This happens to me always.
Whenever I take up a case that goes public I get several calls and texts asking me “please how can I help?” Of course I usually say nothing to such questions.
I don’t say anything not because I don’t need help, financial help. I do. Most Human Rights activists, if not all, need financial enablement to execute their causes. Infact, and sadly so, I have abandoned several cases I took up for poor clients because I couldn’t foot the bills.
I have abandoned cases of persons I believe are innocent who are rotting in jails. One that really breaks my heart happens last week. A young chap who is serving a life sentence in Port Harcourt prison got my number and called from prison (yes, it’s possible). I took up the matter but… Flight to PH… And… Became issues. No money. No budget. Justice is capital intensive.
So why then don’t I answer questions like “what can I do to help?” I don’t for three reasons. All those who asked this question (especially in the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar Saga) or its variant should please take note.
1. Most people who ask this question don’t really want to give you shishi. They are just having an emotional ejaculation and ventilating their anger. They want that feel-good feeling that at least they tried to help. And I don’t want to burst their bubble by telling them, yes I need some sort of financial help. They will end up not giving a dime and start feeling guilty of sins they have not committed.
So I allow them have their moment of “Im-with-you-on-this-just-name-the-amount-and-I-will-send-it”. This set of people will usually turn on you and accuse you of extortion and all manner of things if you take their bait and ask them for money.
2. Though I have never received a dime from anyone to execute a human right case or pursue a legal issue of public interest, my instinct tells me that if someone really wants to help they won’t ask too many questions or even wait for you to provide lengthy answers. They might just need a hint or a brief request and they will give their assistance. “Send me your account details” and “what can I do to help?” or “if you need anything let me know”, takes the same effort to type or say na.
3. The most important reason borders on ethics. I cannot take up public interest cases and use that premise to raise money. That is unethical and grossly unprofessional and my opponents and detractors can make mince meat of me on this account. You will be shocked at the number of persons waiting and watching for an activist to make a slip so that they can ridicule and embarrass him. In this business of fighting for justice, I have come to realize that public goodwill is better than public money. That’s why activists must be extra careful.
I will rather, and sadly so, watch someone face the firing squad than raise money to activate the judicial process for him. I will rather dump a case and join the client to weep for lack of justice than ask for monetary contributions from the public to pursue the matter. It’s not pride, it’s ethics. I can raise money to do charity or philanthropy but not legal work per se.
But how can those who really want to help, help?
They are those who ask this question because they really want to help but don’t know how. To members of this group. Let me give you a clue. Empower the activist.
You don’t really have to wait until you see him pursuing a matter of public interest. You already know what the activist does why not give him links and referrals that will breastfeed his bank account? You know for every penny you help him make, a large chunk will go into helping him fight for the masses.
Why not make him that lawyer that prepares your documents (MoU’s, deeds, contracts, wills, company and NGO registration, juicy litigation, etc)? Some activists have books and other projects that will fetch them money when executed; help them bring such projects to birth.
It is demonic to always remember an activist when a public interest case without a budget arises but when you want to buy or sell land or prepare a document for an oil deal you don’t remember the lawyer activist. Who are you empowering? I have seen other activists raise funds, but for the lawyer activist nothing is more unethical.
And this is not just about lawyers. Once you locate an activist, try to locate his workshop or line of business and patronize him. That’s how you put money in his pocket to do what he is doing without turning him into some sort of ass licking beggar.
Now you know how to support an activist financially. Give him money without waiting for him to beg. Contribute if he is raising funds. Patronize his area of expertise or trade.
As for those of us activists, those who stake their lives fighting for others, those who take up causes of public interests, let’s lift up our heads to the heavens where all help comes from. Let’s avoid the allure of filthy lucre. Let’s do what we can do with all we have always… God will do the rest.
Aluta Continua. Victoria Ascerta. Yogejulnor.
Firsts Baba Isa is a Legal Practitioner,