1. Let me start this talk with two examples of very outstanding people who fought incredible physical disability but because of their determination, will power, incredible resolution, they overcame their disability and became known throughout the world.
2. I refer to late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States and Professor Steven Hawking, astrophysicist of Cambridge University, England.
3. Roosevelt was crippled in both legs with polio and throughout most of his adult life was consigned to a wheelchair and had to be helped to bathe, to get into bed, to get out of bed, to dress and to be wheeled into his office or to address a political meeting. Roosevelt won four consecutive presidential elections, led the Allied Powers in the Second World War to defeat Hitler’s Germany and imperial Japan.
4. His most significant achievement on the domestic front was to start massive public construction works to build roads, bridges, dams which employed millions of Americans and helped to alleviate the economic depression following the Great Crash of 1929. Roosevelt is regarded as the greatest American president of the 20th century. He overcame disability and proved to his countrymen and the world that physical challenges could be circumvented with the right spirit.
5. My second example is Steven Hawking. A healthy young man as an undergraduate was just walking around in his university compound when he collapsed on the ground and had to be helped to his rooms. Eventually, he was diagnosed as suffering from a motor neurone condition. In spite of this disability, can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t eat on his own, he wrote a masterpiece doctoral thesis and is now a professor in Page 1 strophysics and is even improving on Einstein’s theories. He can only nowadays communicate by using a speechgenerating device operated by a small sensor in his cheek. He is completely physically incapacitated but because of his indomitable spirit, he keeps on living, teaching and engaging in research.
6. My dear friends, I have chosen these two examples to show us that disability occurs to men and women at random through illness or accident, but with will and spirit, it should not be the end of our usefulness. All too often, Nigerians afflicted by such calamity resign themselves to a life of begging, despair and poverty. This need not be so.
7. A study by Dr. Raymond Langland of University College London and Miss Lucy Upah, social welfare officer Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities Abuja highlights many of the challenges and opportunities for disabled people in Nigeria. For example, they pointed out that at a meeting with INEC, it was proposed that in future, disabled people are able to actively participate in elections thereby exercising their democratic rights. In addition, currently the 1999 constitution is being reviewed and there is a strong possibility disabled people’s rights will be protected in the constitution.
8. However, I agree with the report that enormous changes are needed towards accepting physically challenged people have rights and also have contributions to the national effort. If, by the grace of God, APC wins the elections next week we will fulfil our election promise to appoint a Federal Ombudsman for people with disabilities to combat discrimination against the disabled. The Ombudsman will take care of:
• Employment of disabled persons
• Participating in public life among other assignments
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, this is a brief outline of what APC has in store for you. I thank you for your attention.
General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd,) GCFR
APC Presidential Candidate