The Independent National Electoral Commission reported on Tuesday that vulnerable groups in Nigeria, such as Persons Living With Disabilities, made up more than 70% of those who registered during the recently finished Continuous Voter Registration exercise for the 2023 elections.
The commission, therefore, called on political parties, as key drivers of the democratic process and governance in Nigeria, to take the lead in encouraging the full participation of the PWDs as citizens with equal rights in all party processes, procedures and activities.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Outreach and Partnership Committee, Prof. Kunle Ajayi, stated these in his keynote address titled, ‘The role of political parties in engendering inclusive democratic governance in Nigeria’, organised by a human rights organisation under the aegis of Inclusive Friends Association with support from Participate Today and National Endowment for Democracy.
During the event, the Executive Director of the IFA, Grace Jerry, outlined what political parties should do to ensure inclusion in the 2023 electioneering process.
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She said, “All political parties must work to ensure that the code of conduct for political parties should provide very clear measures to administratively review political party provisions for all PWDs in various political parties; therefore, a clear policy direction on inclusion is required from political parties
“Political parties should be deliberate about the production of their campaign materials to ensure they are inaccessible formats to reach different clusters of the PWDs. For instance, braille forms, audio, sign language/subtitled videos, etc.
“Political parties should ensure that venues for meetings and campaign activities are accessible to all PWDs. This oversight function of the political parties can be facilitated through the National Assembly.”
Jerry called on the CSOs to also advocate for the rights of all persons in the political and electoral spaces irrespective of gender, disability, and age.
“The inclusion of youth and gender parity must be mainstream in all our programmes to close the gaps and exclusion at all levels”, she emphasised.
Ajayi quoted a data from the National Population Commission which indicated that there are, at least, 19 million Nigerians who are living with disabilities, adding that “from our own records, many of them are registered voters who could be mobilised in favour of any inclusive party. This implies that, the PWDs have a strong electoral strength.”
He said, “Recent inclusivity data from INEC in relation to the just-concluded Continuous Voter Registration exercise reflects that the vulnerable groups comprising of women, youths, the PWDs and the IDPs, made up over 70 per cent of the registrants. With this impressive percentage, they cannot simply be ignored in the electoral process.
“Consequently, when political parties take on the mantle of ensuring inclusive mainstreaming and prioritise the principle of Inclusion in the administration of party affairs, we would begin to see more people from the marginalised groups along with women and youths taking on more executive, political and leadership roles at all levels.
“Also, vulnerable groups should be given specific quotas in governments at all levels. These actions will help build and maintain a broader base of constituent support and earn citizens trust and believe in democratic governance.”
According to him, INEC has launched the framework on access and participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process.