By Lawrence Nwimo
Candidates from different political parties jostling for the November 6 Anambra State governorship seat on Tuesday shunned an interactive meeting with Persons With Disabilities in Awka, the state capital.
The forum was organized by the Anambra State Chapter of the Joint Association of Persons With Disabilities, JONAPWD, as a platform for an interactive session between the physically challenged persons and the various party candidates ahead the governorship election in the state.
The JONAPWD spokesperson, Ifeanyi Iguegbe, said the candidates served with letters of invitation for the interactive meeting includes APGA’s Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; Valentine Ozigbo of PDP, Andy Uba of APC and Obiora Okonkwo of ZLP.
Others were Sen. Ifeanyi Uba of YPP, Dr. Godwin Maduka of Accord Party, Obiora Agbasimalo of LP and Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo of ADC. He added that other candidates who did not turn up for the interactive forum were invited through other mediums.
According to the association’s leader, members who attended the forum wanted to rob minds with the governorship aspirants but their hopes were deflated as the APGA and APC candidates only sent representatives.
Participants expressed disappointment at the failure of the candidates to attend interactive meeting said that they have vowed to support candidates that would avail himself to matters of Persons with Disabilities in the state.
Also commenting on the action of the gubernatorial candidates, Onitsha North coordinator of JONAPWD, Chude Emmanuel, said that present day politicians do not take things of persons with disabilities serious and warned members to be mindful of being used by politicians as their intentions are not always genuine.
Corroborating Emmanuel’s view, a member of Board of Trustees and coordinator of JONAPWD, Orumba North, Ezeokafor Ikechukwu, said Persons with Disabilities, irrespective of the Candidates’ absence will participate actively to vote in the forthcoming election in the state.
Earlier at the meeting, the Anambra State Chairman of the association, Comrade Ugochukwu Okeke, warned that Disability community would frown at seeing their involvement in governance drop down against the height it attained under the present government of the state.
According to Okeke, “The reason we are gathered here is not purposely to make money from the gubernatorial candidates but for a serious engagement between persons with Disabilities and the gubernatorial candidates from various political parties for the forthcoming election in the state.
“The direct objective of this activity is to cordially relate with political stakeholders, discuss and have a common understanding on the stakes in an inclusive government, evaluate all options on the basis of merit to better inform the political choices of the persons with disabilities and mobilization of persons with disabilities to participate actively in the forthcoming election.
He noted that “Over 400,000 persons with disabilities in Anambra State have decided that their votes must count in the forthcoming election and as a result looking for a candidate whose inclusive plan will continue to see issues of Persons with Disabilities from the angle of rights instead of charity.”
Speaking further, Okeke regretted that the JONAPWD members had prepared to hear directly from the candidates on the planned programs and policies they have for persons with disabilities including plans towards inclusive governance and implementation of policies that would be beneficial to the marginalized groups.
In their demands, the association maintained that under the Governor Willie Obiano’s administration, it received fair share of empowerment through political appointments and employments into the state’s civil service. They also recalled that the state government enacted Disability Rights Law in the state in 2018 and therefore urged any incoming administration to stick to the existing disability rights law.
Speaking at the meeting, Special Adviser to Governor Obiano on Disability Matters and a member of Soludo’s campaign organization, Barr. Chuks Ezewuzie, urged the participants to give their full support to the ruling party in the state, stressing that Soludo has plans mapped out to consolidate on the achievements of incumbent governor’s administration to the persons with disabilities in the state.
Also reacting, Hon. Chukwuemeka Ezeukoma, from Sen. Andy Uba campaign team lauded the leadership of JONAPWD for being steadfast in seeking for better welfare of the members in the state and assured that Sen. Uba would reposition their lives to better if elected governor of the state.