Life and Issues with Tunde Thompson
One of the greatest achievements of the United Nations Organization (UNO) since its inception on October 24, 1945, is the proclamation by its General Assembly on December 10, 1948, in Paris, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Of the then 58 member – states which belonged to the UN, 48 of them voted in favour of the declaration and none against, while eight abstained and two were “not on seat” at voting time.
Two years later, in 1950, the same Assembly proclaimed the date of December 10 of each year, as “Human Rights Day”. Since then, texts of the Declaration have been translated in about 50 languages, and the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “has assumed a special role in spreading a better understanding of human rights and disseminating the Declaration. Pamphlets, radio scripts, films and film strips, posters and exhibition materials on the subject are distributed in large quantities throughout the world,” according to a UNESCO publication.
Although that was as far back as 1961, there is no doubt that up to the 1970s and 1980s, these materials were still seen in some secondary schools and public institutions, as well as offices and the UN offices. However, one cannot recall seeing any of them in public centres and even on the notice boards of leading educational institutions either in Lagos, Abuja or other places in the past two decades. Perhaps one did not venture into spots where they were displayed.
What is not in doubt is that the original zeal to propagate the entire United Nations’ Organization in terms of its Charter and operations, which was clearly manifested by its officials in Nigeria between 1965 and 1985 as far as one can recollect, is hardly noticeable, nowadays. And that may well be a problem of funding, because what is not centrally authorized or produced cannot be locally distributed by regional, national and local offices of both the UN and UNESCO.
It is one’s contention here and now that as the world marks the Human Rights Day today as it has done for the past 62 years, global peace and security as well as international understanding will remain endangered as long as the zealous implementation of the UDHR’s provisions is not pursued. To buttress that point, one needs to clarify what the Declaration was out to achieve, and how lack of adequate awareness about it around the world, including in Nigeria, has been encouraging acts of violence and genocide, as well as terrorism around the world.
On the UDHR, the UNESCO has published the following information: ”The 30 articles of the Declaration set forth man’s inalienable rights in the civic, political, economic, social and cultural fields; the right to life, liberty and security of the person; to freedom from arbitrary arrest; to a fair trial; to privacy; to freedom of movement and residence; to social security, work and education; to nationality; to freedom of worship, of expression, of peaceful assembly; to take part in the government of his country, to hold public office, seek and be granted asylum and to own property.
The Assembly proclaimed these rights as ‘a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’ and called upon all Member States to give the widest publicity and dissemination to the Declaration principally in schools and other educational institutions. ” Obviously, if adequate publicity and dissemination had been given regarding the rights to life, liberty and personal security; to privacy, freedom of movement and residence, as well as freedom of worship, expression and peaceful assembly in the various languages which those who hate “Western education” but love Western technological products made available in the market places, the current problem would probably not have existed at all.
That is to say that the desire to force other persons who were otherwise already religiously persuaded to convert to Islam or leave their present places of work and residence, would not have arisen in the first place. It is not correct to say that because a person is temporarily unemployed, he should become destructive, as the same UDHR makes it clear that the individual has a right to social security, work, and education. It is all a question of whether or not those concerned recognize that most of those who sponsor destruction today, did not provide those opportunities yesterday, and can, in the true democratic spirit, be involved with advocacy or lobbying initiatives to ensure a re-ordering of priorities, as far as provision of welfare for the masses is concerned.
Definitely, those who act in these ways (or promote wrongful actions in destructive directions), are ignorant of the expectations of the UDHR from individuals, rich or poor, highly or lowly placed, anywhere in the world. The UN is even more instructive when it comes to the issue of genocide. From the same publication comes the following quotation, which appears pertinent: “Genocide – a word coined during the second world war-is a crime under international law.
The General Assembly unanimously declared this to be so on 11 December 1946………Acts ‘committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, social or religious group’ are punishable as genocide – such acts including the killing of members of a group, the deliberate infliction of conditions to bring about physical destruction, the imposition of measures to prevent births, and the forcible transfer of children. All offenders shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials, or private individuals. States adhering to the convention are required to pass the necessary laws to give effect to it and to grant extradition in cases of genocide…..”(To be concluded).
Acting with an intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Christian religious group in Northern Nigeria, even preceded the emergence of the “Boko Haram” sect after the unfortunate killing of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, three years ago, in Maiduguri. None of those involved in the slaughtering of Christians up there checked the national records to confirm whether or not the amalgamation of 1914 dictated that only Muslims can live in the “Northern thern Province.” And also what the federal constitutions from 1960 and 1963 till date, stipulated on fundamental rights including the “right to life” and “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” contained in chapter four of the current constitution.
The argument now is that the cumulative reports of killings of people and burning of churches up there in the north by “Boko Haram”, amount more to acts of genocide, even if the perpetrators must not, in the national interest, be branded as terrorists. The country’s governments and our society in general, therefore need to take a decision on how to solve the problems of violence and genocide by adopting a more proactive awareness-building and propagation of human rights policy in Nigeria, henceforth, also in the national interest.