President Buhari appoints a blind man as his senior special assistant

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has been on an appointment spree having appointed three aides in barely two weeks, the latest being a visually impaired man, Dr. Samuel Inalegwu Ode Ankeli, whom he made his Senior Special Assistant tasked with the responsibility of dealing with disabled persons on the presidents behalf.

Dr. Ankeli has been an ardent supporter of Buhari and the All Progressives Congress. During the presidential campaign, Ankeli was in charge of the Directorate of Persons with Disabilities at the Buhari/Osinbajo presidential campaign headquarters. And according to Mr. Garba Shehu, Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, who broke the news in a series of tweets on social media, Ankeli and his team successfully mobilised over 24 million disabled persons in the country to support President Buhari during the 2015 election campaign.

An indigene of Benue State, Dr. Ankeli is a graduate of veterinary medicine from the Ahmadu Bello University, with primary and secondary education in the town of Giwa, Kaduna state. Prior to his time working with Buhari’s campaign team, he was a full time activist promoting the welfare of disabled persons in his state having quit his job with the Benue State government.

“Dr. Samuel Ankeli is married with children and also leads a very active religious and sporting life,” tweeted Garba Shehu.

President Buhari and the issue of inclusivity

Since submitting his ministerial list late last year, President Buhari has faced criticisms for a lack of diversification and inclusivity in the areas of gender, youth, and demographic representation, with a number of Nigerians saying that his appointments are lopsided, with a concentration on Northerners, and an underwhelming representation of women and youths.

In his defense, the president insinuated that his appointments were a reward for loyalty, “If I select people whom I know quite well in my political party, whom we came all the way right from the APP, CPC and APC, and have remained together in good or bad situation, the people I have confidence in and I can trust them with any post, will that amount to anything wrong? I have been with them throughout our trying times, what then is the reward of such dedication and suffering?” If anything, Nigerians were more disappointed with his response than they were with the issue of inclusivity itself.

But since then, it appears Nigeria’s president is moving towards creating an inclusive administration one appointment at a time. With his recent appointment of 24 year old Bashir Ahmad as his Personal Assistant on New Media, 33 year old Tolu Ogunlesi as his Special Assistant on digital/new media, and yesterday’s appointment of visually impaired Ankeli as his new aide, President Buhari seem to be treading the path of Canada’s Justin Trudeau who did not only create a gender-balanced cabinet, but an all-inclusive cabinet with a diverse mix of remarkable individuals that cut across different tribes and religion, including Muslims, South Asians, and the physically challenged.

While President Buhari’s cabinet is still a far cry from Trudeau’s, and that of the past administration in terms of gender balance, his administration is the first to include a disabled individual at the seat of Nigeria’s political table.

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