Without prejudice, it is gratifying to note that in the past seven years and five months, members of the disability community have been the greatest beneficiaries of the Governor Willie Obiano administration in Anambra state. Since 2014, Akpokuedike has done a lot for the Disability community in the state. This is to the extent that while the workers call him the alert governor, the community nicknamed Governor Obiano, OGUGUO NDI OLUSI.
Governor Obiano has done for Ndi Olusi what had never been done, even from the old Anambra state. For instance, for the first time since the creation of Anambra state 30 years ago,, Sir Willie established Office of the Governor on Disability Matters (OGDM), which implements governor’s fission for persons with disabilities. Anambra, under Obiano, is also the first state in West Africa to appoint visually impaired and other persons with disability as Permanent Secretaries in Public service as well as employed several persons with Disabilities into the state’s civil service.
Last week, one of the eleven Permanent Secretaries newly sworn-in by the governor, Tony Idigo, a barrister, is from the disability community. Today, a person with disability is a member of the State Executive Council, which is the highest ruling organ of the state government and membership of the State Tenders board. The governor appointed over five persons with Disabilities to his cabinet.
Anambra is the only state in the South East of Nigeria to enact a law (Anambra State Disabilities Rights Law). The law provides for inclusion of persons with Disabilities in state policies and programs; guarantees employment opportunities for persons with Disabilities and prohibits discrimination against and the protection of the rights of persons with Disabilities as well as provides for the education and sporting opportunities for persons with Disabilities etcetera.
Under Obiano, civil servants with Disabilities are promoted to their rightful service levels after years of neglect and stagnation. Akpokuedike recognized and rewarded athletes with Disabilities who won medals at the national and international competitions. He equally encouraged and rewarded persons with disabilities who have made outstanding achievements in different professional fields; most recent being a visually impaired author of a Mathematics book and a proponent of a new mathematical formula.
Sir Willie provided support for Disability Law Center for facilitation of access to justice and protection of Disability cum human rights of persons with Disabilities. He also facilitated Access Computer Technology center (ACT) and provided assistive and mobility equipment for productivity enhancements of persons with Disabilities as well as institution of free transportation in the state owned vehicles for persons with Disabilities.
Governor Obiano ensured recruitment of five sign language interpreters, more Deaf teachers, Braille instructors and computer instructors for persons with Disabilities. He established state Disability forum for dialogue between Government and Disability community with a view to providing assessment of and advice on Government policies and programs for persons with Disabilities.
In addition, Obiano harmonized the programs and promotion of synergy between Disability cluster services, NGOs and government programs for persons with Disabilities; created enabling environment that increases active participation of persons with disabilities in politics; increased awareness on equal access to electoral process for persons with disabilities.
He also facilitated the formation of cooperative societies for entrepreneurs with disabilities; empowered persons with Disabilities with equipment and tools after acquisition of skills and trade.
The present Anambra state government appointed and promoted Judicial officers with Disabilities to the Bench; established rehabilitation centers at Aguleri, Oba and Nawfija. The government renovated and upgraded Special Education Center at Isulo; established rehabilitation center for the mentally challenged at Nteje in Oyi LGA, where Akpokuedike donated his salary for the upkeep of the inmates.
Anambra state government, apart from offering scholarships to all the students with disabilities at all levels of education, issued Executive Directive requiring all projects executed in the State, whether public or private, to be handicapped accessible and involved.
The wife of the governor, Dr Eberechukwu Obiano, Osodieme, through her pet project, CAFÉ, provided artificial limbs to over 2000 physically challenged.
No doubt, Sir Willie Obiano and his wife have encouraged and promoted social wellbeing of persons with disabilities. Obiano had employed newly wedded couples with disabilities. Recently, he employed about 131 other disables into the state civil service, For all these, we say Thank you Oguguo Ndi Olusi, may God continue to shower you with His abundant blessings, Amen.
WRITTEN BY CHUKS EZEWUZIE