Posted by Emeka Umeagbalasi | 10 December 2013 | 7,224 times
On behalf of the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, I pay a sincere tribute to the founding persons of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, enacted on 10th day of December, 1948 (65 years ago). The chairperson of the UN 18-member committee of seminal thinkers that worked tirelessly and produced the all-important global document; late Mrs. Elizabeth Eleanor Roosevelt, is particularly remembered today by Intersociety. Also, particularly important and worthy of mention is one of the great thinkers of the 20th century, Mr. Woodrow Wilson, who was popularly credited as the first international leader to mention the concept of “human rights” in his famous “14-point program” for the formation of the League of Nations in 1914. Mr. Woodrow Wilson was then the visionary President of the United States of America.
Though “human rights” as part of “religious rights” have been in existence as far back as 304 AD, it became part of Europe and Americas’ post-conflict transformation mechanisms starting from the Roman Empire’s 30 years civil war of 1618, which ended in 1648, to the World War II of 1939 to 1945. The concept of “human rights” was crudely mentioned in the all forerunners of the United Nations, starting from “ the Holy Alliance” (1648-1818), “the Concert of Europe” (1818-1919), to “the League of Nations” (1919-1945/6). But the concept became seminally pronounced in Woodrow Wilson’s 1914 famous 14-point program for the formation of the League of Nations, finally formed in 1919. The journey to the present-day UDHR being marked in 225 independent countries and occupied territories around the world actually began in 1941 courtesy of the “Atlantic Charter of 1941” issued in August 1941.
The then leaders of Great Britain and the United States, Sir Wilson Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, came together and agreed on “human rights and democratic freedoms” (self determination as a right of the people and freedom from want and fear). This landmark feat made it possible for the successful convocation of other world leaders’ conferences leading to the historic formation of the UNO on 24th of October, 1945. The UN Charter was originally signed on 26th June, 1945 by 50 countries, leading to successful lobbying by 40 NGOs in the San Francisco Conference of same year and time for the internationalisation of human rights, including basic freedoms and freedom from want and fear.
After the successful formation of the United Nations in 1945, a body known as “UN Commission on Human Rights” was set up in 1946 under the leadership of Mrs. Elizabeth Eleanor Roosevelt with other 17 members. Mrs. Roosevelt was a well known rights activist and widow of late US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in 1945. The Committee’s fundamental task was the “definition of human rights and freedoms” within the contemplation of the UN Charter. Other major contributors to successful production of this famous document then, who are worthy of mention today are Rene Cassin (France), Charles Malik (Lebanon), Peng Chun Chang (China), Herman Santa Cruz (Chile), Alexandre Bogomolov Alexei Pavlov (USSR/Russia), Lord Dukeston Geoffrey Wilson (United Kingdom), William Hodgson (Australia) and John Humphrey (Canada). On 10th of December, 1948 in Palais de Challot, Paris, France, the famous global document was enacted and signed by over 30 countries present through their representatives.
The link between human rights and popular polls is strong and a truism. What credible democracy is to Nigeria is what “truth and reconciliation” mechanism, which originated from the Southern America, is to the Union of South Africa. Popular polls and human rights are like biological encirclement, which goes round without ceasing. A human rights-friendly environment engenders participatory/popular polls, which in turn, produce popular government and when a government is popularly instituted and legitimised, human and material development becomes abundant. A government propelled by popular votes and development has a combination of input and output legitimacy to its credit. No matter the quantum of physical development embarked upon by a government, once it lacks popular electoral foundation, it ends up wearing the toga of mechanical legitimacy. This is always the fundamental difference between Obi’s legitimate government and Ngige’s illegitimate regime in our beloved state. When a government is popular and development oriented, the masses rejoice and human rights environment fares better. Illegitimate civilian government founded on electoral banditry is worst than a military government.
Human rights and credible democracy are inseparable. This explains why the granting of independence and organisation of transitional polls were the first fallout of the formation of the UN and the enactment of the UDHR in 1945 and 1948 respectively. Following from this was the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947, Israel 1948, Sudan 1956, Ghana 1957, Guinea 1958, Nigeria 1960, to mention but a few. Where the colonial masters refused to grant same, the colonised armed themselves with “right to self-determination” and fought for their self-governance until it is achieved. Instances of this abound, Angola to Mozambique; Zimbabwe to Zambia; and South Africa to Namibia. As the saying goes, “democracy may be the worst form of government and governance, but the best form of same has not been found and in absence of this, democracy remains the best.”
The fundamental question is: What are credible polls? Fundamentally, credible polls are determined by “living votes” as against “dead votes”. When people of voting age (18 years and above) who have registered to vote, file out diligently and submit themselves for accreditation on poll day arising from the voters’ register, after which they queue up and thumbprint with their fingerprints on valid ballot papers and their votes counted and entered into result sheets, collated and announced with a winner and a loser emerging; the aggregate votes of theirs become “living votes” and the outcomes are called “credible polls”. Any voting process that falls short of these expressly yields “dead votes”. In determining the sacredness/sanctity of “living votes”, one thousand “living votes” are worth more than one million “dead votes”. In law, any poll premised on “living votes” is beyond judicial revocation. “Living votes” are also unknown to the axe of the judge’s ratio decidendi and long arm of the “technical justice” in matters of poll litigation.
The governorship poll in our beloved State of Anambra, held on 16th of November, 2013 and completed on 30th of the same month, may have come and gone, but lessons arising from it will remain indelible. It was one election too many. For us in the rights community, it was a test case. It was a battle of wits between “sedentary rights activists of Igbo-Southeast” and “pastoral rights activists of Igbo extraction”, milked and quartered in the Yoruba-Southwest of Lagos Nigeria, who joined forces with one of the worst opposition political alliances in Africa, in the name of “revolutionary progressives”. Their so called “poll monitoring roles” were purely a failed coup and vendetta mission. The “pastoralists” applied all guerrilla tactics known to them and their “progressive comradely” political alliance to upturn the sacred political destiny of the Anambra People including importing and masquerading thousands of fake ballot papers’ thumb printers and when all their criminal plots got foiled by security agencies, they relocated to the pages of sectionalised and sensationalised Nigerian newspapers with intent to blacken the poll’s credibility.
As “sedentary rights activists”, it is our duty not to allow any attempts to deny our people right to choose their leaders democratically. We must insist on doing the right thing and ignore “Nigeria’s disgusting labeling culture” of giving a dog a bad name so as to hang it. It is better to be labeled “a trader” than to be labeled “an armed robber”. Some of these “comrades of military juntanism” condemned us for choosing decent trade occupation instead of armed robbery and stealing, yet we put food on their tables from time to time through comradely begging and assistance.
Some of them asked us for “loans”, given and not given, yet they turned around and labeled us “mercenaries”, “merchants”, “clowns”, “charlatans”, etc. If one out of every ten “occupational rights activists” fits into the labeling above, then nine out of every jobless rights activists are worse than the former. Our detractor comrades became unsettled when they noticed that we have transformed ourselves academically and vowed not to stop until we become doctors of philosophy in ivory towers. Or is it that university education closed when they graduated? You must always remember the theory of “Ojukwu versus Gowon”. The theory simply tells us that there is no lateness in education. Today, it is a case of “Assoc. Professor” and “parental master’s degree holder”.
Fellow Comrades, your contributions towards the all-sector transformation of our beloved State in the past seven years will forever remain in gold. Between 2003 and 2006, you fought gallantly for the restoration of the culture of one person one vote in our dear state and chased away electoral criminals from the state’s corridors of power. In June 2006, having achieved this great feat, you began the journey for the transformation of the state through constructive and transformative partnership with the government you popularly instituted. For “pastoral Igbo rights activists”, you are “shopping” from the Government of Anambra State, but for you who wear the shoes and know where they pinch, you see food but choose to fast for the collective good of our beloved people. Always remember that criminal government invests heavily on individuals willing to do its criminal biddings for the purpose of acquiring mechanical legitimacy, but legitimate government invests hugely on people from whom its natural legitimacy is derived.
The same political criminal gangsters, chased away years ago from our beloved state cycled again with utter ferocity and accompanied this time around by a number of “pastoral Igbo rights activists” so as to take over our beloved state in a crudest manner, but you fought gallantly and dwarfed them, by exposing all their reprehensible plots to crown their candidate next governor of Anambra through “Oshogbo manufactured votes”. Until they came to our beloved state on a failed civilian coup mission, they had taken our beloved state to be as socially disastrous as “Oshodi” and “Ajagunle”. But, their eyes could not believe what they saw on the ground all over the State. It was a case of supporting a man with “Okada popularity” against another, whose is predicated on “mass movement/consciousness”. It is always better to run “government on the ground” than to run a showbiz or an “owambe” or a media government.
Lastly, fellow Comrades, remain resolute and unyielding. Do not see your choice of occupation as a wrong choice. As human beings, we have three fundamental tasks on earth: to work, to eat and to render service to humanity. Occupationally, you must work and eat. Your joining human rights crusade is not to “eat”, but to render service to humanity. This is why you should help me spread the message to other comrades, including some of them in Lagos part of the country, “working and eating” with human rights, which make them willing tools in the hands of Africa’s most violent and militant opposition political alliance, to look for decent jobs or occupations even if it means being a graduate-hawker. Human rights works do not belong to “business enterprises”, but “not-for-profit establishments”.
Starting from my days as your chairman, I have never stopped educating those of you with limited education to dust yourselves up and head back to school. This is because as it is difficult asking a brilliant JSS 3 student to go and teach “economics” in the university, so it is, faring well in the field of rights activism with limited education. Rights activism comrades with limited education are always known to us as “police station and libertarian comrades”, while academically grounded rights activism comrades end up as “egalitarian, formidable and reformative rights comrades”.
I am happy to announce to you that today my message has turned in about ten graduates/graduating students, including your chairman, who joined rights activism years ago with WASC. He is now a master’s degree student and reporter with the Sun Newspapers. He told me clearly that it is not academically over yet until he earns an academic “doctor of philosophy”. The challenge before us now is to take over the human rights community in the Southeast and put our detractors out of relevance. We must also insist on engaging the electoral process, because if we allow political criminals to take over the polity, anarchy and backwardness will become the societal norm to be dislodged no more. We must use personal intellect, ICT resources, volunteerism and in-kind resources to cushion the effects of declining “dollarisation of rights activism” in our beloved country. This is to ensure that the absence of dollars does not affect the speed of our rights advocacy works. It will also engender neutrality and institutionalise human rights with local contents that are outside the dictates of white man and his dollars.
•Being excerpts of a speech delivered by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chairman of the Board of Intersociety, at the 2013 Anniversary of the UDHR (World Rights Day) organised by Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization(CLO) in Onitsha on 08/12/2013. The speech, according to Umeagbalasi, whose photo appears alongside this piece, “is pricelessly dedicated to late Dr. Nelson Madiba Mandela (1918-2013).” Umeagbalasi can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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