By Anote Ajeluorou
While the United States may be spearheading the fight against terrorism and extremism worldwide, one of her civil rights activists of the Black Panthers Party (BBP), Mrs. Sandra Izsadore, has said that white America actually taught the rest of the world how to perpetuate terrorism by their sheer inhumanity to the African-Americans whom she said they murdered in their thousands for no reason.
Also, Chairman, Human Rights Commission (HRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, said a lot of civil liberties were being denied Nigerians by what he described as privatisation whereby they are being made to pay for the profit margins of a certain few.
Sandra Izsadore was late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s mentor who reeducated and reoriented the Afrobeat maestro towards a new political and musical consciousness that was to define his activism and emancipation struggles. They spoke in Lagos yesterday at the symposium that opened Felabration Week, the yearly activities to celebrate Fela, his music and life.
The symposium theme was ‘Human Rights as My Property,’ after one of Fela’s popular tunes, and had Izsadore, Odinkalu, Mrs. Ayo Obe and Mr. Kunle Ajibade as speakers. Mr. Olasupo Olasore representing former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola as chairman and moderator.
In an emotional presentation that included horror slide images of white supremacists hanging blacks on trees and modern-day white police shooting blacks like the recent Trevor Martins’ case in the U.S., Izsadore said.
“Ku Klux Klan taught the world terrorism; they murdered my people”.
She stressed the need for African people to treat history with respect, something not available to African-Americans whose ancestors were stolen, denied their rights and shipped away to foreign lands to endure despicable horrors, as horses were valued above them.
She went on: “We were stolen from Africa and forced elsewhere. I’m this African who was stolen. I don’t know my ancestors, my homeland; I was so disappointed when my DNA test showed I’m from northern Kenya. But you know your history; you know where you’re from. You know your language. There were the things I told Fela. What I discovered was that a lot of Africans don’t about these things”.
She said the Jews have never forgotten what they suffered even if a few millions of them died, but that Africans have forgotten so soon the millions that died during the Middle Passage of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
She lamented: “But what about those who died during the Middle Passage? Millions died. If the ship’s captain felt that it was profitable, they emptied the entire human cargoes and collect the insurance. We ought to know our history”.
She chided Africa for remaining backward just as the entire western world and its modern civilization depended on the riches prevalent on the African soil. She said it was her dream that Africans began to live like Saudi Arabia princes.
“The western world is so dependent on Africa. What goes into making the cell phone is got from here,” she said. They need you; but people in England, Dubai, America live better than you Africans. The riches are here. So, I want my people here in Africa to live like Saudi Arabia. But when you waste your resources, you are destroying your property.”
Izsadore frowned at the ethnic divisions that perennially plague parts of Africa and said whenever she saw anyone with a black skin, she feels a certain affinity of kinship to him or her, adding, “I don’t understand the ethnic divisions so long as I see a black person. We are one; collectively we can do a lot. I look at Nigeria like that. But it cannot happen so long there’s greed.”
Odinkalu praised the Kuti family for making sacrifices on behalf of ordinary Nigerians who have been at the receiving end of rights denied. Odinkalu seemed to situate the biggest rights denied Nigerians on the educational plane and said it has bred all manners of vigilantes that now plague the polity either as Niger Delta militants, kidnappers in the South East or Boko Haram in the North East.
According to him: “In reality, some of you may own human rights, but you cannot enjoy it. Are human rights there for us to be enjoyed at our will? Do we have state and civic capacity to claim our human rights? Those who tell you to go to court know that you may not get justice. We’ve lost faith in the legal system. Nigeria is wholly privatized, with all of us paying for the profit margins of those running our lives.
“If the poor do not have access to good education, then you’re breeding a band of vigilantes. In the South South and South East, they use their education to negotiate for money in militancy and kidnapping; in the North East, it’s nihilistic. In fact, there are only two tribes in Nigeria – the haves and haves-not. If human rights is anything to you, you don’t allow for narrowness.”
Odinkalu also linked human rights with memory and history that inevitably becomes a person’s identity, adding, “Do we want a country or tribe? A country of values or vigilance? Let’s have a country with values.”
Earlier, Sasore said human rights was something that needs to be protected, but which can only be attained if the rule of law was allowed to prevail as again the rule of man.
Ajibade also said Fela taught Nigerians not to wait for political leaders to give or ‘dash’ them human rights, but to fight for it.
Obe said there was a need to collectively protect the rights of everyone, as a violation of one person’s right impinged on the rights of others as well.