By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
Of recent, just about few days a go, I was reading an on-line post wherein some persons were calling for immortalization of the late football player- Samuel Okwaraji- and that he was a hero of our nation- Nigeria. Therefore, that some places should also be named after him so that he could be immortal in the Nigerian history. I then sat back and thought that if a footballer could be sought to be immortalized, how then do we see the case of human rights activists who are directly rendering services to humanity and breathing the breath of freedom and comfort in the humanity. To me, I humbly view that human rights activism is a great sacrifice and that human rights activists are heroes of this nation to be rather immortalized even in a higher and greater priority, hence this paper.
The nature of human rights activism is such that there are lots of challenges in the path which are enough to discourage one from the path. Sometimes, one’s financial challenges and those of the victim (or if in the public interest, which attract no fee at all), are enough to discourage one from pursuing such goal. A human rights activist at a time or the other faces a lot of criticism and name-calling by some critics. Some would speak to intimidate, threaten, and tarnish his image, etc. In fact, some would call him a busy-body, intermeddler, etc. Some might even speculate and term him what he is not. Some might even call you a ‘serial blackmailer’! But all these are not enough to deter a human rights activist from the sacrilege path. The human rights activism is never for satisfaction of personal interest rather the goal is satisfaction of the interest of the public; justice; national development; among others for the sake of God Almighty (so, those who do not know some of these attributes of human rights activism, pick unnecessary annoyance at any person who is out to sacrifice his own personal interest for the interest of all humanity). These are some of the challenges in the path.
In fact, a human rights activist balances the living of man on earth. Assuming that no one takes up the functions of a human rights activist, evils might likely be unavoidable on the earth. Tyranny, abuse of powers, oppression, corruption, etc., would prevail and so many citizens would become vulnerable and become victims of violation of human rights. Then, there would be justification for the oppressed to wage war to resist the oppressors in such situation. Then, everlasting war would prevail on the earth. One can tell about the historical wars in Nigeria where some persons felt that they have either been marginalized or oppressed, then formed solidarity to resist the oppression. Blood flowed like a stream; fire and burning everywhere like hell-fire; human remains everywhere like ants; then, the whole streets, areas, localities become emptied and dried like desert. Then, some for the fear of the un-known, commit suicide. Slavery, Rape, torture and inhuman treatment, tyranny, etc. do not become offences and or unlawful in these kinds of situations. But what does a human rights activist do?! He sacrifices his own life, time, energy, enjoyment, money, etc., to avoid things getting out of hands. Unfortunately, despite his sacrifices, he is sometimes mistaken, misrepresented and not even appreciated! He is not even recognised as a hero of the nation! Despite all these situations, those challenges are not enough to discourage a human rights activist. So, soon or later, where a human rights activist remains undeterred, he would be recognised by history for his sacrifices, that I believe!. More so that the goal of the activism is not for winning an award, rather to impact in the life of humanity. So, the path of a human rights activist is, many times, a rough, tough, and full of sacrifices.
Furthermore, as a lawyer, being a human rights activist is necessary and important. More so, being legally equipped as a legal practitioner, gives more value to the task. Young lawyers who engage in human rights activism would do well and have more achievements to themselves in the nearest future.
Also important to say is that as a human rights activist, God Almighty is his weapon always against all forces and evil eyes. Enemies abound from all corners, but with God Almighty, he would conquer and arrive itch-free and peacefully. God Almighty is the Most-Powerful; Most-Beneficent; the Most-Merciful; the Omni-present; the Omni-science; the Alpha and the Omega.
So, considering several other advantages and benefits of being a human rights activist, it is suitable for me to say that I am very proud to be a human rights activist! It is an unquenchable passion! I am a God’s missionary and His Vicegerent on earth!
We all recall a line of the first stanza of the Nigerian national anthem which goes thus the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain’! Why then do we or our government forget the labour invested by the heroic human rights activists in the nation building?! Gone were those days when some even sarcastically alleged that ‘the rewards of teachers lie in the heaven!’. Even teachers are strongly in opposition to this sarcastic statement and are always demanding their rewards here on earth even though that they know definitely that they also have rewards in expectation in heaven! So, our governments (at all levels of the Federal, State and Local governments and at all arms of: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary) should start to recognize the efforts of human rights activists. It is not too much for awards of various categories for human rights activists, especially those whose contributions and or efforts and or achievements in the field of human rights have distinguished them by their impacts in the lives of humanity. However, government or individual should not politicize or influence the recognition for immortality or an award. This recognition would also encourage more participation in the services to humanity.
I therefore recommend that human rights activists being heroes of our great nation, their labour should never be put to be in vain and so they should be immortalized! Even while they are alive, issuing awards of recognitions in their personality is not out of way and immortalizing them after their death is a great effort either by the government or private individuals in an encouraged effort!
Finally, I wish to conclude this paper by the apex court’s words in the case of A.C.N. V I.N.E.C.(2013)13 NWLR (pt. 1370) 161 SC, where the Supreme Court of Nigeria held thus ‘Without law and its rules regulating the enforcement and enjoyment of rights under the law, chaos will reign supreme, with every man pursuing and enjoying his real or perceived rights without regard to the rights of others, and organised society may come to an end’.