Heart of Arts

Controversial Rights, Natural Law & the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Professor Victor Oguejiofor Okafor


To any individual who is wondering about which way to go, I propose that controversial human rights questions of contemporary times should be decided based on three main factors: (1) God’s own words as stated in the Holy Bible (not a human politically correct or colonial interpretation) and comparable sacred books of the revealed religions; (2) your cultural heritage; and (3) your common sense. While human beings are biologically equal, they come from different but sometimes overlapping cultural backgrounds. It has been established that human beings, irrespective of differential phenotypic characteristics, are genetically 99.9 percent alike. All human beings share common genes, and some genes demonstrate as many as 70 different variations (also known as alleles) that are spread across different human groups.1 In their work, How Real is Race (2014), Carol C. Mukhopadhyay, et al, explain it this way: “The unity of the human species goes back to Africa. Scientific evidence has conclusively established that modern humans (Homosapien sapiens) evolved in Africa around 150, 000 to 200,000 years ago and began expanding out of Africa within the last 100,000 years.”2

As I have noted, human beings come from different but often overlapping cultural backdrops. And respectable, truly democratic, and truly God-fearing nations of the world do show, by action, that they understand the inalienable rights of other countries to enjoy their own respective cultural freedoms, subject to their compliance with both Natural Law and the Fundamental Human Rights encoded in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. That declaration consists of thirty rights adjudged to be nonnegotiable. For the details, visit: https://www.ohchr.org/en/human-rights/universal-declaration/translations/english.

There is no perfect culture anywhere in the world. Across the geoclimatic zones of our world, cultures are different but equal. Culture is dynamic, and ought to be positively transformed by the changing circumstances of life. A famous historical example is a legend (principally conveyed through Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart) that there was a time in the cultural history of Igbo land when twins were seen as evil, but due to the influence of an emergent Western encounter, that perception was eventually nipped in the bud. Thus, cultural transformation is welcome when it upholds human dignity and supports everyone’s right to life. This conforms with Article 3 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.”3 Article 1 of that UN Human Rights Declaration is particularly instructive: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”4

Earlier, I called attention to the phenomenon of cultural transformation, but cultural transformation must not necessarily mean that a culture must import and adopt a value system or a human behavioural mode that is antithetical to both God’s own law and the UN-declared Fundamental Rights of Humanity. It is not every form of human behaviour that is worthy of emulation and importation. A right may be defined as an exercise of a human being’s God-given free will, for God imbued us with a free will to do right or wrong. Human rights must be in alignment with both Natural Law (that is, God’s own Law) and the code of Universal Human Rights as proclaimed by the United Nations. Take note that a human being has a right to take his or her own life, but civil society abhors that. Another example is that a human being has a right to speed drive his or her own car at the rate of 100+ miles per hour, but civil society abhors that. Thus, some rights are both self-destructive and injurious to the healthy functioning of human society.

A major contradiction in the Western experience is that while on the one hand, the West philosophically, and in the vast majority of cases, concretely as well, upholds individual human rights, on the other, the West historically finds it difficult to avoid approaching other human cultures from the standpoint of a Western pitfall known as Cultural Hegemony, or what some prefer to describe as cultural imperialism on the international plane, which essentially involves trying to get everyone to be like them or insisting that if you are not culturally like them, then you are not human enough, you are an enemy. This was partly a justification for the cultural genocide that was inflicted upon the populations of the colonized or populations that were physically displaced, ethnically cleansed, or even exterminated. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, when we think that humanity has, by and large, advanced away from barbarity and wanton bloodletting, we also see a contradiction between the avowed Western devotion to human rights and the same West’s continued military support for massive human destruction in Gaza, though the October 7, 2023, trigger for it is also condemnable. We saw manifestations of this historic Western existential contradiction during the struggles against colonialism and racial apartheid on the African continent and elsewhere.

Generally-speaking, the West also tends not to always understand that cultural diffusion is a two-way traffic. As a two-way traffic, cultural diffusion entails that cultures should be mutually respectful and should mutually learn from one another. But, generally-speaking, the West tends to view cultural diffusion as a one-way traffic that runs from the Northern Hemisphere onto the Southern Hemisphere and is not necessarily symbiotic.

In the African experience, cultural genocide did not stop at political dominance and economic exploitation. Colonialism also systematically engaged in cultural denigration and cultural alteration, such as the imposition of the languages of the colonial powers upon the colonized communities as the languages of formal education, trade and commerce, the renaming of places based on how the names of those places sounded phonetically to the ears of the colonial masters, namely the English, the French, the Portuguese, the German, and the Italian. Language translations do not always generate a 100% match with the original language of whatever is being translated.

Cities and streets were renamed or misspelt in the language of the colonial master. Subsequently, the colonized dropped their own ancestral names for their cities and streets in favor of the colonizer’s misspelling or mispronunciation. The colonizer also proceeded to solidify those misspellings and mis-pronouncements in legal and official documents. For instance, in legal and official documents, “Onitsha” in the southeastern part of Nigeria took the place of “Onicha,” etc. It could be argued that the imposition of the colonial powers’ languages upon their colonized nations has not served the best developmental interests of those nations, even as independent polities, because a case can be made that the most scientifically and technologically successful nations of the world are those which conduct their education, conduct scientific research and perform technological wonders in their own indigenous languages.

Note also that Africans were given English, French, Portuguese, German and Italian first names when baptized in the Christian faith, whereas the Holy Bible does not require that one be baptized with a foreigner’s name. That is, our God (our common Father) allows us to be baptized with our own Igbo names, Yoruba names, Hausa names, Effik names, Ijaw names, Zulu names, Swahili names, etc. Baptism using colonial names is part of colonial Christianity, a branch of the cultural subjugation project. Both cultural denigration and cultural alterations, against the backdrop of colonial military conquests, cumulatively led to a psychological re-orientation and a psychological subjugation/defeat of the colonized. We call this phenomenon, this byproduct of colonialism, colonial mentality.

As a byproduct of cultural genocide, colonial mentality affects virtually all aspects of the contemporary life of the African personality with exceptions here and there. One of the ways that you can feel the pulse of the legacy of colonialism known as colonial mentality is a common response/retort that one gets all too often from an average African person who tries to validate one claim or method, or one aspect of life or the other: “Oyibo said it.” Once “Oyibo” says it, once the subject/claim, etc. came from “Oyibo,” due to colonial mentality, the average African is more likely to believe it than if the same subject/claim came from someone who looks like him or her. Generally- speaking, we also happen to be good at copying or mimicking the negative aspects of the colonizer’s social/cultural life, often ignoring the positive aspects of the colonizer’s social/cultural heritage. We have tended to either give up, marginalize or abandon altogether systems, processes, customs and social values that enabled our ancestors to thrive and prosper for millennia in pursuit of whatever we are told is the “modern” alternative, not necessarily internally generated but externally copied, whether or not it fits or merely constitutes a square peg in a round hole, such as an African adorning a 3-piece suit under the blazing son of his tropical climate. Historian Basil Davidson characterizes this feature of post-colonial African life as an “acute disjunction between the history of the past and the history of the present.”5

One also sees a manifestation of colonial mentality in the average continental African’s preference for “foreign” products, including the replacement of their own healthy/organic food items with chemicalized (and health polluting) imported food items. This type of preference is supposed to denote “a high class,” “a high taste,” etc. on the part of the imitator. Such aping of the colonial master’s social preferences and tastes can be seen in a wide range of other areas of contemporary African lifestyles, including wedding attire and professional settings, such as the judicial outfits of members of the bench and bar. The list is almost endless. It was indeed a military and psychological conquest from which the formerly colonized societies are yet to fully recover.

To wrap up, let me state that a person, African or Western, who makes axiological and existential choices based upon a degenerate alien culture or degenerate alien cultural values and assumptions is fundamentally a culturally dislocated person. And unfortunately, due to the legacies of cultural genocide, too many of our people are both miseducated and culturally dislocated. In so many cases, the internet age has even worsened this phenomenon.



1 Audrey Smedley. Race in north America (Boulder Westview Press, 2007), 347

2, Carol Mukhopadhyay, Rosemay Henze, C Yolanda A Moses. HOW REAL IS RACE? A SOURCEBOOK ON RACE, CULTURE, AND BIOLOGY (New York: ALTAMIRA PRESS, 2014), 80.

3 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights – English.” United Nations, 1996-2024, https://www.ohchr.org/en/human-rights/universal-declaration/translations/english.

4 United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights – English.”

5 Basil Davidson, For a Politics of Restitution. In A. Adedeji (Ed.), Africa within the World: Beyond Dispossession and Dependence, (pp. 15–27), (New York: Zed Book, 1994), 24.



Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, 1958.

Davidson, Basil. For a Politics of Restitution. In A. Adedeji (Ed.), Africa within the World: Beyond Dispossession and Dependence, (pp. 15–27). New York: Zed Book, 1994.

Mukhopadhyay, Carol., Henze, Rosemay., C Moses, Yolanda A. HOW REAL IS RACE? A SOURCEBOOK ON RACE, CULTURE, AND BIOLOGY. New York: ALTAMIRA PRESS, 2014, p.80.

Smedley, Audrey. Race in north America. Boulder: Westview Press, 2007.

United Nations. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights – English.” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. 1996-2024. https://www.ohchr.org/en/human-rights/universal- declaration/translations/english.

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