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Tinubu’s Ministers and Nigeria’s Dilemma

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By Reuben Abati

Yesterday, 45 Ministers took the oath of office as Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pursuant to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu exercising executive powers as granted under Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, and in line with Section 147(3). These Ministers of the “Restored Hope Agenda”, we are told have a mandate to deliver Tinubu’s eight-point agenda as stated in his election manifesto to wit: national security, economy, agriculture, power, oil and gas, transportation, education, and healthcare, with special emphasis on economy and security.

What immediately stands out about this cabinet is that it is the largest since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999, and given Nigeria’s current economic situation, this is somewhat disappointing as it signals a resort to “big government” with heavy cost implications. President Olusegun Obasanjo began in 1999 with a cabinet of 42 Ministers (1999 – 2003), which he later reduced to 27, and had increased to 30 by the time he was leaving office in 2007. In 2007, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had a 39-member cabinet. President Goodluck Jonathan appointed a cabinet of 33 Ministers (2011-2014), and later 37 just before the 2015 general elections. In 2015, President Buhari appointed 36 Ministers, later increased to 42 in 2019. Although 45 Ministers were sworn in yesterday, it must be noted that President Tinubu actually nominated a total of 48 Ministers – three of whom were told to await further screening – Stella Okotete (Delta) Senator Abubakar Danladi (Taraba) and Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna). El-Rufai has since announced that he is no longer interested with a cryptic Marley-an “Who The Cap Fits” declaration that “man to man is so unjust…your best friend could be your worst enemy”. That is another interesting matter worthy of full commentary. But if you were to add a list of 45 ministers, which may possibly increase to 48 later, to the 20 slots for Special Advisers earlier approved by the Senate for the President, and the accompanying appointment of Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants, President Tinubu is set to run the most bloated government since 1999. This is curious in the light of the fact that many Nigerians had expected a lean government, to save costs and increase efficiency.

The current state of Nigeria’s economy is frightening, with over 113 million Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty; headline inflation at 24.08%; food inflation – 26.98%, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is about 41%, debt service to revenue ratio is calculated at about 90%, total debt is over N81 trillion, the available band for more borrowings is extremely narrow. Under such a scenario, the basic expectation would be for government to trim its size at all levels and tighten its belt. The only thing we have heard is the Federal Government asking the people to make sacrifice: fuel subsidy has been removed, resulting in increase in the pump price of fuel, the fuel exchange rate has been harmonized resulting in over 16% depreciation of the Naira, and a rampaging epidemic of empty pockets among the people, with the people trooping to the streets in Yola, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and elsewhere pleading with the government “to please allow them to “breathe”.

On top of it all, the Federal Government has announced plans to achieve an 18% tax to GDP ratio by 2024, and even if Taiwo Oyedele, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy Reforms says this would not mean higher taxation, the simple logic is that the people would be required to make more sacrifices to help government generate much-needed revenue. What is shocking is that whereas government is imposing a regime of austerity, the Nigerian government at all levels is not showing a similar commitment in the governance process, and this much was confirmed again yesterday by the sheer size of the Federal Government. Many would recall that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass upon assumption of office recently announced the recruitment of 33 aides! The Senate President also has a similar number of 33 aides, and in total, the 10th National Assembly members have since June appointed about 3, 000 legislative aides! It is worse at the state level. The Governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Fintiri recently appointed 47 media aides; the Governor of Kano State Abba Yusuf has appointed 97 persons as special advisers and assistants. In Niger state, Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago has 131 aides, all of them women. Whereas the President may claim that he is exercising his powers under the Constitution, he has in actual fact created more Ministries. Obasanjo at a time had 27 Ministers, and still fulfilled Constitutional provisions. Jonathan had 33, and still did not violate the Constitution. It is to be expected that Tinubu’s Ministers would soon announce their own aides, further bloating the size of government. Under Tinubu’s government, the cost of governance would shoot through the roof, with the expansion of size, staff and bureaucracy.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the media and other informed groups in society had urged before now, that one of the main priorities of President Tinubu’s “Restored Hope” agenda should be the implementation of the famous Oronsaye Report – an 800-page 2012 Report on the Restructuring and Rationalization of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies which stated that the Federal Government alone has 541 parastatals, 929 MDAs, and that there should be mergers, complete abolitions, and rationalizations to block wastages and duplications and ensure efficiency. It is obvious that President Tinubu has no intention to take a look at the Oronsaye Report. In its June 2023 Nigeria Development Update (NDU), the World Bank had also recommended that for Nigeria, it was now “time for business unusual”. It seems so obvious that well, business will remain as usual in the governance arena, and our fear is that a day may well come when Nigerians will begin to praise President Buhari as things currently stand! And that will be a completion of our worst nightmare.

The process of appointing these Ministers was not impressive enough. Those who know Tinubu and his antecedents were convinced that he would hit the ground running and that he would have no difficulties identifying strong talents, a team of the best and the brightest that would help him deliver on his mandate. But it has been one big anti-climax. It took close to the 60-day deadline, and additional days for the President to come up with a list of party loyalists, former Governors, close advisers from his days in Lagos, and a few technocrats. Nine former Governors, with one of them grudgingly withdrawing conveys a veil of staleness, no matter the experience that the former Governors may bring to the table. The kind of unsureness that governed the list is also embarrassing. During the screening process, the President had to substitute the name of the Kano nominee, Maryam Shetty. Nobody even had the decency to inform her. She only got to know when she got to the Senate for her screening. Nobody deserves to be treated so shabbily.

To worsen matters, it only occurred to the President on the. eve of the inauguration of the Ministers to make last minute changes. He reassigned the 66-year-old Abubakar Momoh whom he had named as Minister of Youth to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Young Nigerians had complained that a 66-year-old politician as Minister of Youth was an odd choice. The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) had also raised an alarm about the non-inclusion of the Niger Delta in the list of Ministries. Then the Ministers-designate for Transportation, Interior, and Marine and Blue Economy were reshuffled. The Ministry of Environment and Ecological Management was renamed as the Federal Ministry of Environment. This back and forth looks untidy. It shows lack of preparedness, someone certainly was not paying attention to details about credentials, nomenclature and vested interests. If the President’s excuse is that the last-minute reshuffling is to ensure that the right persons are in the right places, then his attempt does not go far enough. It is one of the reasons why we argue that portfolios should be attached to Ministerial nominations to provide enough room for adjustments before the nominees are eventually confirmed. Further, there are fewer women than expected on the Ministerial list, and there are persons who think that the women have been given decorative positions. This is feedback that the President should pay attention to and address as he makes other appointments into the MDAs. And why is there no person living with disability on the list?

For the most part, the Ministerial list looks like an attempt by the President to settle political IOUs. Every President in appointing their first cabinets feel obliged to settle those who worked for their victory. But even at that, there are many aggrieved APC members and foot-soldiers who must genuinely feel left out, because they believe they deserve to share the spoils of victory. However, Nigerians are not interested in “jobs for the boys”. They want a quality team. This is why the present cabinet must be rejigged within a year or 18 months at best. President Tinubu must constantly move people around and recruit only the best. Ministerial positions must not be treated as chieftaincy titles. The kind of sit-tight, “Kabiyesi syndrome” that we witnessed under President Buhari, with some Ministers staying in office for eight years and remaining anonymous and ineffectual throughout – must not be allowed to happen this time around. Nigerians want Ministers who are ready to serve, not traditional chiefs of Aso Villa.

The President has talked about giving the Ministers a Performance Index. This is also known as Key Performance Indicators (KPI), very important but it must not be couched in general terms such as the emphasis on the eight-point agenda. It must be Ministry and sector-specific, and if any Minister does not show enough promise or capacity within the next 18 months, he or she must be turned adrift without fear or favour. Nigerians are impatient. The Federal Executive Council must be seen to work truly in the best interest of the people. It is standard practice to organize seminars and retreats for newly appointed Ministers. Whatever syllabus may have been chosen for the class of 2023 certain specific subjects must be addressed. It is not enough to pack documents inside conference bags – a copy of the Constitution, Public Service Rules and Regulations, the Procurement Act or some other briefing notes – NO. There must be a proper breakdown of expectations Ministry by Ministry and robust discussions. Nigerians don’t like to read except when there is an examination to be passed; putting documents together and hoping that the Ministers would read on their own would be presumptuous. Many of them probably don’t know what their Ministry is all about. They have to be taught and guided.

As is often the case, they are probably thinking of the contracts that they will award through their Ministries and what would be in it for them. They need to be given a crash course in the details of the Procurement Act and Public Service Rules. Out of ignorance, many past Ministers depend on civil servants who lead them by the nose and astray. Having sound knowledge of procurement is part of the process. It is tied to budget performance and defined regulations.

These Ministers also need to be told that they are Ministers of the Federal Republic with responsibility to all the people and parts of Nigeria, regardless of religion, political affiliation, class or gender and the President was right in stressing this yesterday. Cronyism, nepotism, prejudice are the major afflictions in Nigeria’s governance process. New Ministers would come under severe pressure, both external and self-imposed, to use their positions to settle their own incurred political costs. The party in their wards, local governments and states would call on them to remind them that it is their slot they are using and that they owe them an obligation to fund the party in the state, employ children from the state, award contracts to contractors from within the party and ensure major projects are brought to the community that produced them because “it is their turn”. Nigerians are very good at blaming leadership but the followers themselves are mean. A Minister would be asked to come and help pay hospital bills for newly delivered babies, even when he had no knowledge of the pregnancy: “Honourable Minister, we thank God oh, your wife has just put to bed”. The Minister is likely to be confused because his wife probably gave birth to his last child 15 years ago! But every woman in his state would suddenly become his wife, every pregnancy his own, every wedding must receive his blessing. Some other pressures are self-imposed. To keep the job, for example, some Ministers think that they are obliged to build goodwill among the informal circle around the President – very dangerous people – who exploit their proximity to the President to amass unmerited wealth. They promise appointments and access, and bear tales by moonlight. Many Ministers make the mistake of focusing more on this informal ring of vipers, but others commit the crime of thinking that they must take every project to the President’s home-town or state, to gain favour as a result. Tinubu must discourage such sycophancy.

Pastor Tunde Bakare has already warned about an emerging pattern of “imperial Presidency” in his recent State of the Nation Address. The term as described in a book of the same title by Arthur M. Schlesinger (Houghton Mifflin, 1973, 2004) refers to the abuse of power, its reckless use, and a President getting carried away with his own importance. No government can break the law without the President’s consent, because the buck stops at his desk. Nigerians have a way of misleading their Presidents with excessive sycophancy and Aso Rock is the headquarters of sycophancy. Even the best of men can be tempted like Samson, the Israelite. There are those men who in the President’s presence would immediately go down on their knees and start crawling towards him from a distance, bowing and scraping the floor and intoning “rankadede sir”. Others would prostrate. Oftentimes, such persons are clutching a file under their arms. They want the President’s signature. Whoever acts in that manner should be asked to stand up immediately and stop scraping the floor! Tinubu must make it clear that such flattery would not work with him. Work has begun for the Ministers. It won’t be long before the misfits among them will be exposed.

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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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