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Tsema Ede-Okoye: Nigerians Need to Do Better and Give People the Dignity they Deserve

We must care because all human beings have equal inherent rights to dignity that should never be diminished. It is important we recognise and respect those rights, regardless of differentiating social, cultural, and economic factors. Dignity comes from God. It is valuable, it should be nurtured, and it should be protected. It is achieved when humans can flourish.

Tsema Ede-Okoye

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Human dignity is a sense of self-worth,
It makes a person feel that they deserve respect
And honour from other human beings.

A video made the rounds on Twitter showing three women and two men. They were allegedly part of a criminal syndicate in the city of Abuja. The video was cringe-worthy. The women were made to lie down on the ground naked. They were beaten and harassed. Their fellow humans took the law into their hands as they stripped these women of any form of dignity, while the public and the police watched. They were referred to as one chance operators – a group of criminals who kidnap and rob passengers in public taxis.

It was pathetic to see how low we had sunk in our regard for humanity. People grabbed their cameras to record videos of naked women who were heckled and assaulted by the public for an alleged crime. It was also interesting to note that their male counterparts were disrobed only of their shirts, as they all laid on the ground. Some may argue that they were criminals and were not worthy of any respect or dignity. However, I would like for us to think about what dignity should mean to us as citizens of the earth.

Perhaps dignity is a word reserved for a privileged few, and it does not affect our daily lives and interactions with other people. It is even possible that some of us do not think about it, because the nuances of the word do not concern us.

Nonetheless, to repeat the words of a wise person: Humans deserve dignity, not because of their lifelong achievements, but because they are human beings. It is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically.

I believe that we must always think about how we can preserve the dignity of every human being we come across, regardless of age, socio-economic status, tribe, race, sexual orientation, occupation, beliefs, and any other thing that differentiates us. The right to dignity is intrinsically due to every person. For a person to exist, dignity must exist. All humans deserve dignity, a word so simple yet it has become complex to uphold.

Protecting human dignity is in the simplest things: it is in acknowledging the humanity of the person next to you, it is in respecting a woman because she is a human being and not because she could be your sister or mother. Ensuring access to education for every child regardless of gender, social status, or religion protects dignity. It is also in the provision of access to treatment and medicine to everyone regardless of sexual orientation and occupation. It can also be in providing social and cultural systems that enshrine equity and justice for every citizen, especially systems that lift people out of poverty.

Another wise person once said, “Poverty is not only deprivation of economic or material resources but a violation of human dignity too.” Poverty is about exclusion, physical, and economic insecurity. It nullifies the right to health, education, adequate housing, food, and safe water. It causes people to lead difficult lives short of dignity.

The underaged children we engage as domestic servants because their parents cannot afford to care for them also need to lead worthy lives with access to education and security, without needing to labour for their basic rights. Dignity should matter to us because vulnerable rural communities are losing their land, mineral, and water resources to corporations on the promise of “development.” They are pushed further into poverty when their source of livelihood is taken from them.

We must care because all human beings have equal inherent rights to dignity that should never be diminished. It is important we recognise and respect those rights, regardless of differentiating social, cultural, and economic factors. Dignity comes from God. It is valuable, it should be nurtured, and it should be protected. It is achieved when humans can flourish.

We are all responsible for ending the cycle of wanton disregard for other human beings, and we can start to do this by imbibing the values of dignity in our children. Teaching them to respect others, never to shame others in public, and to protect the integrity of every human being’s agency.

Upholding the entirety of human dignity affects societal norms and generally accepted principles. These considerations raise questions surrounding justice and equality in our society, difficult conversations we must have if we are to make significant progress in our society.

I conclude by saying: dignity must matter to all of us because for every moment we find ourselves at ease with stripping others of their dignity, we step closer to losing our humanity.

Tsema is a lawyer with several years’ experience in human rights, conflict & dispute resolutions, governance, and gender. Before going into development, she worked as a litigation lawyer in local communities representing the most vulnerable. Tsema has gained experience in working actively at strengthening activists at the grassroots to document and expose human rights abuses, conducting community outreaches and mobilisation. Tsema continues to advocate for legal and policy reforms to protect the most vulnerable. She is mum to three amazing children, catch her sharing drinks and laughs with friends and family.

15 Comments

  1. Liz mo

    July 12, 2019 at 3:59 am

    Thank you for this article.
    I hope people would learn to see humanity first before anything.

    1
    • Ify

      July 12, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      Beautiful write up..Tsem!

      1
  2. Teemode

    July 12, 2019 at 6:14 am

    Sigh.
    That spirit that possesses people to strip fellow humans naked first under the guise of “they’re criminals” is a strong one.

    So. You caught a kidnapper. A thief. An armed robber. Whatever
    WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING WITH HIS NAKEDNESS?!?!

    This isn’t just about giving people dignity in my view. This is about humans themselves not turning themselves into gaddem animals. Actually, I should apologise to actual animals. They seem to be a bit more decent than these creatures.

    Same goes to those overly religious cretins that believe stripping an “indecently” dressed woman naked.

    There must be a makes curse our people have been placed on. It’s a shame

    3
    • Prof Oskie

      July 12, 2019 at 10:21 am

      You hit this nail on the head. #thumbsup

      1
    • Yt

      July 13, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      I don’t know how people don’t see this.

      1
  3. Rose Collins

    July 12, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for this beautiful write up Tsema. The importance of human dignity can never be over emphasized. It’s wrong for people to take laws into their hands or whatsoever or talk down on fellow humans in public.

    1
  4. Tsema Ede-Okoye

    Tsema Ede-Okoye

    July 12, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Dear Liz Mo, thank you. I hope so too.

  5. Tsema Ede-Okoye

    Tsema Ede-Okoye

    July 12, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Tee mode, thank you and that is why we must have conversation to destroy these notions that make such acts okay.

  6. Tee

    July 12, 2019 at 11:54 am

    This is a wonderful write up.
    I hope this article cause people to stop and really think before they act…
    The situation that still surprises me is the jungle justice mentality, you catch a thief and you burn them alive – what does that make you?? Er a Murderer..
    Thank you Tsema for this reminding us we need to treat people with respect and dignity.

    1
  7. Yvonne

    July 12, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Even in the video one of the ladies said she was just a passenger,what if this was actually true…….and these people have performed jungle justice………..smh

    1
  8. Sheila

    July 12, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    It’s really sad to see how we take laws into our hands! So many innocent people have been killed via jungle justice, It’s none of our business till it happens to us or someone we know….Nice one ma’am, we really need to do better, before anything we are HUMANS.

    1
  9. Yt

    July 13, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    This needs to be written in different languages, printed on flyers and distributed on the ‘highways and the byways’. Very well written.

    1
  10. Nnedi

    July 13, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you so much dear Tsemi for putting pen to paper and drawing our attention to this much needed cause.

    We must have these conversations and move beyond them with a call to action. It is deeply revolting that we have no care for dignity as a people.

    1
  11. Moore

    July 14, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Thank you Tsemi.. Do you know that people that are been kidnapped were kept naked once they get them? I read this story from a lady that was kidnapped along with her husband and her 9yrs old girl.. The kidnappers do the same to people ,so how do you handle this?

  12. Tsema Ede-Okoye

    Tsema Ede-Okoye

    July 15, 2019 at 5:57 am

    Hello Moore, we need to get people to care about others. Speak more to our humanity, it’s just wrong and immoral.

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