Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Disability Matters, Dr. Samuel Inalegwu Ode Ankeli, has recalled his ugly experience of how he was thrown out as a lecturer with Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria when he lost his sights.
Speaking to newsmen in Kaduna, he observed that the physically challenged people in the country were not getting things easy, adding that they were not given the enabling environment to showcase their potentials.
He noted, “You must know that my background is activism in disability. I lost my sights as a lecturer in ABU Zaria, and l was thrown out, so I have that passion to make a change. I expect that at my level, I should be able to have some recognition even as a lecturer, but then I was thrown out.
“I am saying that if this can happen to me at my level of education and exposure, it means it is going to be worse for those who didn’t go to school, and don’t have a voice.
“I have made up my mind from 1996 to be a voice of the disabilities. Seeing me on screen today does not mean I started today. I ran for house of representatives in Benue state, they said it was not yet time for a blind man, that it is going to be an embarrassement to have a blind man in the National Assembly.
“When l kept on going, I was a director in the state ministry of agriculture. They stopped my salary; since 9 years ago, I have not been paid. And today, I’m privileged by the generousity of the President, to be appointed as SSA on Disability Matters.
“My duty is to oversee and ensure that the content of Nigeria has disability in its national policies, programme and project. President Buhari has made Nigeria a disability friendly country than he met it. Everybody must be involved, from government officials, private sector, businessesmen, you and I, the family members, and of course those who are concerned, the people with disability themselves.
“So it is a holistic approach, I came to this place based on invitation by virtue of my office to let them know that if you are talking of National council on Women Affairs and Social Development, there has to be a component of disability, and that of women with disability.”
He noted that since Nigeria got her independence, and even pre-independence era, “We never had this opportunity. So the President has made history and we’re expecting that we will join the cue in our families, offices, work places and worship centres to support people with disabilities for the overall development of the country.
“You have to create a place for people with disabilities. God is not foolish to allow us, at this level, to be alive. We have something to contribute, we are special people before God.
“Until the physically challenged poeople are treated how it is suppose to be, Nigeria will not come out of the present age. The president has finished as the first man in this country, I expect us to join the cue with him and change status and lifestyle of people with disability and make us more productive individual.
“The problem we have is that we always see physically challenged people as people looking for charity. No, we have the right. We are telling you that it’s our rights to be alive, to go to school, participate in political activities, in governance and anything in the family.
“Give us a chance and see what we can do. I give you an instance of what happened recently with Nigerian athletics; able people came back with one bronze medal, we came back with eight gold medals, we are champions in all spheres of life.”