The rule of law is not about national messiahs and saviours. It is not about impulse and the whims and caprices of individuals including leaders, no matter how highly placed. Instead, it is an empirical and scientific approach to governance and problem solving beyond the personal ego or feelings of those who temporarily control the levers of powers. Indeed, it is about the definition of the boundaries of the rights, liberties and duties of the citizen and government’s ability to subject its actions to the ordinary and well-publicised laws of the land. This creates an assurance of certainty about societal good or bad and sets the standard of conduct and action expected of every stakeholder whether a leader or the led.
In the last 18 months, how do we rate the government of the day? Is the rule of law still sacrosanct? Can we in all honesty, without talking from two sides of our mouth at the same time, plead that we are marching forward within the principles and fundamental tenets of democracy in the country under President Muhammadu Buhari? The first issue to raise is about obedience to court orders. It is now clear, sadly too, that the Federal Government selectively obeys court orders; it obeys the ones it is favourably disposed to and disobeys others it feels inconvenient about. From the Sambo Dasuki, Nnamdi Kanu, Ibrahim El Zakzaky court orders, etc, it is now the norm that court orders can be treated with levity without any untoward consequences.
The second issue is about the emerging pattern of the selective enforcement of laws. Investigations and prosecutions should be done without looking at the faces involved. It should be about ensuring that the path of the law is strengthened. It should not be about loyalty, party affiliations and blood relationship. The law is not supposed to be looking at anyone’s face. Today, it seems there are different rules for different individuals depending on who they are, their affiliation and their history. While we are regaled about how the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, allegedly used state funds to finance their elections, there is graveyard silence on how the ruling All Progressives Congress financed theirs. Or, do they want Nigerians to believe they did not spend money to pay their election bills? Did God throw down bags of money from heaven for their electioneering?
Senior Federal Government officials have been accused of violating the Code of Conduct by owning properties far above their legitimate income and all we heard from the authorities was to give them a clean bill of health whilst digging in with the prosecution of others. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has just been accused of financial malfeasance committed in a way and manner suggestive of impunity and the devil-may-care attitude and all we heard from him in self-defence was to use undiplomatic and gutter language to abuse the Senate. Nigerians expect decisive action from the President, not some dilly dallying. A number of judges were raided by the midnight hour for allegedly being corrupt. Over six weeks down the road, only two have been charged to court and we ask; is it only these two that a prima facie case has been established against? If the answer is in the negative, what is delaying the prosecution of the others? If the answer is in the positive, how do you compensate and make good the reputation of the others who have been publicly humiliated as thieves when the facts do not support the humiliation? The allegations made by some of the judges arrested against serving ministers were dismissed with a wave of hand and did not constitute a material for further investigation.
Killings by herdsmen across the federation have escalated under the watch of the current administration and the government hears and sees no evil. The innocent blood shed is regarded as expendable and is not strong enough to activate the fundamental rights enforcement mechanism or the protection of the police authorities. From Southern Kaduna to Benue and Enugu, it is an open cheque for the violation of the most fundamental of the fundamental rights which is the right to life. But other groups and persons including those peacefully agitating for Biafra and others for some Islamic schools of thought are murdered in cold blood against the rules of engagement of the security agencies. Clearly, crimes indictable under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court are being committed under the watch of the present administration.
It thus bears remind Mr. President that he was elected under the rule of law and respect for its tenets. He is therefore expected to lead under the rule of law and when he is challenged, he will need the law to come to his rescue. He should not kick away the ladder which facilitated his climbing to the top. Unfortunately, he still needs the ladder to come down. Do not be contemptuous of this ladder. Let there be clear rules of engagement binding on both the leader and the led. It is in his best interest and may God lead him to that recognition.
- Twitter @censoj