friend who is as perplexed about Nigeria recently told me that he has concluded that the whole of Nigeria is a crime scene and that he would write to the united nations to declare Nigeria a crime disaster area, so that the United Nations can send law enforcement agents to investigate the crimes being committed in Nigeria and bring the criminals to justice. I did not know what to make of his light hearted but hugely ironic joke about the state of rule of law, probity, security, democracy and accountability in Nigeria.
Britain recently celebrated the Queen's diamond jubilee, and hosted the olympics. It has been an opportunity to watch the pomp and pageantry of this ancient country, her democratic evolution, culture, worldview and attitude. In the sixty years Elizabeth has been on the throne of Britain, she has strengthened equality of sexes and improved race relations, ensured liberty of all, protected fundamental human rights, upheld the rule of law, due process and peaceful transfer of power. Her reign has further civilised Britain and made it one of the safest, most peaceful, and civilised countries on earth, with the most accountable government and proudest of citizens.
Watching the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and the celebration of British culture, her sensitivity, attention to details, commitment to equality and diversity and respect for order; I could not but wonder about Nigeria, the country of my birth where disorder, anarchy, ignorance, impunity insecurity and government corruption have a strangulating hold. When I see how much good government enables Britain to do with her resources, it is difficult to have any good words for those whose greed, criminality, ignorance, religious and ethnic prejudices and nationalism have brought Nigeria to her sorry state.
In spite of these achievements, Britain still has a lot of problems which include social inequality that condemns a section of the population to a cycle of dependency and poverty, flawed but functional democracy with many undemocratic features which include the monarchy itself, and the constitution and the way and manner the members of the house of lords are elected. These are problems Britain continues to grabble with in a very British way. So, Britain is a great country which has achieved great strides in science and technology, arts, peaceful coexistence, equality of all before the law, due process and the rule of law; but it is not the promised land.
I Could not help thinking about Nigeria and her mutated democracy, ridden with corruption, ethnic and religious prejudiced and abuse of power and position. It is a sad commentary on Africans that the evolutionary development of Nigeria as a nation has taken a sad turn. Growing up in Nigeria and living in Britain gives me opportunity to compare the the best and worst of both countries which is why I am very concerned about the way and manner successive Nigerian government including the current government of Goodluck Jonathan abuse their power by selective justice, corruption,lack of respect for the rule of law, disdain for individual liberty and nepotism.
When Obasanjo established the EFCC, many people including I, thought that finally Nigeria was serious about addressing the scourge of corruption. However, it quickly became obvious by the arbitrary and selective way and manner it was carrying out its functions by targeting only politicians who were not in the best book of the president, that the EFCC was not working for best interest of Nigeria, but doing the bidding of the president.
Unfortunately, in spite of his pronouncements and demonstration of religiosity, president Goodluck Jonathan has continued the tyrannical abuse of power by Nigerian leaders by using government agencies in a selective manner to avenged or settle old scores and serving personal objectives, and offering reasons why he is unable to do something instead of finding solutions to the difficult problems.
The EFCC has continued to be used to target politicians who are not in the good book of the president. Now and then, it arrests a high profile politician only to undermine the case and the criminal walks free from court accompanied by their SANs. The recent victim is the ex- governor of Bayelsa state. He is on trial for corruption not because he abused his office and corruptly enriched himself like many of the politicians including the president, if recent revelations should be believed; but because he fell out with the president.
First the president ensured that he was deselected by the party by directly interfering in the selection process and now he is trying to make him understand where power lies.
We watched similar scenario played out between The president's boss when he was deputy governor of Bayelsa and Obasanjo and Obasanjo. The man whose name is Goodluck benefited from this misuse of power.
It is not wrong to arraign Sylvia for corruption. I have no sympathy for him. In fact, I believe that Many like him should be facing justice and giving account of their stewardship. What is not right which is what I object to, is the selective way and manner those who are accused of corruption in Nigeria are treated. Where is Peter Odili, and all ex- governors indicted for corruption by the EFCC? Why does the government apply what it calls political solution to some corruption cases and hang out some politicians to dry? How come it was been possible to prosecute Alemeihesagha, Ibori and now Sylvia, but the government is unable to prosecute the other equally corrupt politicians? Why is it that it is only governors from the core oil producing states who fall out with the presidency that have been prosecuted? Why has the rest not been brought to justice? Where are the other Iboris who also looted Nigeria while in office? Why should some politicians be allowed to obtain permanent injunction from prosecution, while a few are rusticated to teach them a lesson? It is not just necessary for justice to be done, it is very important that it should also be seen to be done. Selective justice is injustice. Equality of all before the law demands that all breeches of the law be treated in the same way and manner. This is how the rule of law is strengthened. To abuse one's power to enforce the law only when those who are not in one's good book breaks the law is to be unjust. This is Tyranny and does not augur well for the future of democracy in Nigeria.
President Jonathan should look at the way Queen Elizabeth has excercised power to learn the correct way to exercise power. No one forced the thousands of people who stood in the rain to honour her. They did it because they know that she has been a just Queen. During her reign, the rich and poor have been treated the same by the law. Members of the house of Lords, members of Parliament, and the lowest members of the the society have all been treated the same by the law. This is what the rule if law means. A state where the rich and powerful fear the weak and poor because of the law. This is what we lack in Nigeria. Yes we have great lawyers and judges , but they are like Potters without clay. They live in a country which has not created the enabling environment for justice to flourish. The rule of law is civilisation and no country can develop without making the rule of law sacrosanct. Nigeria should wake up to the real cause of our malady and compel the leaders to address it. We cannot afford to be one nation two laws. It should be one nation, one justice one law and one constitution. Anything apart from this is injustice and anarchy. Selective justice is abuse of power and evidence of tyranny.