When Paul was arrested and flogged for preaching the gospel in Philippi, on his release the next day, he refused to leave the jail cell. He said to the officer sent to free him and Silas, 'They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.' (Acts 16:37) The magistrates who had ordered that they be flogged, had no choice but to agree to Paul's demand. You couldn't flog a Roman citizen without trial and get away with it. They were lucky Paul didn't ask for more.
Again, the bond servant Paul stood up for his rights in Jerusalem. Again he was flogged for preaching the gospel. The Bible says, 'As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" I love that he phrased this as a question, I love the calm brazenness of it, even as they were about to flog him, Paul was cool and questioning the centurion on a point of law. The commander who was superior to the centurion 'was alarmed when he realised that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen in chains." (Acts 23:25b,29b)
These two passages got me thinking. The only reason why Paul could claim his rights as a Roman citizen was because he knew them. As a Christian, I claim my spiritual rights when I pray. God has not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of sound mind, God will not forsake the righteous and I am righteous by the blood of Jesus, God will bless me exceedingly, abundantly and above all that I can ask. But I could not tell you a single right that I have as a Nigerian citizen. I cannot tell you the rights I have as a Nigerian citizen living in the U.K. I have special rights that others do not have because I am a citizen of a Commonwealth country yet I do not know what these are. I cannot even tell you the rights that I have as a University of London student. The other day, I just discovered that I can order restricted documents from LSE because I go to Kings.
We Nigerians, we complain a lot but how many of us have ever sat down to read the constitution. I know I certainly haven't. So from today, I'm going to start trying to find out what I am entitled to and what my government owes me. If you want to join me, click here for the link to the Nigerian constitution. The website is not particularly attractive but the information is necessary. We can demand more effectively when we know our rights.