Albino Foundation Rounds Off Able2Vote Nationwide Campaign in Lagos

Albino Foundation Rounds Off Able2Vote Nationwide Campaign in Lagos

To wrap up the sensitisation for inclusivity and all-round participation in the 2023 general elections and beyond, the Albino Foundation, took the last lap of the Able2vote campaign to the Southwest zone on Monday. The campaign which educates Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) on reducing voters’ apathy to the barest minimum ahead of the 2023 elections,

To wrap up the sensitisation for inclusivity and all-round participation in the 2023 general elections and beyond, the Albino Foundation, took the last lap of the Able2vote campaign to the Southwest zone on Monday.

The campaign which educates Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) on reducing voters’ apathy to the barest minimum ahead of the 2023 elections, is the sixth series and held at Imperial Hall, Lagos state. It is in tandem with the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (prohibition) Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. Also, section 54 of the electoral act supports and empowers Persons with Disabilities to participate in the electioneering process in the country.

The Albino Foundation is being supported by the European Union SDGN 11 programme. The event was attended by several stakeholders including the Administrative Secretary Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC ), Lagos state, Adebiyi Ajayi, the chairman of the Joint National Association of People With Disabilities (JONAPWD), Osun state, Mr Steven Olorunfemi, the Head of Department, voters education and publicity INEC Lagos, Adenike Tadeshe, the Head of INEC PWDs desk, Abuja, Benny Goodnews, the Executive Director Disability Awareness and Development Initiatives, Ope Akinola and the Founder Will Way Paradigm.

In his welcome remarks, Ambassador Jakes Ekpelle, Chief Executive Officer of the Albino Foundation noted that the objective of the seminar was to intimate PWDs with the electoral officers and other stakeholders for information which will broaden their knowledge of their responsibility during elections. He further charged the participants to be active in their participation by casting their votes and to be voted for in their political aspirations.

“The whole objective of this was to bring you face to face with INEC and CSOs so that you can ask all the questions you need to ask and get all the answers that you deserve. So the day has come and the day is now, that all of us will rise and take the bull by the horn and make the most of the political participation of Persons With Disabilities.

“I charge you and I challenge you that if this country is looking for a president you are the one, if this country is looking for a senator, you are the one. If this country is looking for a governor you are the one. We need to take the opportunity before us, that first time in the history of the electoral process in this country that Persons with Disabilities will constitute 16% of the entire voting electorate. There has never been a better time than now that this country is coming together to say not only to vote but to be voted for”.

He also advised the participants who are interested in vying for political posts to start the movement from their immediate environment. He explained that starting from their jurisdiction will not only guarantee victory but will also give them the experience needed to perform excellently whenever they get to the upper position.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Lagos state, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, who was represented by the Administrative Secretary, INEC, Adebiyi Ajayi, while giving his goodwill message said the elections umpire is committed to inclusivity of PWDs in the coming elections. He added that the INEC had created PWDs desk across all states for education and awareness ahead of the coming polls

“The commission is not leaving any stone unturned in ensuring that people with disabilities are properly carried along in the scheme of things in the electioneering process. Apart from creating a PWD desk at commission headquarters in Abuja and all states throughout the country to foster a very strong relationship with PWDs across the country, the commission engages the PWDs to educate them ahead of every electoral activity to promote inclusivity in its full prime to consolidate country democracy. In Lagos, the commission created different registration centres for people with disabilities for easy access to go for registration”, Mr Ajayi said.

Mrs Adenike Tadeshe, the Head of the Department of voters’ education and publicity INEC Lagos, in her keynote address, urged the PWDs to know their franchise rights and exercise them. She charged them to get involved in the electioneering process by vying for political posts to be voted for. She advised the participants not to be impeded by their physical status because the electoral commission has made provisions for them to be included in the process. She also illustrated how some of the materials for PWDs in the coming elections will be used at the polls.

“The electoral right of the PWDs is in no way different from the electoral rights of the ordinary Nigerians as clearly spelt out under the constitution and approved discrimination against Persons with Disabilities prohibition act of 2019. But certain privileges and protection have safeguarded inclusive processes and protection given to people with disabilities.

“According to the world health organisation’s 2011 disability report, about 15% of Nigeria’s population or 25 million people have disabilities. Therefore, all efforts to include people with disabilities in political, social and economic participation of affairs in this great country are welcome and should be encouraged at all levels of governance. And it is also worthy of note that the Lagos state government be commended for setting the pace by passing the Lagos state special people law 2010, to address people with disabilities in Lagos.

“It is, therefore, instructive to identify the electoral rights of PWDs to properly dimension the Independent National Electoral Commission interventions, and programmes to support and enable to exercise votes rights by PWDs. The right to vote is an indispensable pivot upon which democracy rests.

“We should see ourselves as one of the able bodies because all the potentials the able bodies have you also have. So, I want to believe that those who came out for registration also have the right to come out on election day to vote. Do not look at your disabilities, you have the right to come out and vote and to be voted for”, Mrs Tadeshe encouraged the participants.

Benny Goodnews, the National Head of INEC PWDs desk, while speaking on voting requirements and procedures for the voting process in the coming elections, charged the PWDs to follow the guidelines stipulated by the commission. She noted that the commission has provided preferential treatments for the PWDs with some voting materials like braille s ballot, and magnifiers among other tools. While demonstrating how to use the tools, she encouraged the participants to avail themselves of the gadgets INEC has implemented for their convenience.

She also urged the PWDs not to get involved in vote buying either by paying for votes or by selling. She added that every voter should ensure to keep their voting a secret. But people with visual impairment who cannot read braille can still allow people of their choice to assist them.

“We know what happens on election day, some people will vote, snap it and collect something, so we don’t want to allow phones at the polling unit. And I will tell us, my community, yes you are my community, let us not sell our votes. We are looking at a time, maybe after the 2023 elections, we will have Persons With Disabilities contesting as governors, Senators, and even presidents. Why not? We have intelligent people, smart people that can do it. Be part of the system, because when you don’t vote, you are enabling people who are not supposed to be there.

” At the polling unit, you are expected to go to the polling booth by yourself, using the tools we have provided, but if you cannot do it by yourself, you can still go with the person of your choice to be your assistant to aid you in casting your vote. INEC is trying to ensure that according to international standards, your votes are secret, so if you can read braille, you can do it by yourself”, Goodnews explained.

Reacting to the speeches delivered by the facilitators, Mr Steven Olorunfemi, The chairman Joint National Association of People with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Osun state commended INEC and the organisers of the seminar. He noted that the electoral body has put lots of effort into creating comfort for the PWDs in the country. He also tasked INEC to do more in the general elections.

“I want to thank the Albino Foundation and INEC for this programme and for making voting easy for us people with disabilities. We experienced INEC’s good work in the Osun state governorship elections. Now, we had 75% of special places for the PWDs to cast their votes in the elections, which we have never had before. We are calling on INEC to help us do more as we are also thankful for what they have done”, he said.

Veronica Nwajuri, another participant expressed her satisfaction with the programme by commending the organisers and the resource persons at the event. She added that it was enlightenment for the PWDs to know how things could be done in the 2023 elections
“Actually I never thought I would learn this much from the programme. Coming to this programme I wanted to know if I would be able to vote in the 2023 forthcoming election, to the glory of God as a person with disabilities, I have learned so much. I am so excited that INEC will be providing all the tools we need to carry out our voting rights”, she said.

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