Cites El Zakzaky, Dasuki, other cases
Says Nnamdi Kanu caused more damage to Ndigbo with his approach
THE Committee for the Defence of Human Rights appears to have relaxed its guard with the return to democratic rule. Why the paradigm shift?
That is an assumption. That assumption may be reportable but it is not entirely wrong. It is the poverty of an indiscretion on the part of not just the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights but the civil society and pro democracy community. Any pretence around that will mean that we are not committed to a re-invention processes that will bail us out of the quagmire that we have found ourselves. I accept it to the extent that the public has become wary of it but it was largely an indiscretion not so much about relaxing because we felt that we needed to change the strategy of our operations.
Our activities under the military regime were measured by the nature of the military tactics of engagement. It was much more confrontational and proactive, dealing with a particular brand of government that was not committed to debate, ration and logic. This time around we felt that we needed more of engagement and participation in terms of aligning with the larger percentage of our people. That was an indiscretion that didn’t quite play out because we have since realized that our politicians are not quite disposed to the need and aspirations of our people. You could see that there is a gradual build-up of resentment, not just by the people but also by the vanguards of their causes where we fall into.
We need to move back to the trenches. It is true that the incidences of arrests and state-sponsored extrajudicial killings may have reduced but all that we fought for which would have guaranteed an improvement and progress in the lives of the Nigerian people have been frittered away by the recklessness of these people.
One of the most poignant pointer to the seeming lukewarmness of the Human Rights community is the conspiracy of silence to the continued detention of the former national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki and the leader of the Shiites movement, Sheikh Ibraheem El Zakzaky, despite repeated court rulings that they should be released. Why has CDHR remained loudly silent? Are you cherry-picking causes that you fight?
That would be uncharitable to say. CDHR collaborates a lot and when we identify issues, we take a position on it. We could deal with it on our own or we collaborate with others. One of the collaborations we have is with the Femi Falana Chambers. Femi Falana was the third chairman of the CDHR, after Bello Ransome Kuti who was the first chairman and Professor Festus Iyayi who was the second. The case of Ibrahim El Zakzaky is championed by Femi Falana together with Festus Okoye. The groundswell of support that they have, beyond the legal activities is also coordinated by the CDHR. To that extent, we are not silent. Probably we were channelling our efforts through the court action, knowing that this government has remained impervious to reasons regarding the illegality of the continued detention of El Zakzaky.
Take away the constitutional provision that guarantees their rights to freely associate, which is a fundamental human right, the United Nation recognizes the right of people to even secession. This government has completely undermined one of the greatest pillars of the rule of law and good governance and therefore abandoned what they preached about. The El Zakzaky case has become a sad commentary, one that clearly exposes the government as not very faithful to the issues of fundamental human right as they earlier avowed to protect.What has come out clearly is that, whereas the government preaches obedience to the rule of law, in practice, they have fallen short of those avowals. It has become our responsibility to, beyond merely showing the resentment and anguish of the people, to engage them in. What we do is a campaign but the ultimate campaign is to situate issues within the context of the llama so that there will be a precedence.
In the case of Col. Dasuki, it does not lie in the place of government to continue to adjudge people guilty even before their trial. It is the responsibility of government to comply with the rule of law and present their case. Under the constitution, both El Zakzaky and Sambo are presumed innocent until their guilt is established by a competent court. The right to bail is an integral aspect of the human rights of liberty that these persons have. If the court, which is part of the government granted them bail, you merely needed to gather the evidence to establish their guilt. Their continued detention cannot be justified in any way.
From your vantage position as a foremost human rights organizations in the country, which institutions in the country would you say occupy a pole position the violation of Human Rights?
All over the world, the abuse of human rights is basically perpetrated by the powerful and at the height of the pyramid that describes the powerful is the government through their coercive forces. In our own case, we have the police, the army, the immigration, the Civil Defence and even the Drug Agency. But you cannot clearly exonerate the individual persons from the abuse of these rights too because once the socio-economic conditions that ought to guarantee peaceful coexistence and economic balance are distorted, you must have abuse of fundamental human rights by even ordinary people. This is why you have kidnapping which can lead to death.
In Nigeria, statistics have shown through yearly human rights monitoring records that the Nigeria police, being the civil security apparatus of the country that deals and has primary contact with the populace, are reputed to be at the helm of violations of this right. No doubt about that. There are efforts to reduce this but many of such efforts are forced.
What is your position on the face-off between IPOB and government?
My response will not only centre on the violation of human rights, which I had condemned. Beyond the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which guarantees freedom of association, other international instruments including the United Nation charter vest a people with the power and rights to secession. In fact, a few African countries have enshrined that in their constitution.
The problem was with the mode of operation of IPOB. It was reprehensible to any average and well-meaning member of the Nigerian community. They got it wrong. It is obvious too to me that they were not committed and dedicated to that cause as it required to see that kind of agenda through. If you have declared to engage a state, you should be prepared for any eventuality. The idea of running away or jumping bail even when you subjected yourself to trial has completely demobilized the foot soldiers and the whole thing has frittered away. A clear-headed person with a sophisticated programme of action would have envisaged all of these and plan how to overcome it. What Nnamdi Kanu has done is to expose so many people who were with him, disarming many who were even committed to the cause.
The Igbo nation needs a lot of rejigging. They are becoming increasingly inconsequential in the political calculation of Nigeria because you don’t need to canvass for their votes. Once it gets close to the election, all you need to do is to bring money and things will change.