Is Violence Against Non-Indigenes Constitutional?

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Nigeria is at a critical crossroads in its democratic journey. Our people have been thrown into an unstable situation. Civilian dictator’s determination to perpetuate their rule has thrown the area into a volatile condition. Top-down reforms imposed, without the participation of the people or their elected representatives, by a government in disarray, which intimidates those it deems to be contrary to the national interest and has scant respect for the due process of law, are unlikely to deliver an improved democracy.

In Rivers where I reside, it is an army with a state-authority, not a state-authority with an army. The bloodbath at state authority’s move to restore peace has snatched my writing pen to critical point. The idea of tribalism has oppressed us by discrepancies, prejudices, superstitions and violence. It does not admire our cultures and non-Rivers people. Rather it narrows down everything to a point of autocracy and meanness, deflated my best will and wishes on Nigeria. The authority’s carnage-strewn restructure to put the city in order has taken away my mainstay and seized my livelihood. They refused to understand that i write to keep Rivers orderly. From their wild sweep deepened the fault-lines that threaten the 6 million people who reside here in Rivers, which has lurched from one existential threat to another .When I look resilient, one task enforcement member said to me “GO BACK TO YOUR STATE, this is not your state”. But I was born here for God’s sake. Can’t I have green card assuming this is America? Where is Nigeria unity?

The rise of tribalism is the biggest challenge facing the Rivers people as Nigeria attempts to return to democracy .For all his scientific and technological advancement, southern Nigerians are still grappling with the challenge of how to live together in peace and harmony. Everywhere, the social ills of intolerance and bigotry still continue to impede Nigerian progress. Cultural diversity and plurality of faith can be an asset rather than a liability. This is so if they compliment each other in shaping the national fabric. Perhaps one of the most ominous challenges to Nigeria’s multicultural project today is that posed by the twin diseases of tribalism and fascism. On their part, our people’s position about militancy or political violence has been clear and categorical. Statements by politicians and the media which link acts of political violence by individuals with the Muslim community more generally have led to a deterioration of community cohesion.

Even while staring militancy in the face, democracies can never abandon their commitment to civil liberties and human rights. Today many civil society and faith bodies like the “nigeria4betterrule” are playing a constructive role in trying to bring about a Nigeria at ease with itself accepting its diversity forged by history, yet able to appreciate shared values, acknowledge common interests and build inclusive communities through collective endeavour.

In order to achieve a compassionate and caring Nigeria, one where no groups are left behind due to disadvantage and discrimination a genuine dialogue must commence. Through this engagement a national identity would be forged for the fulfillment of the collective potential while realizing the strengths of diversity. Short of arresting local government chairmen and mayors suspected of corruption, the administration has not invested in improvements at the local democratic level. As changes have been enforced by this government without engaging people in debate, discussion or decision making, it seems likely that the reforms are bound to fail when the state of emergency is removed.

In Nigeria previous constitutions and the more recent 1999 Constitution, epitomize the story of non-indigene’s marginalization. This is because there is no provision for civic equity population, there is an urgent need to capture the new global trend in the ground rule for Nigeria’s co-existence, namely the Constitution. The Nigerian Constitution contains several lapses, one of which is the adoption of non-indigent that supports patriarchal values, and fosters its expansion and entrenchment.

The Nigerian human rights record since the advent of the current democratic government cannot be said to have scored anything appreciable in the promotion and protection of the rights and fundamental freedoms of Nigerians, rather it has flagrantly encouraged their abuse. It also negates 20 years of active efforts to promote the rights of Nigerians in Nigeria that have played major roles in national development right from independence. The Constitution fails to identify such efforts and accord them their dues. It is necessary for the Constitution to adopt a tribal-neutral language that will not discriminate against any particular state of origin; the words should have clear meanings such that their application does not discriminate against non-indigenes as it is found in the constitutions of other countries.

They exploit of an our people’s right injuriously, deviate the interests of the Igbo community Failures of the past elected governments cannot be used as excuses to keep Nigeria’s democratic process suspended, and perpetuate an undemocratic regime. What is, however, important in this regard is that the people at large keep the would-be elected government under constant watch and pressure so that it cannot abuse its powers as its predecessors did in the past?

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