In keeping with his philosophy of inclusiveness for People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs), Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa state recently appointed a blind person, Hon. Liman Yunusa Usman as a councillor.
The blind coucillor is representing the governor’s ward of Gayam in Lafia local government in the recently constituted interim management committees for local councils.
Almakura, has recorded unprecedented feat in building an inclusive society in the state by giving those living with disabilities a sense of belonging through the provision of provision of free competitive education and appointment into key government positions.
Stating his reasons for appointing Usman as a councillor in Lafia local government area, Almakura said the disabled have been stigmatised by both government and the public in policy formulations, inclusiveness and day to day social interaction.
The appointee, Hon. Usman, said his appointment came after spending 25 years on the streets of Lafia, the capital city, as a roadside beggar.
He explained that even with his disability and discriminatory disposition from government and the public, he begged to pursue educational dream and trained himself through primary, secondary and Diploma levels, noting that until his recent appointment he had applied for admission into the Federal University, Lafia, to pursue a degree programme.
“I was on the streets begging for more than 25 years before my appointment as councilor by Governor Al-makura. This shows that this government is ours; we the people living with disabilities”, Usman said.
“Through what I used to generate from stressful begging as am talking to you, I applied for my degree programme in Federal University Lafia.”
Usman, the first blind person to be so appointed as councillor in the state advised the physically challenged to shun street begging and avail themselves of the opportunities provided by the Almakura’s administration, especially by enrolling into the premier special school established for the disabled in all the three senatorial zones of the state.
Given the total absence of any policy or programme which provided opportunities for the physically challenged in the state before the assumption of office of Almakura, Usman appealed for more appointments for physically challenged people in all level of governance.
He added,“as you can see we can perform even better than the physically fit, taking into cognizance what our amiable governor is doing now. His performance speaks volume for a person from this constituency”.
The blind lawmaker who is not new to politics or trying to defy the odds of his physical disability to fulfil his aspiration in life like any other human being said he contested for councillorship position in Gayam ward in Lafia local government in 2007, 2009 and 2015 said he was denied victory because of his disability status.
Usman drummed support for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura in their quest to move Nigeria and Nasarawa state to the next level of development.
While thanking Governor Al-makura for giving him the opportunity to serve as councilor, Usman said that the two leaders have focus and mission to salvage the Nigerian people from the economic downturn confronting the world today.
“This cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of disharmony and where people will raise weapons against one another in the event of little disagreement.
“I have contested for councillorship position in 2007, 2009 and 2015 but because of my deficiency as a blind man, I was denied the chance despite the support I enjoyed from my people,” he said
He restated his readiness to provide basic amenities including bills to better the lives of people who are physically challenged so as to have a sense of belonging in the society.
“Let’s also use this medium to call on all and sundry to back Al-makura’s efforts to bring back the missing link between the physically challenged and those with physical fitness.”
Speaking after meeting with the blind councillor in Lafia, the National President of the Association of People Living with Disability, Mrs. Ekaette Umoh expressed gratitude to the governor for showing genuine concern towards people living with disability.
She said the association would do all it could to ensure that many people living with disability take advantage of the world class institution been built for the disabled.
“The most interesting aspect for me is that it really help children with disability to get education because most of them are illiterates”.
“Statistics show that 97 percent of those living with disabilities in Nigeria are illitrates and nobody seems to carecabout it. So Governor Almakura’s efforts in addressing the gap of illiteracyis commendable,” she added.
Looking ahead in hope she said: “In years to come we will come to appreciate how many people with disability this school has helped transform their lives”.
Speaking on the development, the chairman of Lafia local government, Hon. Suleiman Wambai said the appointment was a welcome development .
Wambai who doubles as the state chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) said local councils in the state are perfecting strategies of replicating Almakura’s policies for the physically challenged.
“We are all inspired by the gigantic strides made by Governor Almakura in given every citizen of the state a sense of belonging and we at the third tier of government in the state have concluded plans to step it down in our various local governments.
He called on members of the public and those in the private sector to give the disabled opportunities for gainful employment, saying there should be a disabled employee in any business outfit that employs up to three persons.