Are These Goodluck of Noble Causes?
By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Early today's morning as I quaffed cups of hot American coffee, I engaged in a discussion with a young female lawyer born in Jos, Plateau state, and the topic was on the new vocation of Nigeria's first lady Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan which seems to have significantly shifted from mundane politics to what may be considered as the pristine pursuit of noble causes.
I heaped profound praises on the significant paradigm shift of the wife of Nigeria's President for embracing the noble causes of fighting against sexual violations of women and waging unrelenting advocacy campaign against the emerging dangerous trend of cyber bullying and other ramifications of child abuses through the internet.
But my lawyer friend asked me how much professional fee that the wife of Nigeria's President has paid me for vigorously pouring encomiums on her new approach to human rights advocacy with specific reference to pursuing women's rights.
My response was straight to the point when I flatly told her that I have not received any form of financial compensation.
Further, I informed my friend, a female lawyer in her late 20's that a human rights group that I founded was the first to criticize Mrs. Jonathan for getting herself so much involved in the partisan muddy waters of divisive politics of her state of origin-Rivers state even as we advised her some months back to concentrate her time and resources towards advancing some noble causes such as fighting for the promotion of the fundamental human rights of women.
My reason for inquiring if my group's advocacy urging Mrs. Jonathan to embrace the pursuit of noble causes has paid off is because of two major events in which the wife of President Jonathan made speeches that underscore her fundamental paradigm shift from the world of politics to pursuing good humanitarian causes.
Indeed the public Relations Managers of the wife of President Jonathan seems to be responsive to critical opinions which are against her getting involved in partisan political warfare.
The first event which took place at the behest of the wife of Nigeria's President was primarily focused on strategies for combating the emerging crimes of cyber bullying and the attendant child abuses through online sources. This event was attended by high profile World leaders including the former Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Ehud Barack.
The second event took place only last weekend in Paris, France at the behest of the wife of the French President-Ms. Valerie Trierweder on the sideline of the Elysee Summit for peace and security in Africa hosted by the French government. The Nigerian President was among over 50 world leaders that attended the global anti-terrorism event.
The noble roles played by Mrs. Patience Jonathan could be a perfect response to the groundswell of criticism trailing her less than dignifying involvement in the political fight going on between the Rivers state governor Chibuike Amaechi and her husband-President Jonathan which is interpreted by political observers as a fight over rumoured Presidential ambitions of both men come 2015 election.
Mrs. Jonathan was also criticized for wielding too much state powers whenever she visits other cities such as the traffic lock down that characterized her visit to Lagos state early in the year and also the women's political rally that closed down central business District of Abuja to traffic only last few months.
But the well oiled media think tank working for Mrs. Jonathan wants us to believe that Mrs. Jonathan's paradigm shift was purely on humanitarian ground.
In one of the few articles published in recent times in praise of the first lady's new humanitarian crusade, Emma Okonji stated that the acceptance of Mrs. Jonathan to champion the global campaign on child online protection will inevitably create positive global image for Nigeria.
He wrote thus; “When in May 10, 2013, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the body that is regulating telecommunications operations globally, with the United Nation's Cyber Security executing arm, which is known as the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threat (IMPACT), visited Nigeria to present a certificate of appointment to the first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, as the 'Child Online Protection Champion' (COPC), many experts in the Nigerian technology industry, saw the appointment as a turning point for Nigeria to redeem its image on cyber security fraud, labelled against the country”.
The ITU-IMPACT team that visited the first lady, and gave her the global appointment, according to Emma Okonji, was led by the Director of Telecoms Development Bureau of ITU, Mr. Brahima Sanou. The team is reportedly passionate about addressing the menace of child online abuse globally, and was looking for someone with high personality, and commitment to drive its agenda in curbing online fraud and online child abuse. It beamed its search light on Nigeria and found the first lady, who then, was already the President of African First Ladies Peace Mission. So recalled Emma Okonji who authored this highly patronizing article for the Wife of the Nigerian President.
Okonji further told his readers that by virtue of her commitment and involvement to charitable activities in and outside Nigeria, Mrs. Jonathan accepted the appointment and had since swung into action in championing the campaign for global child online protection as well as addressing online fraud in Nigeria; so wrote Emma Okonji in Thisday newspaper of October 24th 2013.
But her role on the global stage took place in Paris, France when she mounted the rostrum to campaign for the rights of women against sexual violence.
Dateline December 6th 2013: the wife of Nigerian President demonstrated to the World her positive dimension which had remained relatively unknown locally when she read a well written speech whereby she made strong case for the African girl child and women to be protected by law against sexual offences just as she remarkably stated the obvious that 'behind every rape case is a man'.
Mrs. Patience Jonathan in perhaps what will become for a long time to come as one of her finest public speeches called for stiffer penalties backed by effective laws against perpetrators of sexual violence against women.
Going down memory lane drawing from the rich accounts of wanton sexual violations of women and girls whose nations especially in Africa witnessed one civil strife or the other, the Nigerian first lady said conflict-related sexual abuse should not be regarded as unavoidable or acceptable consequences of war because of their devastating consequences. The wife of the Nigerian President made this remarkable speech against the backdrop of a recent report by the Human Rights Watch that the Northern Nigerian based armed Islamic terrorists were in the habit of abducting girls for sex.
I will return to that all important call for stiffer legal framework to be erected by governments against perpetrators of series of sexual violence against women and girls.
I will briefly touch on the cyber crime of sexual abuses of children commonly categorized by international experts as cyber bullying and I will make reference to Britain whereby there exists scientific and verifiable statistics on this crime against humanity. In Nigeria, we are deficient of good and verifiable scientific statistics on any crime and this bad practice must change if we are to be regarded as making bold effort to fight crime.
For a better appreciation of this newly emerging crime of cyber bullying, I consulted the website of www.bullyingstatistics.org and learnt that this is a form of teen violence that can do lasting harm to young people.
Bullying statistics show that cyber bullying is a serious problem among teens. By being more aware of cyber bullying, teens and adults can help to fight the evil trend. From this perspective it can be seen that the paradigm shift of Mrs. Jonathan to now embrace waging an effective crusade against online child abuse, is indeed a noble cause which must be sustained and vigorously replicated by wives of the governors of Nigeria's 36 states and the nation's capital, so as to make the needed national impact.
Experts say that cyber bullying can take many forms and shapes such as; sending mean messages or threats to a person's email account or cell phone; spreading rumors online or through texts; posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages; stealing a person's account information to break into their account and send damaging messages; pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person; taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the internet; and sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person. These variety of crime are predominantly seen in Nigeria especially among the younger persons that perpetually fiddle around with series of newly introduced phones.
Cyber bullying, according to the website aforementioned, can be very damaging to adolescents and teens. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Also, once things are circulated on the internet, they may never disappear, resurfacing at later times to renew the pain of cyber bullying. These are eternal facts.
Many cyber bullies, they continued, think that bullying others online is funny. Cyber bullies may not realize the consequences for themselves of cyber bullying. The things teens post online now may reflect badly on them later when they apply for college or a job.
Also, cyber bullies and their parents may face legal charges for cyber bullying, and if the cyber bullying was sexual in nature or involved sexting, the result can include being registered as a sex offender, especially in the United Kingdom, so reasoned this writer cited in the website being quoted here.
Some emerging facts on this crime are as follows; over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying; more than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online; over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet; and well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs. These are facts recorded in the United Kingdom but in Nigeria there are even more sinister dimensions to this cyber crime which go undocumented.
From the above facts, it can now be appreciated that the crusade just started by Mrs. Jonathan is no mean task which must be fought with every vigor and resources. The Nigerian government must galvanize the existing agencies of government in the Federal ministry of science and also Technology to wage a big but pragmatic campaign against cyber bullying which obviously poses serious danger not just to our teens but even adults. For instance I receive an average of six correspondences from cyber fraudsters posing as beautiful female models who are soliciting for sexual liaison.
The Nigerian first lady should focus her attention to the ongoing prosecution of the killers of Miss. Cynthia Osokogu, the 25 year old post-graduate student of Nasarawa state university who was lured to a Lagos hotel by cyber criminals and gruesomely killed.
It is indeed a national shame that such brutal cyber crime took place in Lagos over one year now and the wheel of justice is so weak and slow to deliver the desired justice to the alleged killers. There are a thousand and one of such cases. The wife of President Jonathan should use her proximity to the seat of power to ensure that the office of the federal Attorney General and those of the 36 States of the Federation and Abuja are compelled to embrace this fight against cyber criminals.
On her other noble cause of speaking out against sexual violation of women, it is important that her campaign permeate the Nigerian legal system because charity begins at home.
Mrs. Jonathan should begin by constituting a team of legal and human rights experts or should send for some of the past recommendations made by the various committees set up by the office of the Federal Attorney General regarding the weak legal regimes against rape and other sexual violations of Nigerian women.
Mrs. Jonathan should pick up a copy of the well written legal book by one of Nigeria's finest intellectuals on women law and human rights Professor (Mrs.) Joy Ngozi Ezeilo of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu state.
In her scholarly book aptly titled: “Women, law and human rights”, Professor Ezeilo expertly exposed the legal lacuna on laws relating to sexual violations of Nigerian women.
For instance, Professor Ezeilo observed that the penal code, like the criminal code, contains provisions which contravene women's rights and tend to perpetuate violence against women.
She wrote thus; “For instance, section 55(1)(d) of the Penal Code states that: nothing is an offence which does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt upon any person and which is done… by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife such husband and wife being subject to any native law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful”.
I, too, completely dissociate myself from any native practice that dehumanizes women sexually.
The wife of the Nigerian President should hold series of workshops to build the capacity of wives of the high profile political office holders in all parts of Nigeria so that individually, they can use their high standing in the society to wage national campaign against sexual violence targeted against women.
Importantly, to achieve better result, the National Human Rights Commission must train police operatives all over the country to become aware of the red flags of rape and sexual violence of Nigerian women because in latin we know that no one can give what he/she does not have (nomen dat quod nan habet). In order for the Nigerian police to key in to the fight now being waged against sexual violence against women by the wife of President Jonathan, the operatives who come in contact daily with the ordinary citizens must be educated and made aware of the new trends that comply to global best practices in the fight against sexual violations of women.
The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs must embark on pragmatic advocacy all across the country in partnership with the states ministries of women affairs and credible civil society organizations to sensitize Nigerians about these twin evils of cyber crime and sexual violations of women and also monitor how laws against these crimes are enforced across board.
The Nigerian first lady should go beyond sermons on political rostrum to engage in practical advocacy. She should be supported by all of us so that our women can be protected.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA; blogs @www.huriwa.org; www.huriwa.blogspot.com.