OPINION: The Need for the Inclusion of PWD’s in the Governance of Cross River State

Prof. Jacob Agba 

By Prof. Jacob U. Agba, a Public Commentator.

Recently, the state Governor, Prince Bassey Edet Otu announced a number of appointments. It was expected that the appointments would include persons with disabilities (PWD’s) who have been at least, members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC)  party in the state. Unfortunately, this has not been the case as His Excellency , Governor Bassey Edet Otu  has not at this moment, found any of the PWD’s worthy in character , learning or APC party affiliation to be appointed into his cabinet. It has also been expected that the governor would announce the setting up of the Commission for the Protection of the Rights of persons with disabilities and appointment of members of that commission. These expectations too have not been met. 

The question is, if these appointments are not made now and the expected commission has not been set up, when would they be? Or has the “season of sweetness” of Governor Otu become the season of the bitterness of discrimination against the PWD’s?  The body language of the governor had before now indicated that PWD’s were going to be included in his administration, but why renege in the promise of the governor,  is the question begging for a million answers.

It is a truism that the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) in the state which should have been in the forefront in the fight for the inclusion of the PWD’s in the administration of the state has been having some crises, but there is no association without some problems at certain stages of existence. Of course, the flame of the fire that had burned in the association was actively fanned by those who had directly or indirectly profited from the crises. Thank God, the  crises have now been put to rest following the kind intervention of the Wife of the Governor, Her Excellency, Rev. Mrs. Enoanwan Edet otu .  She used her motherly skills  of crisis resolution to complete the peace efforts started by the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Grimah and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of JONAPWD, Miss Omotunde E. Thompson. 

While the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD) in the state is supposed to serve as a pressure group for the interest of PWD’s, it is not the only platform for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and the crisis in the association should not be used to exclude the PWD’s from governance or any other service. Some persons with disabilities have joined the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) Party and worked hard in their various wards or polling units to bring about the victory of the party in the state. These PWD members of APC in the state ought to be considered for appointments in the state  even without the pressure of JONAPWD.

No doubt, the apparent renege by His Excellency, Governor Bassey Edet Otu might not be unconnected with the prejudices recently demonstrated by some highly placed persons in the state. For instance, in a recent address presented by the Commissioner for Social Welfare and CommunityDevelopment, Bishop Ene Ita during the peace meetingHer Excellency the wife of the Governor held on 23rd February, 2024 to resolve the conflict in the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD), she advised that instead of appointing a person with disability as Senior Special Advisor to the state Governor on disability matters, a so-called “normal” person should be appointed to the position. This call is not only retrogressive , but a calculated attempt to rob the PWD’s in the state of quality service by one of them who wears the shoe of disabilities and knows where it pinches  the most. In the last thirteen years, that position has always been held by a person with disability. Article 4 section 3 of the United Nations Charter on the rights of persons with disabilities recognises the fact that nothing for persons with disabilities is possible without them. Besides, , a perfect society comprise all component parts of that society put together and the “season of Sweetness” cannot really be sweet without the inclusion of the PWD’s in the Governance of the state; and the time to do it is now; as justice delayed is justice denied.  

Thus, in this season of sweetness, Governor Bassey Edet otu cannot turn it into a season of sweetness for the so-called able and a season of bitterness for the PWD’s in the state.

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