IF we believe what the political scientists told us, society and government came from what is popularly known as social contract. Life was brutish and nasty when men lived according to the dictates of their own conscience; having seen the worst, they saw the need for collective safety and security, and with it the concept of government came into being. Under this arrangement the people forgo some of their rights, which is taken over in trust by people often elected into government, who in turn work to protect the larger interest of the people, particularly in the aspect of security. This is why as observed earlier the concept of government came into existence.
In climes where reason and responsibility are taken seriously, the citizens, as individuals and as a collective work with the government to give issues of human dignity and safety the best attention. In-fact they make it the number one priority. In the developed world for instance, the point just made is their style. Some would say it is because of their level of development, that presumption is wrong. It has been part of their culture from their nascent days. A search through their histories would show that even though they had their terrible moments when some of their people acted bestial, they were sensible enough not to allow the dignity of the human person to take a dent. Those who tried to rubbish the human person were subjected to the law and punishments. That is how the rule of law became like a religion in those places. What we see and observe today is just an improvement on a sound foundation laid in this regard decades ago before they became this developed.
As it is today, most developed nations are ready to go to war or trade anything for the safety and comfort of one citizen entangled in an unpleasant circumstance, it doesn’t matter where, home or abroad. They do not encourage jungle justice, something we indulge in here with glee; law enforcement agents in these other climes do not fancy handcuffing citizens, ours do not only fancy it, they see it as one of the highest forms of humiliation, even citizens secretly urge law enforcement agents to demean their adversaries, oblivious of the larger consequence. We handcuff, manacle and at the same time keep suspects in very dirty environmental conditions, we denude, torture and parade them before the public even before investigations are conducted. Extra judicial killings have become a norm with us, to the extent we are no longer shocked when told that suspects who were healthy yesterday died today in detention.
The country spends billions of public funds to train the army, police and other allied security agents; yet it is a common sight seeing supposed protectors charging at citizens and battering them, most times without a cause or sufficient provocation. There is this delight in members of the armed forces trying to prove a kind of superiority known to them only. They call their masters the civilians, ‘bloody civilians’. Today only few incidences of theft happen without loss of life. We see it, and those that do not witness it read about them, and yet there is a disquiet as if the trend is not catastrophic enough.
Everyday young people in droves migrate abroad, this phenomenon should frighten any reasonable society and should be strong enough to provoke concerns and questions, but we do not care to ask, in fact what should be a time-bomb if properly situated has unfortunately been twisted and made to mean good venture. If we were critical people who cherish our dignity, we would have tried to find out why our young people migrate abroad and what they intend to go do? If we made this inquiry, it would perhaps have thrown up some answers that would have shocked us. We would have since discovered that some of them run into prostitution, others become drug peddlers, slave boys and girls tasked with doing very menial jobs under very harsh conditions, jobs they will never want to do in their country even for a higher pay. Some of them call themselves health workers when they are just home assistants to very aged persons. Many of these economic exiles have had to marry very old men or women ‘just to survive’.
Today, the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert have become the burial grounds of our children on this journey of fantasy. Across nations, our citizens are arrested and battered at the flimsiest of excuses, and yet no word from the government and revulsion from the people. If the dignity of the Nigerian person is worth so much, our reaction as a people, the position and activities of governments on this matter would be far different from what it has been.
The attitude today is that of indifference, nobody cares; not the people, not the president. Some of the people get angry at the safe confines of their parlour and the matter ends there. Only recently told us our foreign economic exiles are on a private business and as such whatever happens to them is their business. This perhaps explains why everyone is surprised at the intervention by the presidency for the release of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar, two core Northerners arrested and detained by Saudi Arabia government over allegation of drug peddling. The presidency intervened and their intervention yielded positive results. This is what it should be, it is not about whether a citizen is right or wrong; it is about the dignity of our citizens first and their inalienable rights to descent treatments in all circumstances. It is also about the worth and sanctity attached to the human life. We are a big country and by that have what it takes to defend the dignity of our citizens and especially the sanctity of their lives.
It is not about external humiliations alone; it is also about how we manage our people at home. We have a responsibility to put issues of human dignity and human rights in the top priority, without the human element there is no country. America understood this and that was the reason the first four constitutional amendments effected in 1791 were all about human dignity and rights. Subsequent attempts to side-track that law in 1798 was stalled in finality by a Supreme Court sterling pronouncement that said “Every new law on human rights would be valid to the extent it conforms with the clear provisions of the constitution”. This is why today you harass an American or deny him his rights at a great risk. The carnage in our country has gone beyond acceptable limits. What is in happening in Borno, Kaduna, Taraba, Benue, Kogi, Rivers, Plateau and now Zamfara is pure madness, something that should never be associated with the assemblage of human beings.
If our lives were worth much and we truly have a tradition of sanctity for the human life, what has happened in these places and is still happening is enough to topple governments and usher in a peoples’ revolution. We are not perturbed, hunger, ethnicity and religion have combined to harden our hearts. It is our responsibility to return a heart of flesh and refinement to our citizens. Somebody said something we all like, and that is “Until you say you are, nobody will say you are”, we have a responsibility to confer dignity on ourselves and to promote sanctity of our lives; and until we begin to do so, those two things will be very far from us, and the worse is besides others treating us the way we see ourselves, there is a high possibility our omission in this regard could lead us to unintended but nasty consequences, including a war of attrition.