The concept of human rights has its history in the creation of the United Nations. Following the devastation from the second world war, a war that involved more than 30 countries and lasted, six awful years (1939-1945), sovereign nations came together and vowed that they would not allow such unregulated use and abuse of power be unleashed on the world ever happen again. On the 10th of December, 1948, the United Nations promulgated The Universal Declaration of Human rights, casting in stone inalienable and indivisible rights and freedoms of citizens of the world regardless of country or tongue. These rights and freedoms, some of which have been reproduced below, have since become the fulcrum of International Human Rights Law.
- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
- No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
- All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
- All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
- Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
- Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
- Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
- Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
- Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
- Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
- Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
- Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.
- Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
In 1960, Nigeria became a member state of the UN and consequently a signatory to the UNDHR. Chapter 4 of the country’s 1999 Constitution enshrines the fundamental rights of every citizen, reflecting and even borrowing in most part from the UN’s Declaration. That’s all well and good, except Nigeria merely pays lip service to the letter and spirit of its own grundnorm. From section 36(1) to section 44(1), the Constitution enumerates the basic rights of a Nigerian citizen. They include:
- Right to life
- Right to dignity of human persons
- Right to personal liberty
- Right to fair hearing
- Right to presumption of innocence
- Right to privacy
- Right to freedom of thought and expression; freedom of assembly; freedom of religion; freedom of movement; freedom from discrimination.
- Right to acquire and own property.
Exceptions to right to life notwithstanding, the people of Benue are just a section of Nigerians who have been deprived of their right to life and even their right to defend themselves and their land:
“A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary –
(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property”
Since last year, Benue state has been the centre of unfettered violence orchestrated by the Fulani herdsmen. In a single day, as their fellow countrymen ushered in the New Year, at least 70 persons were slaughtered in some local government areas of the state. The violence has not let up since then. Just last week Tuesday, 19 people, two of whom were Priests were killed while worshipping at a Catholic Church in Gwer West Local Government Council of Benue.
This state of affairs is not isolated to Benue state alone. The entire Middle Belt has been engulfed in terror since that fateful day in 2001 when Jos fell, as indigenes and non-indigenes clashed with ferocity. Taraba, Southern Kaduna, Adamawa have all been recent locations of alarming massacres that the Federal Government has barely bothered to respond to. Each of the victims of these lawless killings had a right to life. A right which the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari has neglected to defend. In fact, with the Benue killings, it took the Presidency 10 weeks (Monday, 12th March) after the massacre and state mass burial to respond to the killings with a personal visit. 3 weeks after -April 9th-, Mr President would announce his intention to pursue a second term in office.
As far as right to personal liberty is concerned, the security agencies of Nigeria are consistent flagrant violators. Towards the end of last year, Nigerians on social media erupted in fury over the mistreatment by SARS, a special unit arm of the police force. Rape, kidnapping, threats to shoot for reasons as silly as laughing, the stories of members of the police force breaking every law known to man are endless. Operation Python Dance carried out by the Military saw similar tales of abuse by soldiers reported on social media.
Right to freedom of association, assembly and religion are equally a huge joke. This picture of Aisha Yesufu, BBOG activist standing strong as policemen threw tear gas at their group, disrupting their protest in the nation’s capital speaks a thousand words.
It is not the first time the government will interfere with the right of Nigerians to peaceful assembly. Remember the Charly Boy incident? Even Oby Ekwesili’s arrest? Oh, and let’s not forget El- Zakzaky, the Shi’ite leader who has been detained since 2015 despite several court rulings ordering the Federal Government to release him. On the 23rd of this month, the police disrupted the Shi’ites protest at the Unity Fountain, Abuja.
What about the Libya slave trade auctions? President Buhari waited 14 days after foreign media and the Ghanaian president scolded Libya before addressing the scandal via Twitter, atrocious, considering the majority of slaves being killed and maimed were Nigerian. Then there’s the story of the 26 Nigerian girls who perished at sea trying to make their great escape to Europe. It was bad enough that they perished by being thrown overboard; worse, that another sovereign government had to organize a mass burial with nary a government official from Nigeria in attendance. Unfortunate that Abike Dabiri’s first reaction to the news was to complain about a cover-up from the Italian government. Outrageous, yet telling, that through all of this, President Buhari kept mum.
The number one culprit who does not care one whit about his people’s right to freedom of movement, to own and acquire property is Governor Ambode. The bulldozing of Otodo Gbame, a slum in Lagos, without alternative measures made for housing, is proof that that right is only in paper.
We can go on and on listing infractions by this government of the basic human rights of its citizens, but that would belabour the point, which is Nigeria has no “social order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in either the UN Declaration can be fully realized” and while international human rights have expanded to include right to internet, President Buhari doesn’t even pretend to provide his citizens with their basic rights.
THE HUMAN RIGHTS/SOVEREIGNTY BARTER
The government of every nation expects loyalty from its citizens, in exchange for good governance, basic amenities and most importantly, access to human rights. However, when human rights of these citizens are trampled upon, especially by the government supposed to uphold them, the government should not expect loyalty to its sovereignty and authority.
Certain privileges and rights for citizens have been enshrined in the constitution of every democratic nation. In the case of Nigeria, the 1999 constitution gives certain rights to its citizen. Although, citizens are being denied these rights intentionally and unintentionally.
The Rights to life, dignity of human persons, personal liberty, fair hearing, presumption of innocence, privacy, and freedom of thought and expression are being threatened daily. These rights have refused to work in Nigeria. It is bad enough to live within a system that doesn’t work, not to talk of your rights being trampled upon.
A quintessential example of how the Nigerian system does not work is the abduction of Dapchi and Chibok girls by the Boko Haram sect in the North. In 2014, Boko Haram insurgents marched into Chibok in Maiduguri and abduct 276 female students who were about writing their school leaving certificate examination.The abduction had led to global outcry and criticism of the government of the time. There were initially denials that the girls were not abducted by any sect. The Washington Post reported that President Goodluck Jonathan refused international help in the search for the girls. Britain said it was ready to help in a news release the day after the mass abduction April 15 and made a formal offer of assistance April 18, according to the British Foreign Office. The United States’ embassy and agencies offered help and were in touch with Nigeria “from Day One” of the crisis, according to Secretary of State John F. Kerry.
It took a month before President Jonathan finally accepted help from the United States, Britain, France and China. Some of the girls have been released, while others are still with the sect.
Four years after, the same sect gallantly marched into Dapchi, a town in Yobe and abducted 110 girls. Luckily, the girls were released by the sect which held a rally and addressed eyewitnesses while returning the girls. They were welcomed like heroes.
Following the terrors it has reigned in the North, some radical pentecostal churches have termed the sect as an incarnation of the anti-christ and demonstration of life after rapture.They describe the Chibok and Dapchi girls as ‘unbelievers’ who are facing tribulations in the hands of anti-Christ, Boko Haram.
But Boko Haram itself, is an excellent case study of how governments that refuse to protect the rights of their citizens will eventually lose the sovereignty their citizens grant it. Boko Haram was a radical religious sect that was largely peaceful during its inception. Though a number of its beliefs clashed with the government’s initiatives at the time. The group sought to limit the influence of Western Education in Northern Nigeria, substituting it instead for Islamic education. But the government at the time, instead of finding a way to reason with the group that respected their right to assembly and rights to practice their religion sought instead of murder the group’s religious leader and persecute its members. This blatant abuse of the group’s right led to an ideological secession, a rejection of the sovereignty of Nigerians over its members and emboldened it to take on the government and form a sovereign nation of its own.
Boko Haram largely succeeded. It aligned itself with the Islamic state and began a violent conquest of North Eastern Nigeria and Cameroon, conquering 23 local governments in four states in the region. It spread its influence further south, setting off a number of bombs in the North central as it aggressively pushed its campaign. It took a global effort to eventually rout the terrorist group and push them back to the forest of Sambisa, their base of operations and even now, the group still poses a valid threat to the sovereignty of Nigeria.
The Chibok girls and the Dapchi girls are long term consequences of the actions of the government in 2008, and a sign that the government continues to fail its citizens, as do the country’s privileged.
MORE TO PRIVILEGE THAN MEETS THE EYE
The debate on the devastating effects on colonialism on Nigerian educational system and, indeed Africa will continue for as long as we will remember the thought processes of our colonial masters and how those thoughts materialised.
While Western scholars argue in support of the positive effects colonialism had on education in Nigeria, a peep into history and present-day circumstances affirms that the reality is far different. Colonialism was always a tool for economic and political advancement for the countries that defined their cultures and economies by it and all that Africa has received from Colonialism is an underexplored classist society that perpetuates and uphold abuse of the poor and worship of the rich.
For the record, the main crux of colonialism was to create new markets, territories and outposts for European colonial powers to meet their economic needs in their home countries. Missionaries might have been the first colonizers, and yes indeed they did bring Western Education to Africa, but there was no altruism in their actions. The Western gospel could only be taught to English speaking natives, and an education greatly aided absorption of the Western gospel. Through a carrot and stick method of debasing traditional African cultural and educational systems, the European missionaries supplanted the existing sovereign structures for theirs, its gaze firmly to the West.
Still plying the path of history, Nigeria, as a British colony up until 1960, had an educational system that was derived from the British system. And it was, still obviously irrelevant to the Nigerian environment. There is this misconception that the British brought education to Nigeria, and by extension defined our identity. The truth couldn’t be any further. Severely burnt by their colonial experiment in the Americas, the British colonialists who came to Africa, understood explicitly the implications of a mass educated colony, the risk of revolt and declarations of Independence were too high. The American Civil Wars and the thorough routing Haitans had given the British in their home country fair warning. So they refused to build schools, relying only the existing missionary school system in the country to educate only those they thought absolutely necessary to their continued rule of the region. The first University in the country was built as a bribe. This was how resistant the British were to spreading education and by extension, equality in its African colonies.
A side effect of this was that the eventual education that we got from the British was largely irrelevant to the majority of Nigerians whom the British simply couldn’t and wouldn’t reach.There have been several attempts to make the curriculum relevant – including using local languages to teach these subjects – but all have hit a brick wall.
In 1973, for instance, the Federal Government set up a committee to study the recommendations of a National Curriculum Conference of 1969. Government’s views on the report of the committee were published in 1977 in a White Paper entitled “National Policy on Education” – which deals with all aspects of education, from its philosophy, different levels and structure, financing, types of education to educational services, administration and planning of education. This Policy was revised in 1981 to reflect the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution of 1979.
The National Policy on Education has been described as “Government’s way of
achieving that part of its national objectives that can be met by using education as a tool”. The policy is based on broad national objectives, which were well spelt out in the preamble to the Second National Development Plan (1970-74). These were the building of: a free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens.
Yet, a number of difficulties in the operating environment inhibited the full attainment of these outcomes, particularly in quality. It is these difficulties that led so many Nigerians, who understood their privileged status, to start looking for alternatives.
To be honest and succinct, the British system did not afford the Nigerian system a good head-start as the colonial masters, unlike when they invaded other colonies like America, Australia and India. They were more interested in making sure the people were less educated; revolution was not what they needed at that time and even after.
Nevertheless, the few American-trained Nigerian graduates led the nation to independence and some things started to change. Education became a necessity and was, invariably, free. At some point, though, the privileged few who had attained some level of influence on the polity, envisaged that their power was weakening and those basic amenities, including education, began to be less free. It is from this that some argue that neo-colonialism showed its ugly face.
Safe to say that neo-colonialism is a concept coined out of the evident circumstances of the Nigerian society (and Africa), considering the colonial masters laid a sandy foundation, however, it is safer to highlight that this privilege status which many have vowed to protect and pass down to those around them (their families) led them away from indispensable support for government policies and the subsequent decline in a sector of the society which is quite important in nation building.
Privilege primarily offers the middle and upper middle class Nigerians options. Privilege is often mistaken for grand arching displays of wealth or opportunity. But it can be as simple as being able to change the dial and get your news from somewhere other than NTA.
SO WHERE DO THE LAZY NIGERIAN YOUTH GO FROM HERE
When on Wednesday, 18th April 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Westminster, London said ‘many Nigerian youths have not been to school and just want to sit down and do nothing, banking on the belief that Nigerian is an oil-rich nation, and as such want everything free,’ Not many had thought that the backlash against him would rise to the ceilings of the earth.
But looking at it more critically, especially in the era of hashtags, it only took the social media handles of the Nigerian youths (within and off the age bracket mentioned) to quickly take on the President (who many see as a culprit in deriding Nigerians anytime he is outside the shores of the country) and as well correct the perceived ‘misinformation’ across global circles that their leader was out to unleash on them, hence it didn’t need to take two nights for the issue to trend worldwide (especially on Twitter).
Angry Nigerians upon hearing the statement fired hot shots at him saying the president had no right to insult the youths, who struggle under very hard circumstances to make ends meet and this shot threw up the need for a retrospection on how valid the assertion that this class of people were really lazy is.
In examining this however, one common narrative that comes to mind is that of individuals and communities refusing to allow individuals, companies or government solve some of the problems their communities face, and the question would be- why do these individuals need the party involved to come to them first, and why don’t they take this privilege outwards, forcing their local and state governments to institute capital development projects with the ferocity, they do to projects brought to them?
The flip side of the coin would be that, most often these projects are either a ‘bribe’ and/or an incentive to allow the government or individual extract some value from them and so, the primary enforcement tools in these extortion scenarios are itinerant youth, the same youth shut out of school by decades of poverty, unemployment and underemployment and unemployment (to the tune of 7.5million jobs since 2015), insecurity, government neglect and mounting societal pressure.
It is to this extent that one can say that some Nigerian youths act lazy and entitled. But the fact remains that these people can be better, and as such describing them as lazy and over entitled paints such a 2 dimensional story, and to move forward as a country, such incendiary, de-motivating and de-marketing statements especially from the Chief Marketing Officer of the country must be thoroughly dismissed.