In his smash hit, “Get up, stand up“, Bob Marley, the late Jamaican rebel reggae superstar put it this way:
Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up, don´t give up the fight!
As if he wrote the song specifically for Nigerians, he went on:
Most people think,
Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. jah!
Well, one has to admit that the last two lines do not quite apply to most of us. Neither have we seen the light nor do we fight for our rights! The prerequisite for seeing the light and fighting for your rights is, first of all, to KNOW those rights! So, what are exactly the rights that need to be known and fought for? A quick look at the United Nations Human Rights Declaration will give us a little insight. Alone the preamble of this declaration provides enough ammunition to fight with:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.“
We need to digest the first half of the last paragraph:
“Now, therefore, the General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as A COMMON STANDARD OF ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL PEOPLES AND ALL NATIONS....“.
This Declaration is older than Nigeria, by almost 12 years. Which means, Nigeria, as a member of the UN, is obliged to live up to this common standard that is also available in, let´s say, Switzerland or England or United Arab Emirate, where a lot of OUR money is stowed away!
Before anyone starts to snort and retort, let us take a close shot of only two of the 30 Articles in that document. This is what Article 25 says:
(1) 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.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
That Article is very clear. It says in unmistakeable terms that everyone is entitled to that right! That would also include Nigerians, all Nigerians! There is nothing in that Article that restricts the good life only to the
thieves in government and 419 pastors, kidnappers and corrupt elements, bandits in and out of the military or police force, perpetrators of injustice also known as judges! Nothing in that Article suggests it is only for a morally depraved or priviledged few. Nothing therein that would exclude the Almajiris, for instance.
Article 26 is also not discriminatory. It says simply:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Just imagine, if the Nigerian governments, past and present, had implemented just Articles 25 And 26!
That would have amounted to Paradise on earth! Our country would not be in such a sorry state today.
We would not hear such heart-rending tales of hapless women like the one, who spent 15 years in abject poverty behind Sheraton Hotel , Lagos, an abode of stinking luxury and decadence. The contrasts couldn´t have been more stark! For 15 years, she was raped, abused, beaten, traumatized, infected with HIV, impregnated and abandoned to raise her children in pain and squalor, under the gaze of the uncaring public. “THE QUEEN IS DEAD“ was the Saharareporters-headline that brought tears to many eyes, while also revealing the callousness of some hardened hearts, who were more concerned about the correctness, the appropriateness of a headline.
Did Queen know her rights? Did she know that she had the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of herself and of her 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 her control?
Did Queen know that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance“? Did she know that her government was obliged to provide her that standard of living, as guaranteed in Article 25? If she had known, would she have gyrated to Bob Marley´s tune and carried out his injunction to stand up and fight for her rights?
If we all knew our rights, would that automatically prod us into action? Would we all march on Abuja and all the state capitals, demanding our rights? Would we confront all the thieves and tell them to return all the billions and trillions they stole from us? Would we treat them like the petty thieves at some market place? Would 10 million Almajiris march to the hill-top mansion of the Minna Medusa? Would all the homeless descend on the Ota Farms? Would all the legislooters cough up their undeserved wealth, when challenged by “irate Nigerians“?
Would all the poor farmers and fishermen in the Delta, whose means of livelihood have been wiped out by oil-drill-related environmental pollution, occupy our oil fields? Would all the students and jobless graduates engage the in a free-for-all-fight to retrieve the stolen billions of dollars? Would all the poor starving children hunt down the corrupt ministers to return their ill-gotten money to the people? Would most of the 150 million Nigerians stand up and fight for their rights? Will they?