Human rights as a social fact can be viewed as normative responses to expressions of oppression and domination. They represent the minimum living standards for civilized humanity, to wit: they are the morality of the depth rather than the morality of the heights. They are won through struggles of the oppressed against their oppressors. Human rights remains a valid intention of self expression.
The congregation of multi-ethnic groups, tribes and race into nationhood by a treaty influenced by colonial or imperial concepts is common in Africa, dates back to history and traceable to the Berlin conference of 1884.
However, when nationhood fails, people recline to their tribes and the tribe is a natural enemy of the state. The state by its natural reaction and coercive tendencies often strive to keep all ethnic divides in a nation together but not in the absence of equity and justice. Where some tribes or ethnic groups are forced to be in a union that has failed them in all ramifications agitations will always become inevitable.
By international law a people can by their majority resolve, decide to secede from a nation to pursue their common aspiration just like the people of Biafra in Nigeria are making frantic agitations to leave Nigeria to be on their own with the belief that this movement holds a better promise for them.
I must say that while their agitations are valid for whatever reasons they broach it from, it must be tailored within the bounds of law and not violence or war. The last attempt to achieve the objectives under reference, between 1967 to 1970 resulted in the loss of many lives. It is therefore not safe or practicable, if you like, to continue in that line of action when there are legal routes to achieve this objective.
Biafra can be achieved through article 19 and 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act (CAP 10) LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA 2004, which provides as follows : All people shall be equal. They shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the same rights. Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by the other.
Article 20 says, All people shall have right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination. They shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen. Subsection 2 says, colonized or oppressed people shall have the right to free themselves from the bond of domination by resorting to any means recognised by the international community.
With the aforementioned provisions of law, Biafra is achievable by undertaking procedures laid down by law without necessarily resorting to violence that will lead to casualties and the wanton destruction of lives and properties.
My advocacy therefore is that if violence and/or peaceful agitations could not grant Biafra its request in the past it is time to change the approach. The laws earlier cited had been long domesticated and now form part of our laws and so let the proponents of Biafra leverage on the law to clinch onto their collective aspiration and objectives.
Let the leaders of the group collaborate with the international communities, presenting the law as the bases of their agitations and with this, the legal process for self-actualization can be properly instituted.
This applies to other groups that desire the same objective.
I shall go to Rabbi again.
Evans Ufeli Esq is a Lagos based Lawyer and Executive Director Cadrell Advocacy Centre.