Every fourth of July in America, presenters at the National Public Radio read the text of the US Declaration of Independence. Besides the popular lines, I have never paid much attention to some obscure lines in the Declaration of Independence. This year, I did. And I think the new meaning that I got from it must have something to do with today’s Nigerian situation.
Of course, I have always admired the first line. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
It always makes me think of the human events in Nigeria. It makes me wonder if it has become “necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which connected them with another.” Has it, I asked as I listened to the reading? For those who think it has become necessary, I wonder if they have “declared the causes which impel them to the separation” in reverence to “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.”
Mankind. I could see that the appeal was to Mankind and not to the King of England, who was the head of the British colonial masters of America. For the people fighting for America’s independence, they were not sure if the King of England believed that they have the right to “equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitled them.” Two hundred and forty-five years after, those who control the lever of power still feel the same.
The second line is often the most quoted: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Some rights are unalienable. Some truths are self-evident. At this juncture, I asked myself if we Nigerians, if we Africans, agree that some rights are unalienable and some truths are self-evident? Maybe that is where the problem starts. Here is a common example from recent Nigerian history…