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Inclusion Matters: Expanding Persons with Disabilities Political Participation in Nigeria

Part of IRI's objective is to strengthen the role and inclusion of marginalized groups in Nigeria’s political parties. 

Since 1999, IRI has implemented programs aimed at mainstreaming persons with disabilities (PWDs) into the structure and processes of political parties.  The active integration of PWDs into political parties is an important precondition for their effective inclusion in the electoral process.

There were significant improvements in the involvement of PWDs during Nigeria’s 2015 election campaigns, especially between the two leading political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).  However, unlike women and youth groups, PWDs are yet to have representation in the parties’ decision-making structures and are not likely candidates for elective or appointive positions in either the party or the government.  The reluctance of political party leaders to include PWDs in party affairs is often based on the misconception that PWDs face the challenges of mobility, financial resources, and conflict of interest with other PWDs.

Another challenge is the lack of unity among prominent PWD members due to mutual distrust resulting from the number of PWD groups registered with parties and campaign organizations.  Two disability support groups existed within APC’s structure prior to the 2015 general elections, which made it difficult for the party to work with the groups separately.  This prompted Senator Lawal Shuaibu, APC’s deputy national chair (North), to request IRI to facilitate the harmonization of the party’s two PWD groups into one.  IRI successfully motivated the two groups to work together, which resulted in their merger into the newly named, APC-PWDs Group.

The PDP, meanwhile, does not have a provision for PWD leadership in its constitution.  The party’s National Working Committee (NWC), however, did approve the creation of a disability desk that continues to remain dormant.  One of the outcomes of the work the Institute has conducted with the PDP is the reactivation of the vacant disability desk in the party and the appointment of Mr. Keneth Sani as the disability desk officer.  The PDP also collaborates with PWD groups to host PWD events and registers PWD support groups with its presidential campaign organization.  The party is also providing office space at the ground floor of the party secretariat for the disability desk.

There is still a lot of work needed to ensure that Nigeria’s political parties actively integrate PWDs.  The above initiatives, however, will ensure the creation of greater space for PWDs in parties and strengthen their capacity to participate in party activities.

Posted by

Alao Sunday Afolabi

Assistant Program Officer, Africa