As the world recently celebrated International Day of Persons With Disabilities, Monday, December 2018, Owolabi Tijani, founder of Physically Challenged Citizens of Nigeria, PCCN, a Non Governmental Organization, and son of Nigeria and Africa’s foremost mouth painter, Idowu Akinrolabu, has charged the government to increase the right of the physically challenged to participate in public life as it is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.
Owolabi, while speaking in an interview on Monday, said giving a special day to celebrate the estimated one billion people living with one disability or the other around the world, was quite commendable, noting that “its a good sense of belonging which always boosts the moral and makes them feel they are being loved”.
He, however, added that more focus and inclusion in the affiars of the state for the skilled, talented and professional among them to show their dexterity would go along way in developing the nation.
Speaking on how PCCN came alive, he said after the death of his father, who was popular for his mouth painting, he saw the need to give life to many others who were greatly talented and could add value to the country, but had challenges such as blindness, people with spinal cord injury, people suffering from autism, the quadriplegics, among several others.
“We have been in existence for over five years now and as the founder of the organisation, I must confess that it has not been an easy task for me to take all of these people along with the necessary funding required to pull through. We must appreciate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and Femi Gbajabiamila for their unflinching support towards the group in the last five years.
He added: “We have been able to make over a hundred people independent. We distributed over 700 wheelchairs and over 2,000 clutches in different states. More so, we have people who can now paint with their mouths too. There is a student at the Federal College of Education Oyo State (Special), as well as others who are in vocational training schools. We aid their mobility by giving them wheelchairs and several other materials. I am really passionate about them.”
Meanwhile, as the 2019 elections gather momentum, PCCN founder spoke on some of the political activities, noting that in 2015, the NGO threw her weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Akinwumi Ambode in 2015 and would still do same in 2019 for the APC governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr Sanwo-Olu.
He, however, added that adding plans have been concluded to hold a mega walk in the six Geo political zones of the country to mobilize over 1.5 million physically challenged for the relection of President Buhari and other APC governorship candidates in other states of the country between December 17, 2018 – February 4, 2019.
Stating some of the reasons for their bias he said, “we are all enjoying the giant strides of the present administration, that is why we are a bit biased with our support for a political candidate.The PDP administration has failed us woefully and we are really unhappy. We had approached them before now to help pass a bill for People Living With Disability, PLWD, which will give certain privileges to people with different forms and degrees of disabilities, but they turned it down flatly.”