In the days of old, when the late Tai Solarin sneezed, every violator of human right within and outside the government frozen. He was a one man army against abuses and violation of civil and human rights. He was sent to jail by various military administrations for his views and insistent in protecting the rights of Nigerians. He never spared anyone. He followed his mind and the people believed in him.
He was a soldier of conscience around whom the aroma of honour and integrity oozed ceaselessly. His dignity was animating. He was honest, open, genuine, sincere and reliable. Even, the “Evil Genius” in Ibrahim Babangida failed to buy him over except when the issue is in protecting the interest of the people as in the creation of the Peoples’ Bank. He had no price. His Khaki shorts and shirts were part of his trademarks other than his conscience and consistency.
In the same mould was the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM). The Senior Advocate of the Masses was a titled conferred on Chief Fawehinmi by the students of the Great Ife when it was obvious that he was being denied the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by the conservative Nigerian judiciary. He shined like a Northern Star. He believed in the supremacy of the law and in the equality of all Nigerians before the law.
He also followed his mind regardless of whose ox was gored. He survived a number of assassination attempts. He was incorruptible. Even, Ibrahim Babangida who expressed the belief that everyone has a price confirmed that Gani Fawehinmi had no price. He simply could not be bought by anyone. He was above board, committed, dependable and reliable. He was persevering and unflappable. He was also sent to jail by different governments throughout his life time. The late Solarin and Fawehinmi were fair, impartial, brave, dignified and fighters for the weak and protectors of the poor and the disadvantaged.
These two gentlemen, (may their souls rest in perfect peace), were the forerunners of civil and human rights advocacy in Nigeria. As a matter of course, Nigerians eventually came to look for personalities of their nature to champion the cause of the poor, weak and the downtrodden. But it seems that times have changed. Things are “no longer at ease.” They are no longer the same. It is a different world where sincerity, integrity and honesty of purpose no longer count for anything.
The current generation of human and civil rights activists is not of the ilk of Solarin and Fawehinmi. The most important attribute of fairness and impartiality have been compromised by the Human and Civil Rights advocates in Nigeria. These activists are no longer reliable and consistent. Their activism is no longer in the public interest. Their focus is no longer the poor, the weak, the deprived, the denigrated and the down trodden. Their struggle is not for the improvement of our society anymore rather it is for the improvement of their pockets and bank accounts. The shenanigans of these Human and Civil Rights advocates are contributing to what Harold Laski described as “moral paralysis” eating up the soul of our society.
Conspicuously, these so-called Human and Civil Rights advocates avoid the criticism of their friends that are lying to the public. They support and prop up falsehood by pretending that they are not aware of it. They turn blind eye to misdeeds that are injurious to the public when their friends are involved. They help protect liars and fraudsters as long as such are their friends. They have become partisan and criticize wrong doing of selected and isolated political opponents of their friends while the latter was allowed “to get away with murder.”
The leaders and members of the Human and Civil Rights groups have turned blind eyes to the atrocities going on in Lagos and other Yoruba States. They plan and organize protests to call attention to corruption as long as it did not involve their friends. They do press releases to call to order those who violate the rights of Nigerians but pretend not to see the ones violated by their friends in and out of government. They have become deliberately jaundiced. They are compromised. They have become conscienceless. They have become shameless.
They are even more partisan than the politicians. They are biased and partial. They have lost credibility. And they are impudent about it as they gallivant around the country with an air of pomposity and obnoxious “holier than thou” attitudes. They have become oppressors having been adequately rewarded for their hatchet jobs and become anti – people rather than champions of the peoples’ interests. Yet they still have the temerity, exude the audacity, flaunt the effrontery and brandish the brassiness to lay claim to undeserved righteous indignation about issues in our society.
The Human and Civil Rights groups have become the enemies of the people in Nigeria. They are now co-conspirators and co-exploiters of our people. It is the reason you will not see these Human and Civil Rights advocates taking on the Governors in the Southwest and other parts of the country who owe several months’ salaries to their workers. It is why you will not see them champion the causes of students protesting hikes in tuition fee in Lagos State or in any other parts of the Southwest or other parts of Nigeria. It is why you will not see them protesting high toll gate fees in Lagos because they are in cahoots with their friends in a political party. It is why you will not see them in solidarity with medical doctors and or nurses when they are unpaid and they go on strike. It is why you will not see them support and mobilize to encourage the teachers protesting for unpaid salaries.
These Human and Civil Rights groups are deliberately oblivious to the parlous state of government owned Hospitals and the lack of the facilities in them. They are deliberately oblivious because their friends are in government and are running the show. These groups are not concerned about some utility roads that have been left unrepaired because their friends are in a particular political party that controls the government and they are running the show. They would not make any press release on these issues and others. They would not organize any protest to call attention to these issues and others because their friends are in government and are running the show.
The Human and Civil Rights groups are no longer credible. They have lost their integrity. They have become undignified. They are unscrupulous businessmen. They are odious carpetbaggers and obnoxious hustlers. They are more like political hacks rather than champions of the people. They are exploiters of the peoples’ misfortune in the present milieu. They are milking the agonies of the poor to enrich themselves under the garb of fighting for the poor when in truth they are helping to concretize and cement the pains of the poor.
It is like they prefer a set of criminals to the others. In their books, some criminals are better than the others. It seems that if you are a criminal and you belong to a particular political group then you are safe from protests and condemnations. They would offer you support by pretending they did not see your crimes. They would ignore all your atrocities. They would expect to be rewarded in kind for such. But if you belong to another political persuasion, they would mobilize protests, make press releases, and shout themselves hoarse calling the attention of the world to your criminality.
But aren’t criminals supposed to be criminals regardless of their ethnicity, faith, gender and or political persuasions? No, this is not the case with the compromised Human and Civil rights advocates in Nigeria. Instead of being on the side of the people, you find them in the pockets of the Agbadas, Babanrigas and sokotos of the politicians. Rather than be the impartial giants of social justice, fairness, and good governance, they have become the compromised Lilliputians of moral degeneracy, injustice, exploitation and oppression of the poor, the weak, the helpless and the deprived.
Unfortunately, the mainstream Media and some social media have joined them in this unholy alliance. They publish the ranting of these Human and Civil Rights groups as press releases. They give them undeserved space in newspapers. They accord them the credibility they do not deserve. They project them in an image that is contrary to their true colours and handiwork. They help give our people a false hope that there are some groups looking after their interest. This is not fair. This must stop. There is need for discrimination in according these so-called Human and Civil Rights groups any form of audience and or space.
These Human and Civil Rights groups are supposed to be watchdogs on behalf of the poor and the weak. But they are actually the wolves in collaboration with the hyenas devouring the dogs that ought to be our guardian angels. They are omnivorous predators of our people, their hopes and their dreams. The Human and Civil Rights groups in Nigeria are the ones short – changing the aspiration of and for true freedom from economic, social and political bondage. They are wolves in sheep clothes. Nigerians should beware of them.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”
- John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961