The last helmsman at the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) barely weathered the tumult his voyage generated in the last four years. It was no surprise his berthing, days ago, went as if nothing had happened. Beyond showing him the door, his employer has also appeared somewhat unconcerned. The state government would not demand Dare Dairo account for his stewardship. But behind him remains a raging trail of scandals and abuse of office that will take time—and a lot more connivance—to fade away.
Well, in the tradition of that office, nobody accounts for anything. Nobody has. The last administration only made it easier when it junked the inauguration of LASODA’s governing board.
Section 2 (1) of the Lagos Special People Law (LSPL) provides that: There is established for the Office a Governing Board (referred to in this Law as the “Board”) which shall be responsible for the administration of the Office.
In the absence of this, the level-9 officer answered to no one throughout his tenure. Responsibilities piled high up while he kicked the can all the way down the road.
It’s also a tradition—that the Lagos government flouts its own laws. One can only imagine the utter disregard Gov. Babajide Sanwo Olu’s administration and the supervising Ministry of Sport and Social Development have for the state’s disability law.
But one tradition that needs disruption, and an army of progressive PWDs to rock its boat as LASODA begins another tenure is the hegemony taking shape in the agency. A first experience of anything could be a happenstance; the second, an after-wave; but the third one can only be an intention. The Nigeria Association of the Blind, Lagos, has flagged this, following the appointment of a new general manager for LASODA.
From running her Amputees United Initiative, Nike Oyetunde-Lawal got picked to serve as senior special adviser on disabilities to the governor in the last tenure. She has been pushed up from there again to head the agency. She becomes the first female GM in over a decade. That sounds cheery to gender equality evangelists. But the excitement flames out considering she is the third occupant of that office whom the ministry recommended from her kindred: the physical disability cluster. The immediate past GM also came out of there.
And among those who can’t bear this going into a new tenure is the blind cluster of the community. NAB wonders if there is any other explanation to this that it can’t see—apart from discrimination.
That also is a tradition, and it dates back to 2012. The first LASODA boss then came from the physical cluster. The same cluster produced the GM in 2016, the year the chairman of its board then, the late Dr. Oki, was also appointed from the same cluster.
The law that established the office doesn’t empower a single disability cluster, out of the eight in Lagos, to perpetually occupy the GM office. And the commissioner that has the responsibility to advise the governor on such appointment cannot in good judgement say other clusters lack competent PWDs who meet the requirement section 2(a) provides: A qualified person with pre-requisite experience on issues of management and education of persons living with disabilities.
An inclusive LASODA should boast a governing board and management office where a variety of people and competences abound. It’s the best approach to realizing the objectives of the state’s disability law; and it’s the most organic means of ensuring accountability.
In hindsight, LASODA couldn’t completely keep its leadership corruption in the last administration under the lid. Undercurrents of procurement shenanigans, fund diversions, abuse of office, and other inhumanities a disability office did to the state’s disability community eventually found vent. The media and some Organisations of People with Disabilities (OPDs) blew it open. Like most corrupt public office holders, Dare and his team simply blacked out, and allowed the blitz to blow out. That tact could have failed had a governing board alive to its duty been in place. Their responsibility to first scrutinize and approve every action of LASODA would have deterred the management team form dipping their hooks in the till. And now that their tenure expired, the team would have had questions to answer. Cluster politics that shielded him would have wilted in the atmosphere of diversity.
But Dare and his co-travellers are home now, free as birds. Wringing noses and twitching fingers at home, too, are the victims of LASODA’s misappropriation: the elderly whose allowances the team stashed away; the sport men and women they fleeced; and the poor members whose palliative fund and foodstuff the management routed to its cronies.
The tradition of shoving the Lagos disability community’s welfare packages elsewhere hit fever-pitch in the last administration. It went on unrelenting, from the on-boarding welcome party four years ago to the parting shot few days ago. In the dying minutes of tenure, Dairo diced up thousands of bags of foodstuff and others provisions which philanthropic organisations handed LASODA for distribution to the community in Christmas. The former GM then shipped scores of these bags to some commissioners, directors, and some NGOs. Just to thank his enablers in the state government, and drill his way deeper into the hearts of those in his inner circle.
The SPL in Section 10 permits LASODA to receive gifts. It goes without saying such gifts are for the Lagos disability community—not for the wheeler-dealers at Alausa and Dairo’s sweethearts in the NGOs. Of course he regularly went beyond just doling out foodstuff; he forked out monies from the Lagos Disability Fund (N500m every year), too, to NGOs that named their prices. To him, throwing LASODA money at NGOs who raise fund elsewhere and enjoy status privileges didn’t look like robbery.
That was how he viewed it.
Oyetunde-Lawal is an outsider of sorts. She’s parachuting in from the higher realm of well-heeled NGO power players and high-flying special advisers. These privileged handful of PWDs have their peculiar views of things too: they mostly see life through a rose-colored prism. So it’s not impossible her own view of LASODA from out there will diverge from some competent candidate’s coming out from within the rump of the community. Which is why it’s important she assesses the situation, and resists these traditions, including that of sweeping the past sleaze under the rug.
It’s an agenda other clusters, indeed all the Lagos disability community, are setting for her.