Prior to the swearing-in ceremony on May 29th, Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) have called upon President-elect Bola Tinubu to allocate 10 percent of ministerial and Special Advisers (SAs) positions to them, in order to establish a government of national unity and inclusion.
During a Stakeholders’ Strategic Roundtable on the ‘Able To Serve’ Campaign, themed ‘Disability Inclusion in the Appointment of Cabinet Members: A Call for Inclusive Governance,’ Amb Jake Epelle, Founder of TAF Africa and Convener of Disability Inclusion, Nigeria, emphasized that appointing PWDs into the cabinet is essential, as they are equal citizens who possess qualifications, experience, exposure, and expertise.
Epelle stressed that such appointments would contribute value and instill a sense of belonging among PWDs. The ‘Able to Serve’ initiative, launched by the foundation, utilizes media advocacy, mentorship, and accountability to promote inclusion in governance at all levels.
The strategic roundtable aims to raise awareness regarding the significance of appointing PWDs to federal, state, and local government cabinets. It also aims to highlight the untapped potential, skills, and perspectives possessed by PWDs, which can positively impact decision-making processes and good governance.
He said: “If you take us (PWDs) out of governance, what you are going to run is an exclusive government and exclusive government is not a government of national unity.
“If you truly want to run a government of national unity, then that government should be inclusive of all irrespective of gender, status, religion, whatever that needs to be done so that everyone will sit on the table, which is the way forward.”
The TAF Africa boss also pointed out that PWDs role in national development cannot be over emphasized based on their enormous contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product GDP, including tax payment.
Founder, Center for Ability, Rehabilitation and Empowerment, Chike Okogwu, stressed that it is PWDs have the right to demand for appointments.
He said, “There is an Act prohibiting discrimination against the rights of persons with disabilities.
“It says at least five per cent of persons with disabilities should be given employment, as you are employing your ministers.
“Sir, if it is five per cent minimum but we are saying we want 10 per cent.
“So four of your constitutionally recognised ministers one per state, including the FCT, gives you 3.7 per cent, so four persons in your cabinet must be PWDs, two men and two women
“Take me for example, I’m only fiscally impaired, I’m not disabled in any manner and there are lots of us like that.
“So we are bringing capacity, competence, courage and everything that makes us excel.
“You are giving us as a matter of right, but do not look at us only from the prism of disabilities, look beyond what we represent.
“A lot of us are well educated, a lot of us are intellectuals, we have what it takes to do what you want.”
He said he was optimistic that the president-elect would appoint PWDs into his cabinet as he had done while he was Governor of Lagos State, where he established the Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs, LASODA.