A saying that there is ability in every disability played out in the election of Honourable Salihu Usman Zurmi, representing Zurmi East in the Zamfara State House of Assembly. Zurmi, who is physically challenged, believes that one can achieve greatness in life irrespective of disability. In this interview, he explains how he struggled to study and eventually became a legislator against all odds.
Daily Trust: Tell us a little about yourself?
Honourable Salihu Usman Zurmi: My name is Salihu Usman Zurmi. I’m physically challenged. My physical disability was as a result of Poliomyelitis infection when I was 18 months old.
I was born on August 14, 1962 in Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State. I attended Nizamiyya School in Zurmi town. It was like a primary school with an inclusion of Arabic and Islamic studies. Then I proceeded to Government Teachers’ School Kaura Namoda. I completed secondary school in 1984. I then proceeded to the Centre for Islamic Studies at the Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto. I had a diploma in Arabic and Islamic studies. I then continued in the same institution where I obtained a degree in Arabic language. I also bagged post graduate diploma and Master’s degree in Public Administration from the same school.
My working career started in Zurmi Local Education Authority. Thereafter, I joined Zamfara State Teachers Service Board. Later, I moved to the administration department in the office of the Head of Service. In all, I worked in about nine ministries.
DT: When was your first foray into politics and what encouraged you to join politics?
Zurmi: I started politics since the Second Republic; I later Joined Nigeria Advance Party. When I was a member of 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 look disdainfully at the physically challenged, 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 fuelled by the physical and intellectual laziness of the physically challenged persons, even though some have genuine reasons to beg. But we should remember that in every disability, there is ability. The society is also encouraging street begging. If society sees 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. I heard that the National Assembly has passed a bill that would take care of the needs of persons with disability. This is encouraging.
DT: Despite your physical deformity you were able to go to school. What spurred you?
Zurmi: There are two things here. My family embraced western education from the time it came to Zurmi town. Two, all my peers were enrolled in school except me. So, I asked myself why I was not enrolled in school like them. Is it because I’m physically challenged? I had to push and enroll myself in school.
DT: In your own opinion, why were you not enrolled in school at that time?
Zurmi: Well, I think it was because I’m physically challenged; you know in school there are extracurricular activities, including sports and so on. So, my parents thought I wouldn’t be able to cope with the harsh school training.
DT: Your state, Zamfara, is one of the states being plagued by banditry. As a lawmaker, what would you do to ameliorate the sufferings of the people?
Zurmi: It is true that Zamfara State is suffering from bandits’ attacks, my constituency inclusive; but the state government is committed to halting this madness. The government is talking to traditional rulers, Fulani leaders and the state governor, Alhaji Bello Mutawalle, has redesigned a new peace roadmap for the state. With God’s help and commitment on the part of government and the good people of Zamfara State, we will overcome these challenges.
Nothing good will take place in an atmosphere of chaos and violence. We have to do everything humanly possible to restore law and order in our communities. We are making efforts to achieve this.
DT: As a lawmaker today, what positive impact would you make on the lives of persons with disability in the state?
Zurmi: Yes, since I’m physically challenged, then I’m representing two sections of people in the state assembly – my constituency and the physically challenged. I would make sure the state assembly passes a bill for person with disability to survive like the National Assembly did. I will make sure I protect the rights and needs of persons with special needs like me.
DT: What is your advice to persons with disability on the need to pursue their goals and dreams?
Zurmi: 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 the society.
DT: Why is it that young persons have dominated the 9th Assembly in the state?
Zurmi: When we discussed with the APC, they said they would want to implement Sharia law to the later but they failed to do so. In a state where Sharia law is implemented, there won’t be social vices such as kidnapping, killings, rapes, theft, and other crimes. So, the youths thought they had something to offer to help build a better society. They struggled to take over the mantle of leadership from those who had failed them.
DT: What is your hope for a better Zamfara State and Nigeria?
Zurmi: With the calibre of people at the helm of affairs in the state, our fears have been allayed regarding whether a state of our dream could be built or not. As I told you earlier, the involvement of youths who have the wisdom and capability to take the state to greater height has immensely rekindled my hope. The position of Zamfara State in the national and global stage is unacceptable and this must be changed for the better.