Salihu Usman Zurmi is a physically challenged lawmaker representing Zurmi East in the Zamfara State House of Assembly. In this interview, Zurmi who is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) explained how he lost his bid to become speaker of the state assembly, among other issues.
How did you find yourself in politics?
I started politics since the time of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). I later joined Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP) and then the defunct Social Democratic Party. I was among the national delegates of the party.
Three things prompted me to join politics, number one was being a physically challenged person. In Nigeria today, many people disdainfully look at the physically challenged. They think that persons with disability are more inclined to street begging rather than helping to build a better society. I want to change that perception.
If you look at the menace of street begging, it is being fuelled by the physical and intellectual laziness of the physically challenged persons, even though some have genuine cause for street begging. But we should remember that in every disability there is ability.
The society is also encouraging street begging. If society is seeing a beggar as someone who is physically challenged who can only survive on begging, then the menace would continue. The government on its own part has failed to take drastic action against the menace.
How did you lost the bid to become speaker of Zamfara House of Assembly?
I lost the bid to become speaker of Zamfara State House of Assembly because I’m a man of principle and ideology. What I’m mean here is that the power brokers in the state are quite aware that I always stand for truth and justice firmly. They know that allowing me to grab the speakership position would not allow any recklessness, especially regarding the legislature-executive relationship.
Of course some people, even at party level were insinuating that I lost the bid to become speaker because of my physical challenges. Yes, a lot of people are saying that but to me, it is because of my firm belief for justice and fairness. Despite the fact that I didn’t get the position I have no problem with anyone because I believe in myself, my ability to deliver good representation and I’m giving all support to good governance. It is my colleague from the same local government that emerged speaker. It is all about people.
How does your representation affect your people?
You know in politics, there are two or three yardsticks used in measuring good representation; that is development and welfare. But a lawmaker is not in the position of any. In the last six or seven months, I have been struggling for laws that will develop the state, especially regarding the security of lives and property.
I’m a member of the House Committee on Security and we have made a law banning and enacting capital punishment for offences such as kidnapping, banditry, cattle rustling and so on.
We travelled to states with similar laws like Bauchi, Lagos Kano and Kaduna. We had a public hearing on the matter and very soon the executive governor will assent to it.
With your condition, how are you coping with facilities in the House?
Yes, we encounter some problems, like the tiles on the floor, they give us problem stepping on them; some have gone with broken limbs, some have become paralysed and even death. Even those that are physically alright are having problems with tiles on floors. As you can see the state House of Assembly is being reconstructed, but I don’t know if they took all these issues into consideration.
They should consider the physically challenged and make some provisions for them to have easy entry and exit in the assembly complex.
What are the legislations that you are pushing for physically challenged persons?
Yes, since I’m physically challenged, then I’m representing two sections of people; my constituency and the physically challenged in the state. I will make sure that the state assembly passes a bill for persons with disability to survive as the National Assembly did. I will make sure I protect the rights and needs of persons with special needs like me.
What is your advice to persons with disability as regard to street begging?
They should understand that in every disability there is ability. You may be deformed physically, but you could be intellectually sound. So a physically challenged person can use his intellectual capacity to help himself and society in general.
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