Right to life and liberty: A leadership priority
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV)
Saturday, March 5, 2016 was a dark day for Kasuwa Gabriel. Mrs. Gabriel was on her farm, when what began as a typical day turned into a grisly affair with the arrival of a band of Fulani herdsmen, who chased her and everyone else in sight off their farmlands. By dusk, Kasuwa Gabriel had lost a brother and a son, a medical doctor, who went through school on her meagre earnings, and the Agatu community of Benue State had lost about 200 of its men, women and children.
Tragedies like the killings in Agatu and the infrequent skirmishes in parts of the Middle-Belt, the South-South and some parts of the North are recurring decimals in the Nigerian experience. No region in the country is immune from spontaneous violence that destroys lives and property, and over 16 years of uninterrupted democratic leadership has not been enough to reverse this growing disregard for human life. Leadership plays a key role in keeping society secure and, functional, and central to this responsibility is the defence of the people’s right to life and liberty.
One of the fundamentals of democracy is what is considered to be the natural right of the citizens to life, liberty and property. The truth is that the well-being and prosperity of any nation is defined by its commitment to the right and freedom of its citizens to live, worship, own property, express themselves, and trade, as guided by its constitution. Every individual, in every region, regardless of class, status, religious or ideological leanings, must have the assurance that their very existence is valuable and that the system will do everything within its capacity to defend their rights. This does not only create a climate for the creative ingenuity of the citizens, it also attracts investments and talent from across the globe.
While we try to improve the quality of our infrastructure and raise the standard of ethics in public life, if we do not strive to guarantee the security of lives and property in every part of the country, it will jeopardise everything else. Massacres such as happened in Agatu should never be allowed to reoccur. But we give the culprits a chance to do so every time we allow them go unpunished. We unwittingly give the signal that the laws set up to uphold every citizen’s right to life and liberty is brittle and unreliable. In a meeting with members of the Nigerian Senate on the March 1, Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, said the Agatu marauders were Fulani mercenaries from neighbouring countries. This makes it worse because it points to our inability to secure our territory not only from internal strife, but also from external aggressors.
Preventive measures such as government proposed ranches for cattle owners and herders are laudable and welcome, but they must be followed through with the seriousness the issue deserves.
As a nation (leaders and followers) we must work together to ensure the system of laws that promote and protect people’s rights and freedoms are not just idle documents that apply discriminately. The truth is that the average Nigerian has never truly felt like his or her life mattered to the leadership, and has little confidence in the ability of the system to protect him or her. So what do we see? A survival attitude – anything and everything to protect themselves, and the result is intermittent chaos. Now, at the threshold of a new Nigeria, let us make it a priority to be our brothers’ keepers. And let the leadership do much more to build a system that will adequately protect the citizenry.
Nigeria Has A Great Future
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