The Eastern coal city of Enugu was ignited with thrill and frenzy late last week, when Chidi Odinkalu, one of Nigeria's preeminent human rights advocates, scholar, activist and administrator, addressed his audience at the Big Ideas Podium. Big Ideas Podium is a public policy debate and engagement program usually hosted by the renowned think-tank organization – African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), Enugu.
In a keynote presentation titled: "Human Rights and Democracy: Agenda for a New Era" Odinkalu posited that not minding the many challenges the country is facing presently particularly in the areas of security, sectorial and ethnic tensions, cultural and religious differences, nationhood can possibly be achieved if everyone – the government, politicians, the media, civil society organizations, the academia, the citizenry, etc. can emphasize and build on the beautiful cases of inter-ethnic cohesion, integration, cultural and religious tolerance and acceptance that is replete in our history as a people; the country, according to him would be a far better place both in terms of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and nation-building.
Odinkalu who advised the people of the Southeastern part of the country to replicate their economic and industrial outreach and engagement with other parts of the country, also in the area of political relations and build bridges of alliance, understanding and rapport with other ethnic nationalities across the country. He made it clear to his audience that the people of the Southeastern part of the Country are not the most marginalized as frequently claimed. According to him, the huge diversity which the country has should be galvanized into positive productive outcome. He believes that the concept of indigeneship especially as it is defined in many instances in Nigeria has not helped in fostering the desired national integration and cohesion. "Indigeneship is posited as an exclusive, once-and-for-all-time occurrence that can only be asserted by one group or set of groups and their descendants. It is also bequeathed on a group, not individuals. Thus a person not recognized as from an indigene group cannot be an indigene irrespective of how long they or their ancestors or descendants have lived in the location and even if their proof of contact or settlement in the land pre-dates that of members of a group recognized as indigenous. One clear consequence of this is that both naturalized Nigerians and their descendants would be ineligible to access federal appointments as they can never qualify to claim indigeneship of any place. Another consequence is that this creates a barrier to social integration, fossilizes political competition and creates a 'Chinese Wall' between our politics and our economics. While the mobility fosters economic wellbeing, such mobility in the Nigerian context alienates the citizen from the exercise of full rights of participation: He concludes.
In his contribution, President of the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) Comrade Chris Isiguzo praised the partnership and understanding between the media and other stakeholders particularly the security agencies in ensuring that the 2019 elections were rancor free and recorded less friction between the press and law enforcement agents. According to him, the efforts of the current NUJ administration in reaching out to the security agents led to journalist not being harassed or abused in any way as used to be the case, he said even in one or two cases when such incidents were reported to him, they were quickly settled and the journalist promptly released. He encouraged his colleagues not to relent, despite the many challenges and hazards of the profession. He believes that with the current machinery of dialogue and periodic interface already established prior to the 2019 elections, incidents of rights abuses and harassment of the media by security agencies will be a thing of the past.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Executive Director of AfriHeritage, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike said the need for observance of human rights by every nation cannot be over-emphasized. According to him, "human rights are fundamental for sustained development. When human rights are systemically denied over a period, the basis for societal unity, prosperity and peace are usually hindered. The resulting tensions and communal dissonance are usually fertile grounds for social dysfunctions, conflict, or even war". He highlighted areas where human rights are regularly abused as – brutality, illegal arrest and detention, torture, unlawful killings, ill-treatment of citizens, etc. by the security agencies. The Nigerian justice system being severely under-resourced and prone with interminable delays; Nigerian prisons, permanently overcrowded – with most inmates kept as pre-trial detainees. "There are also In Nigeria, defenders of human rights and journalists who often, face routine intimidation and harassment".
This edition of the Big Ideas Podium witnessed a large turn-out of participants including professionals from all walks of life.
The Executive Director of AfriHeritage Prof. U. Okeke-Uzodike
Guest speaker, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu
Mr. Jika Attoth, Moderator at the event
Prof. Ogugua Ikpeze Discussant II
Mr. Chris Isinguzo, Discussant I.
Prof. Chidi Odinkalu is a Senior Team Manager, the Africa Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative, Abuja. He also Chairs the Governing Council of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. He holds a Ph.D. in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Odinkalu is a renowned author with widely published articles, books and journals on diverse subjects of international law, international economic and human rights law, public policy, and political economy affecting African countries. He is adviser to several multilateral and bilateral institutions on Africa-related policy, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the World Economic Forum.
• Chair, Board of Directors, International Refugee Rights Initiative, IRRI, New York/Kampala
• Co-Chair, Sudan Consortium, New York
• Chair, Advisory Board, Global Rights Washington DC/Abuja; and
• Member, Human Rights Advisory Council of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
He is the founder of the Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) at the Nigerian Bar. His most recent books (with Ayisha Osori) include: Too Good to Die: Third Term and the Myth of the Indispensable Man in Africa.
Chistopher Isiguzo is the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). He studied Mass Communication. His journalism career began in 1999 as a reporter and correspondent in various states and has been assigned responsibilities such as Sub-Editor, Editor, and Bureau chief in various platforms including Thisday Newspapers. He began active union activity as the Financial Secretary, Correspondent Chapel in Imo state in 2004 and also served as NUJ State Officer in Ebonyi State in 2007 and has since gone through various council leadership positions.
Isiguzo was appointed National Ex-officio of NUJ by Mohammed Garba led administration in 2009 and was later elected as two-term Vice President of the Union in charge of Zone C, South east. Chistopher Isiguzo is a known public affairs analyst on radio and television across the country and beyond. He founded the Nigeria Youth Firm for better Tommorrow, a Youth Empowerment Initiative where young people are mentored on how to play positive roles in the society. He is also a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), West African Journalists Association (WAJA), and the Nigeria Labour Union (NLC), amongst others.
Jika Attoh is one of the brightest broadcasters in the country today. He studied Cross Cultural Communication at University of Oxford. He was the former Managing Director at Enugu State Broadcasting Service Enugu, ESBS. Broadcast Manager and Trainer at Lagoni Media and Member, Board of Directors at West Africa Democracy Radio. He was the moderator at the May 16 2019 Edition of the Big Ideas Podium.
Prof. Ogugua Ikpeze is a Professor of International Law/Jurisprudence at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. She is also an International publisher of many books, articles, journals and an expert in areas of Human Rights and Democracy, Law Enforcement, Litigation, Arbitration and Criminal Law.
Quality of Speakers
Satisfaction of Participants
Call for Advocacy
BusinessDay - Wednesday May 22, 2019 (pg. 8)