Tuesday, October 13, 2020

‘It is better for the law to rule than one of the citizens’ --Aristotle

n this article, I wish to focus on the rule of law and how its apparent failure in Nigeria is contributing to slow disintegration, increasing sectarianism and worsening security we are witnessing.

If there is anything Authoritarianism hates, it is that men would fight for their right to free thought, to be treated fairly and governed according to stipulated rules, which no man, no matter how rich or powerful can ignore or change at will without consequences.

When Buhari overthrew the elected government of Shehu Shagari, he promulgate decree 4 on 29 March 1984.

It was a most audacious and repressive piece of legislation to strip the people of their rights to free speech, muzzle press freedom, restrict free thought, frustrate accountability and concentrate all power in his hand.

Under the guise of punishing authors of false statements, he made it a criminal offence to hold his administration to account through scrutiny.

The problem with degree 4 was that the government only had to say that what is published, said, or implied, even if it is true, brings it to disrepute, to get conviction. The problem was the word disrepute and who decided when a view constituted a violation of the decree.

It was decree to give legitimacy to autocracy and the rule of men. At that time, I was a medical student in University of Ife, and we did protest against it. We listened to speeches from Gani Fawehinme and co and were introduced to the virtues and values of freedom of expression.

For the last three and half years President Mohammadu Buhari has been in power, Sambo Dasuki, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and Many suspected members of IPOB, have been in detention even, after courts have ordered their release. The government has frustrated all attempt by these detained Nigerians to regain their liberty.

Their continued detention is an affront on the rule of law and a violation of their fundamental human rights. It undermines the foundation of the rule based society we are building in Nigeria and it is the worst crime a leader in a democracy can commit.

During the same period, Fulani terrorists from many west African countries have come to settle in Nigeria and conducting ethnic cleansing of Nigerian villages, without the president, demonstrating that it is unacceptable. The attitude of the president towards this crime against humanity is the clearest evidence of his complicity and unfitness to occupy the position of president of a multi ethnic and multi religious country.

Under Buhari’s watch, Boko Haram has received several millions in ransom payment from the government and I understand many Boko Members, granted amnesty have been absorbed into Nigerian army and police. At the same time, Nigerian army wonders why its operation plans are leaked to Boko Haram

There seen to be no longer the awareness in Nigeria that a country, where one person’s Human right is violated is one in which everybody’s liberty is at risk.

No one seem to care about the victims of these crimes and violations, and what it does to both the psychic of the people and their attitude to the rule of law.

This deterioration of rule base order in Nigeria should concern all. Moreover, no society can be free and a place where new ideas grow, when the people are not free to think and their rights to express their thoughts, as long as they are not a danger to others restricted.

I am not a lawyer, but I know that the rule of law, which is the cornerstone of civil society is being violated in Nigeria by the Buhari administration.

The writ of Habeas corpus seem to have failed to secure freedom of these detainees detained unlawfully. This should give every Nigerian serious food for thought.

When the law under which a defendant is detained is unjust, the court may find itself, sanctioning the violation of the rule of law as was the case under apartheid, when many black Africans were convicted for violating racial discriminatory laws.

The same thing is happening in Nigeria under Buhari and the Nigerian judiciary seems to be helpless to enforce its decisions.

How can a president in a democracy unilaterally declare an unarmed group a terrorist group and refuse to declare an armed group committing crime against humanity a terrorist group and expect to be taken seriously?

How can a democratically elected president refuse to respect the rule of law and expect those who suffer the injustice of his abuse of power to keep quiet?

The rule of rule of law is a society, where the law is properly promulgated, and takes place in the future and no one is detained because an individual in power want him locked up.

It is the greatest protection against tyranny and capricious and whimsical exercise of power, the kind we witnessed under Buhari in 1984 and are now witnessing under Buhari in 2018.

Violation of fundamental human rights is a manifestation of tyranny, an evil which is inconstant with democracy under the rule of law.

For a country to evolve into a civil society it must take the rule of law seriously. It must aim for a society, where the judges have the independence and protection to enforce the law and defend and protect citizens from unlawful detention and or imprisonment by the executive.

Nigerians need to work for a society where the police has no power of arbitrary arrest and where the police are accountable to the law for their actions.

The rule of law is the foundation of civil society and people like Buhari do what he has done only in societies, which are not under the rule of law.

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, ‘ it is essential, if a man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last result, to violence against tyranny and oppression , that human rights should be protected by the rule of law’

It is ironical that these gross violations of rule of law are taking place in Nigeria at a time, the country has a Vice President who is a profession of law. This is another reason why the rule of law should not be left to lawyers.

As Lord Bingham argued in his book the rule of law, a state which savagely represses or persecutes sections of its people cannot in reality be regarded as observing the rule of law,...’

In Nigeria, those protesting peacefully for self determination but belonging to different ethnic group from the president, those accused of corruption, but belonging to a different political party from the president and Shia Muslims, who do not belong to the same religious group with the president are being persecuted under Buhari.

As argued over the centuries, law cannot be simply what is dictated by the political authority or issued by the state, laws must express the sum total of what mankind holds to be just and right for its enforcement to have the full meaning of the rule of law. As one of the greatest philosophers, Spinoza said, law is the mathematics of freedom. Only those who understand the law and come under it, can be free.

Buhari promulgated a repressive law in 1984 and enforced it with military tribunal.

As elected president, Buhari is refusing to respect the judgement of the courts in 2018. Buhari is acting as a tyrant. As they say, the leopard cannot change its spots.

This brings me to the the current Nigerian constitution. Like the apartheid constitution, it is not a genuine legal instrument. It was neither written by the people nor approved by the people. It is an imposed constitution.

The constitution legitimises injustices, subverts fundamental human rights, legalises injustices and criminalises, those who seek self determination.

It is a rogue constitution, which must be repealed, for the rule of law to take root in Nigeria. The repeal of the current Nigerian constitution should be the most important political issue in Nigeria. The question is why it is not.

Henceforth, my struggle would be the struggle to repeal the Nigerian constitution, ensure the rule of law to flourish in Nigeria and restructure Nigerian to end the injustices of the present arrangement, which enables corruption, Boko Haram, Fulanis herdsmen terrorist and marginalisation of some Nigerians because of who they are to flourish.

For peace to reign, Men must be free to Challenge laws promulgated by the state, which they consider to be unjust. Only then, can they truly say that they are free under the rule of law.