By Cosmas Okoli
An Igbo adage says that when birds fly without perching, one will shot without aiming.
Having explored all possible means of mainstreaming persons with disability in Nigeria without success, we had to explore active participation in politics as a means of mainstreaming persons with disability through the formation of Association for Comprehensive Empowerment of Nigerians with disabilities (ASCEND) and it has proved to be the elixir we needed.
Since we took the first step of testing the murky waters of politics with the Anambra State gubernatorial election, we have been receiving a deluge of support from the general public.
We have got 15 groups and countless number of individuals who have indicated interest and pledged to work with us to realize our objective of endorsing a candidate for the gubernatorial election as a means of ensuring that when such a candidate is elected, he/she will carry persons with disability along in his/her government.
The resolve to participate actively in all future elections starting with the Anambra State gubernatorial election has stirred tremendous excitement in our community, with our members from all nook and cranny coming out to register to vote and participate in our activities to ensure that we realize our noble objectives.
The passion and commitment this has elicited in our community is unparalleled and very encouraging. We have appointed local government coordinators in all the 21 local governments in the state and ward coordinators appointment will be concluded soon.
At the inaugural meeting of the ASCEND Local government coordinators held on August 21,2013, a 98% turnout was recorded and the coordinators were extremely passionate about the project. At the meeting, one of the coordinators introduced her mother, informing us that her mother had to drop her position as PDP ward woman leader to join our struggle pledging to work for any candidate we endorsed no matter the party the candidate belonged to.
She said that our project is beyond party affiliation or loyalty and implored others to support our endeavour.
Also, at the inaugural meeting of the ASCEND support group, all the support groups present pledged to work with ASCEND to ensure that any candidate endorsed by ASCEND wins the gubernatorial election.
They described our struggle as worthy of support of every well meaning Nigerian. Among the groups are, market women association, churches, students, sports club etc. The support group pleaded that their interests should be accommodated in our demands from the politicians. This was well received by ASCEND.
The ASCEND local government coordinators were charged with the responsibility of nominating ward coordinators and to intensify their effort in mobilizing people to register if they have not done so, and if they have registered before, to ensure that they know where their voters cards are kept and if it is missing, they should report to the appropriate authority for necessary action. The review of voters register ended on August 25,2013.
ASCEND will open her doors to all the candidates from all the parties taking part in the gubernatorial elections as soon as their candidates emerged. We do not want to give any candidate or party undue advantage.
We will write to all the candidates and open a channel of communication with every one of them. We will be dealing with the candidates and not the parties as we have no business with the parties but the candidates.
The reason behind this is that our members belong to different political parties and are free to do so, but whichever candidate we endorsed will be supported by every member no matter our individual party affiliations.
So the fact that we endorsed a candidate from a particular party during the Anambra State gubernatorial election, does not imply that ASCEND is affiliated to that particular political party.
We could endorse a candidate from a different political party in another election. Our endorsement depends on the candidates disposition to persons with disability and ability to improve the lives of the common man through good governance.