By: Onifade Bello A.
No doubt, Nigeria is a great a nation. It is a nation blessed with a large population of rare species of human beings. Despite the pervasive misconceptions about Nigeria in the global community, many of its citizens have kind hearts. It is indeed a nation blessed with plenty of everything good. Its citizens are so friendly and benevolently accommodating; even though the nation is most despised by individuals who have not trodden on its beautiful green land. Yes, the land is green.
The beauty of the most populous African nation and the humaneness of its people has been further brought to the fore by an international human rights lawyer, Kristy Brimelow. She has travelled through various parts of the nation and felt the uncommon hospitality of many Nigerians.
Kirsty Brimelow is the head of the Doughty Street’s International Human Rights Team and part of the Doughty Street Equalities Team. Kirsty specialises in international human rights, criminal law, public international, constitutional and international criminal law and she is the chairwoman of Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales. She travels a lot and one of her numerous destinations is Nigeria where she has helped since 2010 in numerous human rights abuse cases.
Kirsty has visited Nigeria not less than seventeen times since 2010; either to train legal practitioners or to help revamp the negative perceptions some individuals hold about children in the south-south. The latter situation has led to human rights abuses of children who had been stigmatized as witches; particularly in Akwa-Ibom where children were being abused, dumped on the streets or even killed because of a belief system that they were witches.
Kirsty’s first experience in Nigeria was wowing and has made her see Nigerians as good people. Narrating her experience, she noted a positive story which happened during her very first visit to the nation. She was in a taxi and was going somewhere in Abuja with her bag which contained her passports, telephones and other personal belongings. Rushing for a meeting, she got out and left the bag in the taxi.
Making a similitude between the impossibility of recovering such thing in London and Nigeria, she threw all hopes in the wind. After all, Nigeria is a nation whose image in the comity of nations has been tainted with dishonesty and corruption. “You won’t recover it in London and I thought Nigeria with its reputation for dishonesty and corruption, that the bag was gone,” she said during an interview. But her thoughts were soon betrayed when she called several times and the taxi driver later brought the bag to her. The incident has been indelible in her memory and made her have a positive perception about Nigerians.
However, Kirsty’s efforts to reducing child abuse in Nigeria have led to some unpleasant revelations about how some pastors and even the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood, have contributed to children stigmatization. According to her, “what we found was that there was a number of self-styled pastors who were telling members that evils befell them because their children are witches. So, what we found was that a lot of those who believed their children were witches got the information from their pastors. Also, Nollywood was not helping with some of the films it was producing where children were portrayed as witches. So there was need to educate the people that their children were not witches. Some of these children were being killed by people who see killing as the only way to rid their families of the curse.”
Sadly, these unpleasant revelations were not exclusive to the uneducated people. “The other thing we discovered which was interesting was that it wasn’t only the uneducated people who subscribe to this belief system. Even some people who are highly educated have this belief system, perhaps the difference was that the educated ones may not carry out the belief system in a violent was as is most probable with the uneducated groups. It was a big issue in Akwa-Ibom and many children were unable to go back to their homes. So, there was the issue of finding them a place of safety to stay,” Kirsty stated.
The human rights lawyer has been an advisor before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the ECOWAS court in Abuja, the Court of Appeal, among others. Recently, she was in Nigeria at the invitation of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to train lawyers on legal rights and protection of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in North East, Nigeria. At the end of one of her trainings in Nigeria, the Chief Judge of Lagos gave her the name ‘Ayo’ the short of ‘Ayobowale’, a name she bears happily and cherishes dearly. Yet, she is jokingly expecting her Ibo and Hausa names because people have never ceased to pester her about having them.
Kirsty never hides her fascination with Nigerian customs, foods, music and cultural arts. She has become acquainted with these things that they have become part of her life. She confessed that she loves Nigerian music especially afro-beats because she loves dancing. She also loves spicy foods and never let go of bitter leaf and moi-moi whenever opportunity avails her to get them. Culturally, she loves the arts and has got many beautiful paintings from Nigeria, which have been hung in her home abroad.
Unlike many others who have never visited Nigeria but are overwhelmed by distorted reports and half-truths in the media, Kirsty has always enjoyed the warmth, kindness and hospitality of the people. “I have always been extremely welcomed. I have also met a lot of people living in really harsh conditions but they are so kind and generous, and they keep a good sense of humour as well, which I love,” she confessed.
Malcolm X once remarked thus: “we need more light about each other. Light creates understanding; understanding creates love; love creates patience and patience creates unity.” The lack of mutual understanding in the global community and the thievery of a select few elites has made foreigners to relegate the potentials, cultural values and responsive serenity Nigerians hold within themselves and towards others. Should people continue to misconstrue the rich beauty Nigeria is blessed with, especially the wonderful people, they will be missing a lot.
Kirsty submits that: “there is this impression of Nigerians as corrupt and untrustworthy, but that has not been my experience of people here. The impression is quite unfair; I’ll encourage people to visit Nigeria; it’s a great country.”
Yes, Nigeria is a great country. Nigerians are great people.