She was recently sworn in for the second term in office as the National President of the Joint National Association of Peoples with Disability (JONAPWD).
Ekaette Judith Umoh in this exclusive interview with PAUL EFIONG bares her mind on how she emerged victorious in a keenly contested election, her next moves, plans and so on. Excerpts:
You defeated some male folks who wanted to wrestle power from you. As a woman, what was the magic?
It was one of the toughest elections ever had in the history of our association, the secret is God. When He is on your side nobody can come and overrule you, we give him all the glory. I am very grateful to God and all the trust worthy delegates who travelled far and near to cast their votes for me to lead them for the second term. It was just
God’s undeserved favour and so we are here to do what we know how to do best for our esteem members and Nigeria as a whole.
Now that you have been elected to go in for second term, please, what are your plans for the betterment of your members and the association in general?
After the first election which ushered me in during the first tenure, the same question was raised shortly after our inauguration, remember when I promised that I have no alternative than to institutionalize JONAPWD not just in Nigeria but all over, and that is exactly what I did. Our association before my tenure was not known and so the first thing I did was to make it known and market the brand and so on. What a coincidence that shortly after first tenure and subsequent election and inauguration the same question surfaced again, but this time around let me tell the world and my beloved members across the nation that I intend to do nothing but to consolidate on the first achievements we made during the first term. We must continue to consolidate on the lesson learnt during the first tenure even though they were not perfect. We might have made mistakes along with some huge successes. Shortly we shall sit down and take stock as a body to see where we need to work more as well as where we need to make some adjustments toward taking our association to greater heights for the Glory of God and our entire
members in the country. We hope to work assiduously to achieve all our programs and plans so that at the end of our tenure we all shall have soft landing. We hope to see more increase visibility for the next four years, we hope to start and finish people-oriented projects that would
impact positively on the welfare and wellbeing of our members across board. We also want to see passage of more laws that will empower people with disability in Nigeria, laws that will equip them, laws that will protect them in the country.
How will you use your membership strength to press home your demands even as politicians are now soliciting for votes from electorates including your members?
Thanks, we have membership strength in Nigeria of over 27 million, no other organization have such strength and so we want to use our strength to press home our demands on our needs in this country.
Politicians all over are seriously lobbying to see us cast our votes for them and so, we in the other way are working and developing a chatter of demand that will make it practically impossible for politicians to exploit us, after we have cast our votes for them. We have developed chatter of demand that will ensure that no politician get our votes and get away with it. They certainly know our importance
and we have a check lists of all the political parties that could live up to their promises on us not those that could play politics with our demands after they got our votes. We are investigating them, we want to know all of them, so that tomorrow we can really say this one is the one we shall cast our votes for. Those with our interests. We are
currently engaging politicians in our activities. The essence of this is for us to know them better as well as know what each of them could offer us. We also engage INEC in our activities to make sure that barriers to person with disabilities during elections are removed.
Those things that may not allow people with disabilities to
participate in the elections are completely removed. We are talking to them to make sure that our members have smooth access to the voting units, we are making them to see the need for signers or interpreters to be at every polling unit in order to assist those who are impaired. We
tell them the need for papers so that those who cannot see can cast their votes effectively. Remember that because of our effort, INEC now has the legal frame work for people with disabilities. We are working assiduously with INEC to making sure that the Legal Frame Work for People with Disabilities are judiciously implemented fully to open up
the way for all with disability to participate fully during the fourth coming general elections. Some of us are already candidates in some political parties and we shall definitely mobilize and support ourselves for the coming election.
Could INEC learn anything from your just concluded elections; we never heard any complaint from anybody of how others rigged in favor of another?
Yes, our election must not be seen as a do or die affair. Even though there is nothing like minor elections or major elections, election is an election and so, I want INEC to pay more attention to the issue of security because most our members are vulnerable and when there is an eventuality, they suffered most in this country. We also urged INEC to allow our members who are blind to vote through
assistant, and so we urge them to make arrangement for those who may not vote on their own to be assisted.
What final message and advice do you have for your members across board especially concerning the just concluded election?
I sincerely want to use this opportunity to thank my members all over Nigeria especially the delegates who travelled into Federal Capital Territory, Abuja because of the just concluded election. We thank them for their support and understanding even as we promise to make positive impact more than during our first tenure. For those who contested against me, I call for understanding because in every election there must always be a winner and a looser. I want to thank the delegates for their understanding and for being a gender sensitive. I thank all for understanding for the opportunity to serve for the second chance. I promise to work harder as well as operate an open-door policy system for all. To those who might be aggrieved, I want you all to join hands
with me so that we can move JONAPWD forward, there are lots more committees and I wish to extend a hand of fellowship to you so that you can contribute for the progress and peace of our association. We have many things in common that can build us together and so, I am
inviting you to come together so that we can move our association to greater heights.