By Cosmas Okoli
When Governor Peter Obi reclaimed the mandate given to him by the people of AnambraState, all the good people of the state rejoiced and celebrated. Unfortunately,People’s Democratic Party (PDP) controlled state house of assembly contrived an impeachment proceeding to truncate the young administration that had barely settled down to govern the state. Many were amazed at the audacity with which the house was going about its impeachment threat.
Many people and groups criticized the impeachment move but unfortunately none took any concrete step to save Peter Obi’s Government except persons with disability. Association for Comprehensive empowerment of Nigerians with disability (ASCEND) rose to the occasion. As the national president of the association, this columnist contacted Mr. Peter Obi and told him the intentions of ASCEND to protest against his impeachment threat, based on the fact that we were convinced that he had not committed any impeachable offence.
On October 31, 2006 this columnist mobilized over 1,500 disabled from Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Lagos states, for the peaceful protest against Obi’s impeachment threat. And during the match, some of our members crawled, some walked with crutches, while some were hopping under a scorching sun for about a kilometer just to register our displeasure at the planned impeachment of a man we thought we could trust.
I personally funded the peaceful protest. I hired buses and vehicles that conveyed our members from various states and back. At the end of the protest I gave every participant money for any incidental expenses they may have incurred while taking part in the protest. Governor Peter Obi did not contribute a kobo to the cost of the peaceful protest and I did not expect any contribution from him. I did what I did because I wanted to support a man I thought could be trusted.
The interest of our group was to ensure that Governor Peter Obi was not impeached, to enable him serve the people who elected him as their Governor and to send a signal to politicians that persons with disability will no longer sit on the fence and watch the politicians toy with our faith. This message was sent to the politicians,and thus we were happy that we accomplished our mission.
Though Peter Obi was impeached, he eventually reclaimed his mandate through the court and once again, we all rejoiced. Determined to help the governor succeed, I approached Mr. Peter Obi with a proposal to work with his government to develop a model for caring for persons with disability and the aged, which will serve as a model for the entire country. He sounded impressed and interested. I also informed him that we could start with a legislation to protect the rights of persons with disability in the state. He asked me to prepare a draft for him, promising to make it an executive bill as soon as he received a draft. I prepared and submitted a draft bill within two weeks of our conversation. This draft bill never saw the light of the day.
Mean while, I was reliably informed that if I wanted to make any head way with Governor Peter Obi on any project, that I should ensure that it did not involve him spending Government funds. I wondered what the government funds were meant for, if it cannot be invested in a project that can transform about 500,000 persons with disability in the state from unproductivity and dependency to productivity and independence. However, I listened to the advice and designed the partnership in such a way that we would not need any funds from the state but rather rely on funds from sponsors and partners. I promptly communicated this to Governor Peter Obi and he was happy.
In line with my proposed partnership with Mr. Peter Obi’s Government, I sourced for sponsorships and made personal contributions to the provision of mobility aids and appliances to persons with disability in the state. On five occasions, my organization, Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC) organized mass distribution of mobility aids and appliances to persons with disability in Anambra state, and Governor Peter Obi attended all the events in the state without contributing a kobo. I was glad that he could find time to attend the events and hoped that he would one day borrow a leaf from the projects. Unfortunately, Governor peter Obi’s response to my gestures was ignominious and criminal neglect of persons with disability. He treated disabled persons in Anambra state as if they had committed a serious offence against him.
The last haul that broke the Camel’s back was when I personally appealed to Governor Peter Obi at a public function to donate a bus to the disabled in Anambra state, he accepted and publicly announced the donation of a bus to the disabled in Anambra state.Unfortunately, he failed to donate the bus or do anything to address the transportation needs of persons with disability in Anambra state. I have realized that I was dealing with a man who could not be trusted.