By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA – WITH one week left for the 2023 political campaigns to take-off on September 28, 2022, a nonprofit organization, the Albino Foundation, Wednesday, demanded and tasked political parties on inclusive campaigns of People With Disability, PWD.
The demand was made by the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, the Albino Foundation, Amb Jack Epelle, during a media conference in Abuja.
Epelle said it has become imperative to let them know that PWD are also integral part of the election process and have the voting strength as other Nigerians as bona fide citizens whose vote can change the political equation, hence should be included at any level of the campaigns ahead of 2023 general elections.
However, according to him, they would not give up in demanding for a non-discriminatory and inclusive appointment of INEC RECs as they are watching to ensure that 15 per cent of Nigeria’s population are not left out of the process.
He added that the war against discrimination against persons with disabilities can only be won when political parties, institutions, government and the people collectively collaborate, say no to nuances of discrimination, campaign for the rights of PWDs and actively become champions for PWD inclusion in political processes, thereby building an equitable society for all.
He said: “On 28th September, 2022 public campaign by political parties will officially commence as provided by Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“As campaigns commence, we appeal to all political parties and candidates to strategize for a PWD- Inclusive campaign.
“This is the best way to balance the efforts of civil society groups working to ensure inclusive elections.
“As gatekeepers to political decision-making, political parties have a role to play in supporting disability inclusion in politics.
“Political parties aggregate and represent public interests and shape political agendas.
“To become more competitive, it is important for parties to adopt practices that increase inclusivity of underrepresented communities.
“These actions will help build and maintain a broader base of constituent support and earn citizens’ trust.
“To ensure disability issues are mainstreamed into electoral matters throughout the electoral phases, INEC had taken steps to remove barriers that restrict full participation of PWDs as voters, and several measures have been put in place to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in the country’s electoral processes.
“While we commend INEC’s effort in engendering an all-inclusive political process through the development of a framework on Access for PWDs, we urge political parties to adopt and improve on it, for a broader participation targeted at persons with disabilities, to have a meaningful voice in the political and electoral processes.”
However, these were some of the Foundation demanded, “Involvement of PWDs in campaign committee set up; Campaign materials should be produced in accessible formats to reach different clusters of PWDs; the visually impaired and persons with albinism.
“As enshrined in the 2018 Disability Act, political parties must ensure that locations and settings for meetings and campaign activities are accessible to all PWDs, including party offices.
“Provision of sign language interpreters for the hearing-impaired community.
“Provision of adequate security network for persons with disabilities during campaign activities.
“Strengthened internal democracy, whereby political parties allow PWD members to fully participate in the activities, including running for elective positions.
“Political parties should subsidise election costs for Persons with Disabilities, taking into account the socio-economic inequalities.”