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The word “civil” in its ordinary meaning, has to do with people. It connotes a relationship between people that treat each other with dignity and honour. It involves an attitude of gentility as opposed to aggression, or coercion or brutality and force. When you say that a person is civilised, it means he/she has been refined, polished and not crude or unrefined. This process of refining a person comes through learning, education and training on how to relate with people. And when learning and relation in this way is at its peak, it could be said that the person is civilized. Human beings in their original form are uncivilized and crude and thus, calls for civilization of humans for the sake of peace and co-existence in the world. Killing and lynching people on the street is a grave sign of this crudity and incivility. Respect to human life is what differentiates man from beasts.

Civilisation is a process that crystalizes when you have learnt how to treat people with respect and dignity. Relating with humans in a civilised way is learned and developed. The data of humans simply cannot be reduced to uniformity as people have eccentricities. A civilized or developed country is not a stickler to its decree but refrains from pressing its claims far above the people’s interest. Animals or beasts are not civilised; in fact, there is no such room for them. A civilised country must choose the means, avoiding too much and too little to accommodate its citizen’s eccentricities and cantankerousness.

A nation that wants to develop must first develop itself and its citizens. It is when you are developed as a person or a country from crude behaviours that you can rightly claim to be a developed nation in other areas in the comity of nations, including technology and science. You cannot be rude, blunt, and crude and call yourself developed at the same time.

Without civilisation and human development, there will be no global peace. People will attack others even unprovoked. Respect for human rights brings global peace. Crude and unrefined behaviours are the causes of conflicts, violence and war. Thank God that Europe that used to be a theatre of war is now championing human rights protection, which has brought enormous peace in the continent except the Russia/Ukraine conflict, which cannot be blamed on the continent alone or on any of the parties.

The word “civilisation” and “development” are almost the same in this context. Each connotes improvements on something. But while “civilisation” only deals with people, “development” could be applicable to other things like natural resources and crude materials. But human beings must develop themselves before developing other things. That is why human beings and a country’s approach toward its citizens must be a measure of the whole developments that such a person or country has attained overtime.

He must ask himself a pertinent question: “Have I improved or developed in my relationship with others and the way and manner I treat people?” Therefore, if a country is not developed in the way it relates with people and citizens, such a country cannot say that it is developed. If the country’s respect and treatment to its citizens and people is poor and crude then, such a country cannot claim to be a developed country at all.

Nigeria currently is pressing to curtail the use of social media and people’s rights to freedom of speech as enshrined and engraved in the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed has instructed Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to delete people’s comments concerning the maladministration of Nigeria. This shows that Nigeria is not close to civilisation yet. They are still rude, crude and unrefined. Their first inclination is to clamp down on people’s rights with reckless abandon and permit lynching of persons on the street. Nigeria being a role model in Africa has infected the whole of Africa with this crude attitude.

The minister’s sole raison d’tre to curtail people’s freedom here is that other nations of the Middle East are doing the same and Nigeria will not be an exception. He forgot that those Middle East nations are not democracies. Clamping down on citizens is the kind of thing our own government copies from the Middle East. They don’t know any better than brutality and breach of fundamental rights of citizens. Nigeria does not copy technology and science.

Among the top ten countries that respect human rights in the world, eight of them are European countries of Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, etc. It is dangerous for an undemocratic nation to be rated or treated as a world power or a role model. That is the problem of Africa with Nigeria.

A country that can wake up anytime and do to her citizens whatever she wishes without respecting the human rights of citizens cannot be regarded as a world power, lest they influence and infect other nations with such viruses. Such undemocratic country is a torture camp. People’s rights are trampled upon at will without consequential redress. Africa should wake up and caution Nigeria if Africa wants to develop. Nigeria of today is dragging Africa backward and Africa cannot claim not to be affected. Africa should hold Nigeria responsible. Nigeria is infecting Africa with bad behaviour and bad governance. Two persons living together or associating with each other are indirectly influencing each other. It makes no difference whether they believe it or not. Unless Nigeria gets it right, Africa will not get it right.

In summary, respect to human and fundamental rights of persons is the je ne se quoi that distinguishes the professional from amateur. Upholding or lowering fundamental rights of citizens is what determines whether a country can be referred to as “developed or undeveloped” “civilized or uncivilized”. It is not GDP or any other economic index or indices that determine this quality. It is not infrastructural development either or your ability to launch satellites and go to the Moon. It is not your ability to launch inter- continental ballistic missiles that makes you a developed nation; it is respect for human rights. That is why Europe is referred to as the most developed continent in the whole world. Their respect to human rights is on the high side. I love Africa.

  • Ekwe is an Abuja-based lawyer and can be reached on;

Source: The Guardian