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Mfonobong Inyang: We All Need To Uphold Human Rights in Nigeria

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It is very sad and I dare say, shameful that in 2021 we have to still write think-pieces about the importance of respecting human rights. We’re all very different and have different dispositions in life. Some people are rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, religious, agnostic, male, female, liberal, conservative and so on but the common thread is that we’re all humans who have inalienable rights. Until we recognize that salient common denominator, we are no different from brute animals who live in concrete jungles. We can disagree and banter about many things like whether we should dip bread into tea or not, which player deserves to win the Ballon D’or, whether enrolling children in boarding school is better than registering them as day students – what we cannot argue about is whether white is truly white or black is truly black.

When it comes to justice; there are no middle grounds – it’s either we’re holding up the rule of law or we’re actively suppressing it. Everything isn’t about politics, everything shouldn’t be about politics. When a promising 11-year-old with aspirations of becoming a pilot loses his life under suspicious circumstances and his 12th birthday had to be commemorated posthumously, we cannot move on like nothing happened because today’s survivor can become a victim tomorrow. This idea that because something doesn’t directly concern us, we have to drink water and mind our business has to be discarded. The dead body of your neighbour’s child may appear as a log of wood to you, until (God forbid) it’s your child. We cannot have one law for the privileged few and another for everyone else, no Nigerian is more Nigerian any Nigerian. The reason while it seems almost everyone on these streets has virtually become an activist is because injustice has become so pervasive.

Miss me with that Orange The World talk if you stonewalled on the death of a girl who allegedly was molested within your premises with used prophylactic found in her. Take several seats and don’t preach to me about holiness if you attack a mother who cried out about her son being allegedly sodomized instead of investigating her claims. Children are becoming statistics and our hopes for the future are becoming hashtags. We can’t call out public office holders all day and not pause to look into the mirror ourselves. Sexual harassment in the workplace, landlord wey dey disturb tenant, lecturer wey no get joy for students, mentor that is now a tormentor to the protégé, those ogas and madams that dehumanize house helps and all those other low budget dictators in the same WhatsApp group.

Gaslighting FC

We should not just be emotional but more importantly, have emotional intelligence. When you see people tell lies so brazenly and unashamedly, don’t waste your anger, it’s just another day at the office for them. It’s not necessarily because they are ‘bad’ people, it’s really because it’s against their own interests to tell the truth. Some people also spill baloney sprinkled with expensive English because they want to resurrect the messiah model, they don’t want salvation to come from institutions but from individuals. Nobody better describes the business model of lies than Upton Sinclair: “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Another quote that lives rent-free in my head is that of French writer, political activist and social theorist, Simone de Beauvoir, who posits in her classic, The Ethics of Ambiguity, that, “The oppressor would not be so strong if he did not have accomplices among the oppressed.” This is why those who suffer injustice the most are sometimes those who defend the indefensible the most; it’s just like political Stockholm syndrome. Miss me with the arguments of whether certain events happened or not, you will never catch me doing that back and forth, I don’t tennis such vacuous conversations.

It’s funny when I see well-oiled propaganda and campaigns of calumny being deployed in a 21st century generation that is globally acclaimed literally as the ‘information age;; the irony of unilateral narratives where information has been ‘democratised’ always leaves me in stitches. Last weekend, I was tuned into BET to watch an episode of Isono – a hit South African drama series. Mary Ndlovu is running for a political position in the municipality and her daughter, Esther Ndlovu is her lieutenant in the campaign. After uncovering a string of unforgivable lies by her mother, Esther pulls out from the campaign because she could not stand, “her trust being violated over and over” and to make it worse, Mary finds it hard to apologize. It makes me wonder, will heaven fall if people admit to wrong doings and at least tender an unreserved apology for starters instead of being quick to put up a defence? These pedestrian strategies from an archaic playbook are just ridiculous.

You’re not in control of our thesis. This is not that generation that waits for a particular time to listen to propaganda-infested news which ends up being the single story. This is a coconut head generation; dem no dey hear word. I know that phrase has been mischievously misconstrued to mean that they are wayward or disrespectful to constituted authority. What it really means that they will not outsource their critical thinking to anyone no matter how influential, they will intellectually interrogate matters to see if things are as stated or otherwise.

About Models and Strategies

By my training as an economist, I am effectively hardwired to recognise models, whether business, social or political. Once you successfully identify behavioural patterns, it helps to make better educated predictions. Earlier this year in January, I wrote about repressive strategies that I extrapolated from a book, A Promised Land by former United States President, Barack Obama. It was in reference to Bobi Wine and the unconscionable events in Uganda at the time but in hindsight, I see it was ultimately a metaphor.

  • “Most of these leaders maintained their grip through an old formula: restricted political participation and expression, pervasive intimidation and surveillance at the hands of police or internal security services, dysfunctional judicial systems and insufficient due process protections, rigged (or non-existent) elections, an entrenched military, heavy press censorship, and rampant corruption. Many of these regimes had been in place for decades, held together by nationalist appeals, shared religious beliefs, tribal bonds, familial ties, and webs of patronage…”
  • “An official ban on protesting but also block Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in an effort to hamper the demonstrators’ ability to organize or connect with the outside world.”
  • “Accusing provocateurs and unnamed political forces of hijacking the protests to undermine the nation’s security and stability.”
  • “The need to systematically, ruthlessly crush the protests no matter how much violence that might require and no matter how much international criticism such crackdowns might generate.”

So it didn’t come as any surprise to me when America’s top diplomat, Anthony Blinken visited the continent and the core of his message was upswing of “democratic recession”. Make no mistake, this is not a phenomenon exclusive to Africa, the Secretary of State can tell you all about the carnage at the Capitol on January 6th 2021, in a country that is touted as the bastion of democracy and the outpost of human rights around the world, just as there was chaos in Congo, mayhem in Myanmar and the baleful blitz in Belarus. The lesson here is that democracy anywhere in the world is only as strong as the willingness of people to fight for it.

Right To Peaceful Protest in the Poteaux Poteaux

As increasingly inadequate as our constitution has shown to be in terms of meeting the contemporary yearnings and aspiration of the collective, it is still at this material time the Grundnorm because, “It has overriding authority over all other law to the extent that any inconsistency with the constitution renders the law null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” The Supreme Court had passed several judgements to the effect that citizens don’t require a permit to partake in a peaceful assembly. In fact, under the Public Order Act (Cap P42) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 – no law enforcement officer “was competent to issue a permit for holding any public meeting or rally or cancel any such public meeting or rally.” If anything, they should protect such gatherings from infiltration by unscrupulous elements.

What we saw on live television barely two months ago was the complete opposite: protesters being dehumanized, journalists being harassed and law enforcement officers giving a window of time for which people were allowed to protest. Young Nigerians for years have been complaining that we can’t breathe because of the metaphorical knee on our necks; we are extorted, harassed, profiled and sometimes unjustly detained for having expensive smartphones, cars, laptops or even looking fresh, in 2021! The new trend is for law enforcement officers to crudely breach your privacy at home or in a hotel room, most times without a warrant in the dead of the night and justify it with “acting on intelligence”. Yet when we choose non-violent and civil means to air our grievances, we are being labelled as “miscreants”. Have we really severed the umbilical cords from the system of government that preceded this civilian dispensation? What do they really think when they see us?

It’s Time To Work For Justice!

The reason why peace almost always feels like a long walk on eggshells is because we tend to put the cart before the horse. Peace is a by-product of justice which must not only be served but must, more importantly be seen to be served. You gerrit now? If you don’t gerrit, then forget abourrit. It’s a common saying that, “justice for all ain’t just specific enough!” We need to know whether justice is truly the hope of the common man, if it belongs to the highest bidder or those with a prominent last name. This is a golden opportunity to do right by those who feel aggrieved; not placebos to anaesthetize their pains. In a polarized polity such as ours there is a heavy tendency to weaponize criticisms but things should be examined on their own merits. Healing starts at the point of honesty. Until the man was humble enough to admit that he needed a second touch, only then did he stop seeing people as trees. As leaders, we should be open to other perspectives, away from praise singers who will praise us to death.

David was an avante-garde king; in an era were military prowess and economic prosperity were the hallmarks of powerful kingdoms, he embodied the SI Unit of what a king should be. From humble beginnings, he gained national notoriety by defeating Goliath of Gath. The Messiah, many centuries later declared Himself as the “Son of David” and even to this day, the son of Jesse’s legacy is venerated in cultural circles. So when his son, Solomon succeeded him as king, there was disquiet because the people weren’t sure if the successor would fill his father’s larger-than-life shoes. Trust crisis to expose character or the lack of it thereof. Solomon’s baptism of fire came in a landmark case where two women lay claim to the maternity of a child. In an uncanny display of wisdom, he asked the child to be literally cut in two so each woman can have one half. He identified the true mother by watching who was more eager to preserve life. Only then did the people begin to warm up to Solomon’s kingship and no war was recorded during his reign.

Run away from those who don’t value human life; if you see them coming from one side of the road, cross over to the other side. People that banter over human lives as though they were just numbers, people that say, “only X persons died”, people that are conveniently absent, quiet or indifferent to loss of human lives but are vocal about everything else. Such people should never be put in charge of building a house, running a school, being behind the wheel of any vehicle or even being in public office. They may occupy positions but that doesn’t make that true leaders. We all have our private and sometimes public political preferences but when it comes to the rule of law, we must never have a dog in the fight! People’s pain have become more pronounced in this pandemic; families are hurting like hell and they need closure now more than ever.

The last line in that second stanza of the national anthem reads: “To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.” Emphasis on peace and justice.

Selah.

Now available in select bookshops and on my Selar Store - get your hands on my brand new book, Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith Is Not A Business Model - Mfonobong Inyang is a creative genius who works with top individuals and institutions to achieve their media, tech and communication goals. As a consummate writer, he offers ghostwriting, copy-writing and book consultancy services. A master storyteller that brilliantly churns out premium content for brands on corporate communications, book projects, scripts and social media. A graduate of Economics – he speaks the English, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages. He appears to be a gentleman on the surface but the rumours are true - he get coconut head! Reach out to me let us work together on your content project(s) - [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Zee

    December 10, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    Wow! Thank you for this breakdown. I thoroughly enjoy reading this. “To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign” if this isn’t a word.

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