By: Okanga Agila
Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) appears to be redefining itself in a manner that may soon necessitate a name change to reflect the inherent distortions in its newfound direction. This group has before now distinguished itself as one that rises to the occasion each time the rights of Nigerians are being trampled upon, which would make it sad if it leaves this noble pursuit for a narrower one defined by parochial considerations.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf issued a statement in which it asked the Department of State Services (DSS) to “stop the orchestrated profiling and persecution of the Nigerian Christian leaders by its operatives.” The justification of that call was that the Christian leaders were being hounded for seeking international donations to re-build churches that have been destroyed in the northern parts of the country.
There are however too many flawed premises in the call that HURIWA made because contrary to its assertion that the DSS is prioritizing one religion above the others, it is this group that has rather amplified the right of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) above the other shades and variation of beliefs in the country contrary to the constitutionally guaranteed secularism in the country. HURIWA is practically asking that some set of people, by virtue of being on the executive of a religious association, should be granted the blank cheque to engage in making dangerous utterances and seeking foreign incursions into the country under the guise of raising funds to build destroyed churches.
The incentives for HURIWA’s umbrage are however glaring to see since there is no iota of nationalism in its call to the DSS on the CAN leadership nor has it shown any tendency for neutrality in recent months, especially in the wake of the installation of the current government. Much may be done to mask these incentives but the facts on ground point to them in a way that mistakes cannot be made about them.
HURIWA has a history of being one of those cash and carry civil society groups that pick briefs on selective basis just to deepen their pockets and not on national interest. Oftentimes it is not just about the money but it is about the highest bidder. It found a fitting alliance in the segment of Christendom that has fallen to Mammon in the commitment to make money by siding with evil ones that are bent of using religion to burn Nigeria. It is a trend that is threatening to further spread and permeate the fabrics of the church but must not be allowed to spread further whether in the church or the civil society. As the fifth estate of the realm, CSOs must focus more on the secular demand than proselytizing even at the risk of being branded as not subscribing to the existence of God.
Secondly, HURIWA would have to dispose of that sickening mentality of viewing issues with the mind-set of an oppressed “southern” Nigeria. It is well known that the name of the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, on statements and releases is meant to create a sense of balance and national spread. But no one is fooled as to the fact that HURIWA is all about Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, a closet Biafra/IPOB separatist, who does not believe in Nigeria as a nation. Had the Director General of DSS been someone from the south east Onwubiko would have rather been asking for financial settlement to look the other way or would have simply seen nothing wrong with the CAN leaders being questioned.
That the DG DSS is Muslim has not helped too since Onwubiko and his HURIWA has a long history of low tolerance for certain faiths. This explains the syndrome of perceiving himself as the modern day crusader who rises to the defence of Christianity and must savage Muslims that stand in the way.
Whichever of the identified factors is the driving force for HURIWA’s latest outing, Onwubiko must bring himself to realize and accept that making a category of persons above the law would be counterproductive. The group has practically secured immunity for some politicians by claiming they are being persecuted for being opposition whenever they are to be tried for corruption. It must not create a new class of sacred cows that will get away with just about any crime by claiming to be persecuted Christian leaders. Nigeria should not get to a sorry stage where any criminal at the risk of being investigated or prosecuted for wrongdoing would hurriedly establish a church to disguise as a General Overseer of a church in Nigeria and automatically get immunity.
There is also the fair presentation issue where a civil society organization should be fair in its stated objective and mission. HURIWA cannot label itself as a nationalistic group and be pursuing ethnic, sectional and religious agenda. If it must do that it should rebrand, including a name change, to reflect its new business model.
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.