for if trouble were to break out in Nigeria today, there will be no place for them to hide. If they doubt this, they can ask the Rajapaksa family in Sri Lanka who, in 2022 ,when the presidential palace was invaded by angry mobs, could not find a plane to escape from the country. When there is nothing left to take from the people other than their very existence, then those people have nothing holding them back from full scale riot, as they have literally nothing else left to lose. This is a very dangerous position for those in leadership to put themselves into. The bottom line is that Nigeria is beyond repair, and it is time to wind it down peaceably to prevent any further loss of life, should the alternative route be taken.

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Opinion

The Oracle: Harnessing the Potentials of Nigerian Intellectuals with Disability…(Pt.1)

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…for Positive Contributions to the Government

By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

There is no doubt that persons with disabilities have often been disadvantaged and have suffered some forms of discrimination at one time, or the other, in the society. Some of the movers and shakers of this world, were disabled intellectuals who made contributions of gargantuan proportion to the advancement of civilisation and yet, have been relegated to the background as if being disabled equates to lack of potentials. In this paper, we shall briefly discuss ways to harness the potentials of persons with disability both at home and abroad for purposes of national development. Before then, it is apposite to examine the meaning of disability.

DEFINITIONAL TERMS

According to Wikipedia, Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime. “Disabilities” is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions (World Health Organisation: Disabilities. Available at: http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/ Accessed 15/12/15). Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus, disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Individuals may also qualify as disabled if they have had an impairment in the past or are seen as disabled based on a personal or group standard or norm. Such impairments may include physical, sensory, and cognitive or developmental disabilities. Mental disorders (also known as psychiatric or psychosocial disability) and various types of chronic disease may also qualify as disabilities (DisabledWorld. Disability: Benefits, Facts & Resources for Persons with Disabilities. Available at: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/ Accessed 15/12/15).

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), one out of every seven people in the world—or some 1 billion people—has a disability. Between 785 and 975 million of them are estimated to be of working age, but most do not work. While many are successfully employed and fully integrated into society, as a group, persons with disabilities often face disproportionate poverty and unemployment (ILO, Inclusion of persons with disabilities. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/skills/areas/inclusion-of-persons-with-disabilities/lang–en/index.htm Accessed 15/12/15). Acknowledging the fact that persons with disabilities are imbued with vast and sometimes untapped) potentials, the World health Organisation made the appeal that governments should step up efforts to enable access to mainstream services and to invest in specialized programmes to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities. (World Health Organisation: New world report shows more than 1 billion people with disabilities face substantial barriers in their daily lives. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2011/disabilities_20110609/en/).
In order to effectively discuss the potentials of disabled intellectuals to nation-building, let us consider the barriers and obstacles which the society has advertently or inadvertently, erected on the paths of disabled persons.

BARRIERS ERECTED ON THE PATH OF DISABLED PERSONS

Societal stereotyping of persons with disabilities is the most egregious barrier suffered daily by disabled persons. They are made the scum of the earth, rejected, overlooked, dejected and relegated by the society of which they are part of. Because of such prevailing societal mindset, it is more difficult to get employed, have a carrier, get married, or even get loved as a person with disability.

Denial of access to equal opportunity, integration and self-representation through the lack of appropriate resources which is the result of bad and uninformed planning. This is also as a result of non-communication – verbal and non-verbal-as well as written, e.g. no effort is made to communicate with people who are blind, or whose hearing or speech is impaired or is severely disabled.

The lack of accessible public transport is perhaps, one highly discriminating barrier persons with disabilities daily confront. Without this resource, they are forced to see the world from their windows or in more fortunate cases, their street. They are restricted, relegated and handicapped in movement. The majority of people with disabilities cannot afford their own transport due to the inadequate social securities and the lack of employment opportunities.

The lack of physical access to the built environment is another hurdle a physically challenged person has to surmount. The way houses, institutions and offices are built with no provision or considerations for disabled persons are alarming. How will disabled persons gain equal opportunity, realize integration and attain self-representation if they cannot get into educational and other institutions, libraries, places of recreation, churches, mosques, malls, in fact most places?

POTENTIALS OF PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES

People with disabilities have the skills to pursue meaningful careers and play an important role in any country’s educational and economic success. In fact, experience with disability can offer a competitive edge when it comes to work or nation building. Richard Okoro Eweka, properly captured the great potentials of person with disabilities when he wrote thus:
“Despite the cruelty fate has brought their way, people living with disabilities have proven over the years that there is ability in every disability. They are not saying it to keep faith alive or for us to read to be motivated, but have been able to show it in different ways that they can achieve and attain any desired goal in life that they set for themselves irrespective of the state of deformity. They all have several evidence to show for their determination to succeed and have attained greater height than those without disabilities. The evidence of their successes have further convinced us that they are gifted people just like every other able- bodied men and women around. They have shown the world that disability in any form is an open invitation to take the world by surprise and that they are not made to beg. Some physically challenged persons in our society have come out stronger than the able people in their chosen career. Some have become entrepreneurs and employers of labour despite their disabilities. Some others have become preachers of the word of God, given hope to the hopeless in the society and the world at large. Some others have found strength in singing to lift the soul of those that have lost hope in themselves or those who are distressed with the challenges of life”. (Richard Okoro Eweka, ‘Harnessing the Ability in Disability’. The Nigerian Observer of 3rd July, 2014).

The protection guaranteed in Human rights treaties, and grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should apply to all. Persons with disabilities have, however, remained largely ‘invisible’, often side-lined in the rights debate and unable to enjoy the full range of human rights.

CLOSING THE GAP OF DISABILITY

In recent years, there has been a revolutionary change in approach, globally, to close the protection gap and ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same standards of equality, rights and dignity as everyone else. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006 and entered into force in 2008, signalled a ‘paradigm shift’ from traditional charity-oriented, medical-based approaches to disability to one based on human rights. Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said, “The celebration of diversity and the empowerment of the individual are essential human rights messages. The Convention embodies and clearly conveys these messages by envisaging a fully active role in society for person with disabilities.” (Statement by Ms. Louise Arbour UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of the 8th Session of the Human Rights Council – Celebration of the entry into force of the Convention on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol – See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=8366&LangID=E#sthash.4m9d82aN.dpuf).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Recognizing and respecting differences in others, and treating everyone like you want them to treat you, will help make our world a better place for everyone”. (Kim Peek).

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