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Buhari, rule of law and impunity




THE current controversy in certain quarters with regards to President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight can at best be likened to a justification of impunity with the rule of law. Similarly, the dictum that whoever seeks equity must come with clean hands also shows that those who ran the country aground must be prepared to face the full wrath of the law.

The controversies arise from the continued detention of retired Col. Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu after they got court rulings ordering their release. Both men are facing different charges bordering on corruption and treason, respectively.

However, rather than see reason with the security agencies for pressing fresh charges against them based on the enormity of their alleged offences, many Nigerians have chosen to blame the President as being behind their continued detention. Undoubtedly, the court orders are facts, but the court is only an adjudicator and not an investigator. The security agencies are saddled with the security of the country and are in a position to determine who is a security risk.

On the Kanu case, without prejudice to the court and its order, it is pertinent to ask questions as to whether a man has the right to hold the country to ransom for as long as he is allowed to do so and cling to a court pronouncement and walk the streets as a free man. Perhaps those who cling to this line of thought fail to think out of the box to consider the interest of the generality of the people.

They also fail to think of the responsibility of the government to the people. A government has, as its primary responsibility, the protection of the people’s right to life. So, anytime this right is threatened, it is expected that the government should rise up to the occasion.

The use of Radio Biafra, a pirate radio station, to threaten the unity of the country calls to question Kanu’s personal integrity. The impunity with which he operated the station has also cast a strong dent on the integrity of the country’s security system.

It is, therefore, foolhardy for anyone to think that the security agencies will release the agitator because of a court order issued on technical grounds. More so, the security agencies can press as many new charges as they wish, based on the information available to them.

The arrest of Kanu, in the first place, was a big catch. Keeping him under close watch is, indeed, a victory and letting him loose is, predictably, a call to anarchy. It is pertinent to ask how Kanu’s detention compares with the loss of lives that trailed his arrest. Does Kanu know any of the innocent people who died during those protests? Will his release restore those lost lives? Is his right to freedom more precious that the rights of the dead to life?

The constitutional guarantee of freedom does not extend to the freedom to cause disharmony. As a popular saying goes, the freedom to swing one’s arms does not permit him to hit someone else with them. Those raising the dust over Kanu’s re-arrest have failed to situate it with the collective impact of his pirate broadcast on the psyche of the listeners. Can we rightly say that one person’s right exceeds that of the collective?

As criminologist Femi Odekunle said in a recent interview, ‘’one of the problems we have in this country is that we put the interest of the individual above the interest of the collective. As a professional criminologist, I am not for unmoderated democracy, I’m not for unmoderated rule of law in which the rights of the individual will be so hyperbolised and override those of the collective.’’

Politicising the fight against corruption using the rule of law mantra is in itself self-serving. Those who do so are, perhaps, those who benefited from the slush funds.

Protecting people who barefacedly plundered the treasury and put Nigeria in a financial quagmire is to say the least undemocratic. The use of the courts to get injunctions to stop prosecutions cannot be encouraged if the country must grow.

The countries that have developed their economies did not do so with massive corruption. It took certain leaders with impeccable qualities to put those countries in the right direction. Nigeria cannot be an exception unless we continue to pay lip service to development.
Like everything in life, there is pay-back time. Even the holy books say that no sin shall go unpunished, meaning that those who called the shots while in power should be cautious of the future. Like they say, the only thing that is permanent in life is change.

And protecting the rights of an individual against the interest of the collective is in itself against natural justice.

• Mba is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Enugu.

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  • Daniel Obior

    This piece is shameful. The constitution is the constitution. If a president swears to abide by the constitution and protect the rule of law, then he is bound to do so. If we no longer find the provisions in the constitution prescribing adherence to the rule of law applicable in our society, then let us change the constitution accordingly. Until we do that, the rule of law must prevail, else we have anarchy. To attempt to justify a president not abiding by the rule of law is most unfortunate, with much worse consequences for the people, on the long run.
    As a footnote, it is recommended that Mr Mba, the author of this disgraceful piece, reads the opinion of Cardinal Okogie titled “Enough is Enough”, also published today.

    • ebidou

      Thank you sir!

  • Darlington

    “Democracy without rule of law is like a salt that has lost its saltiness”—Ekweremadu.
    Nigerian Constitution is supreme, and cannot be ignored or implemented selectively at the whims of the President. Suspects are presume innocent until proven guilt. Your article is a waste of time and space.

  • kabu-kabu

    Writer, apparently, you are writing to please your host. As insensitive as you are, you are the dumbest writer out there. It stands out that you have no clue of what rule of law is, and what the law court is for and what law enforcement agencies like the “dss” stands for. You are stiff bent on the rule by use of force “power”. In your impaired state of mind, there is no basis for the law. Court rulings should be based on the perceptions of the “supreme” head of state. ” It is pertinent to ask how Kanu’s detention compares with the loss of lives that trailed his arrest. Does Kanu know any of the innocent people who died during those protests? Will his release restore those lost lives? Is his right to freedom more precious that the rights of the dead to life?” Did you refer to those as “INNOCENT”? Who was responsible for the killing of those protesters? Does your government allow room for free speech, movement, association? Is Kanu a member or a government functionary? Does what he had said surpass the utterances of threats credited to your supreme leader when he lost in the previous elections; of which he carried out eventually? Do you understand the function of the law enforcement agencies is to enforce the laws of the land, and that the laws of the land is above all. If the laws cannot be respected, then why do you take people to court in the first place? Do you under stand the reason for the three tiers of government: Executive, Legislature, Judiciary? Who enterpretes, the laws and pronounces punishments on offenders; and who guides and enforces such pronouncements? I bet you are writing to be viewed as a villain of a distorted set up.

    • Henry

      Your reply is the best i have in recent time. you were not abusive as most have always done but have left him a lot ponder on. well kabu-kabu

    • ebidou

      Thank you sir! On point!

    • Tobole Emore

      YOU are on point….
      The guy is not Educated if he is then I term him an Educated Illiterate. Looking for Job

  • Henry

    I’m even surprise Vinny Mba the writer of this article is not been addressed by his name. What a waste of time reading his article talk more of commenting.

  • ebidou

    Junk article. People like Vinny Mba don’t belong to a sane society.

  • The Trib3sman

    It is because of people like this hypocrite and sycophant Vinny that the South East will continue to be in Chains for a long time. How unfortunate.

  • KWOY

    Do not make yourself a fool, no matter the kind of personal interest you want to defend. Rule of law can never be subjective. If it becomes subjective it becomes sacrificed. If the court should grant a criminal bail, it ought only be revised by a superior court – or otherwise it becomes fighting wrong with wrong. That apart, the criminalization of Kanu can never suppress Biafra agititation. Kanu is only its symbolization at the present time. His incaceration will only help the cause – it will become its rallying point.

  • opamkaa

    The beauty of democracy is that even this writer has the right to exercise and showcase his ignorance. Democracy can be messy at times but it is the best system of government known to man. You cannot pick and chose what aspect of it to practice. At the risk of repetition, I maintain that Buhari is not a democrat and will never be one. Democracy is against his nature. He is fit for a military dictatorship, a North Korea style of leadership or a theocracy, Saudi Arabia style. Everything the writer has said in defense of Buhari will eventually bring Buhari’s government down. This same Buhari overthrew a constitutional government, he declined the invitation of a lawful Oputa panel, he incited his followers to bloodshed as often as he lost presidential elections and would have done so again had he lost in last year’s, he openly voiced support for and sympathized with BH when he was in opposition. He has, in fact, done more damage to our democracy, and law and order than Kanu. No drop of innocent Nigerian blood could be trace directly or indirectly to Kanu despite his utterances, and no single ammunition was traced to him. Conversely, Buhari has tons of innocent blood on his hands, and he walks free. Yet, he is hounding Kanu to death. The whole thing is hypocrisy, pure and simple. Buhari is making a mockery of our democracy. Rule of law is the heart and soul of democracy. The General should have no business with leadership position in a democracy. Mr. Mba has his work cut out for him if he wants to rationalize and defend Buhari’s dictatorial tendencies.

  • Dr. wale sodade

    In a sane society, the judiciary is the ideal regulator of the citizens’ rights and the rule of law is the tool it uses to execute its mandate. However, Nigeria as it stands today can hardly be described as a sane, let alone normal society.

    In a country whose economy has been brutally pillaged by politicians with impunity to the extent that we are constantly at the brinks of socioeconomic collapse without due retribution, the role of the rule of law becomes highly questionable.

    Yes, democracy may be beneficial to society but only when operated properly. The machinery of democracy is very complex and therefore requires discipline and dedication to a common goal. Judging by the mindset and inclinations of our political cabal, we still desperately lack the discipline that will make democracy work in Nigeria.

    we are still wearing the same cloaks of deceit and subscription to mediocrity that led us to the cesspit of undeserved squalor that Nigeria has been plunged into by the extreme, mindless pillaging of our stupendous wealth post independence, yet we clamor for the observation of the rule of law in the address of serious issues that threaten our survival. Where was the rule of law in the past 50 years when our wealth was being siphoned into the pockets of the so called leaders?
    Do Nigerians have the slightest idea of the amount of income the country made in the last 50 years that have been squandered by our elected crew? We all run to the Arab Emirates on holidays and come back with glorious stories of the developments we see there. We visit so called first world countries and marvel at their social conveniences and infrastructural wonders, but have you ever taken a moment to consider that all those conveniences were put in place by the disciplined and concerted efforts of their people and their elected leaders? That all the infrastructure and conveniences you ogle with such fascination abroad could have been easily implemented in your own county with less than 30% of the money the politicians stole from the citizens? Nigeria should be far more beautiful and technologically advanced than Dubai and most countries in Europe yet we wallow in a world of decay and suffering that does not befit such a richly endowed country. Nigeria does not belong to the third world by any means. it is our tolerance of extreme theft of public funds that trapped us within the tunnel of poverty and despair that we are living in.

    Democracy is like a ship with one captain but many engines. if all the engines do not operate in concert towards a single goal, the ship is apt to wander aimlessly in a sea of possibilities. Nigerian politics and socioeconomic construct is still too immature to efficiently operate the kind of democracy that will take the country forward. A bit of dictatorship is essential for Nigeria to find its way back to the track of progress and greatness . Certain rights must be curtailed by the presidency and some decisions made by the president to veto the judiciary’s decision for our common good.

    President Buhari may not be perfect but he is doing his best to bring the country back from the brinks of imminent disintegration. Let us honor his efforts and stop complaining about things that only operate within the theoretical construct of our collective reality. Let the rule of law take a back seat for the moment as we sanitize our country and prepare it for emergence out of its political and socioeconomic bondage.

    After all, Singapore transformed from a 3rd world nation into a 1st world country through the efforts of a benevolent dictator.

    Dr. Wale Sodade

    • Ify Onabu

      We do not need any kind of dictator in Nigeria, whether benevolent or malevolent. Period!

      • Tobole Emore

        Thank you jare

    • Tobole Emore

      really….I am surprised at your analysis…The only way to grow a democracy is to follow the rule of law. Based on your own theory then it is ok for a coup plotter with “supposed good intentions” to take over…BUT that we all know is not right no matter how good intentioned it is….
      Our economy is going to blazes the man has no clue he is more concerned with corruption that involves money. what about the other types of corruption…. disobeying court orders, not touching anyone who moves over to APC even if he stole the country dry…. Wake up Sir, your type of writing if though might be well intention is what has given impetus to all our former leaders to do what they please… because educated people are going to find a good reason for them to do what they please…that is exactly what Buhari is doing. he wants to be prosecutor, investigator, jury and judge all rolled in one. He must obey the rule of law. If it frustrates him then propose a change to the laws…

      • Lemmuel Odjay

        I am learning, please educate me. But I am also confused, because I do not know where the purported rule of law was when, during the past 16 years or more, Nigeria’s gang of reactionary politicians were allowed to plunder the commonwealth unhindered. Where was the rule of law and those asking for it? And why is the rule of law being applied only now that those suspected of stealing have been dragged to the courts? Rule of law or should it be moral justice?

        • Tobole Emore

          You learn nothing at all if you don’t follow rules… We are not saying Buhari should free thieves we are saying he should follow rules. He was elected under the rule of law and He should concentrate on the work before him which is the Economy. A president must not be a unit of work. He must be a manager. He must be able to multitask. not concentrate on one item meanwhile he has 80% of his cabinet as corrupt men and women. He refuses to touch anyone that moves to APC. Justice is not blind. But jungle justice is a no no….

          • Lemmuel Odjay

            Oh, now I know! This means that Buhari has gone OBJ’s way by hounding none PDP party members and using the EFCC to silence them? I remember that he left suspected PDP members alone at the time. This rule of law thing has suddenly become attractive to me. That was perfect rule of law played out? At least I’v learned something from you. Thank you…

          • Tobole Emore

            This is why Nigeria is so backwards. So if OBJ does the wrong thing Buhari too must follow and do the wrong thing. This is why the rule of law must be followed. I am not a politician nor am I a PDP or APC supporter. I am a Nigerian and we need to progress. If you think the laws are not adequate for present day then change it BUT follow the laws. Laws were made by man so can be changed. you dont make rules as you go along hence we are where we are.

          • Ayuze

            Oga where were you during Gej’s regime? You are just being plain hypocrates. You will convince no one with your crazy and perverse assertion that the focus shouldn’t be on war on corruption. You can rationalise by claiming your are neutral and mixing your arguments with the odd critisism of some of your people, but you always betray yourself by your perverted view on the corruption war. You also seek to target people like Fashola in your bid to weaken the govt. You can’t fool anyone.

  • Ify Onabu

    When Bola Tinubu and his cohorts used pirate radio and his TVC to harass Jonathan, there was no perception of any threat to national unity. Those who argue that the rule of law must be ‘moderated’ must define the scope of that moderation. Our people are not expected to applaud Buhari for failing to comply with court order, or only for complying when the order is in favour of government. If the President says that some detainees cannot be released, even when the court has granted them conditional bail, that in itself is the height of impunity. Buhari’s presidency has become the most divisive ever!

    • Lemmuel Odjay

      Is there any such thing as “moral justice”? A public official is suspected of stealing billions of dollars meant for a country’s developmental projects. They are arraigned before a court of law in lieu of prosecution. Rather than submit themselves to that court of law and have their names cleared, they run instead to a second court under the rule of law where they seek protection from prosecution by the first court. Then they declare themselves medically unfit, and subsequently ask another court to grant them leave to travel abroad on medical grounds! I have lived abroad for decades among people whose system we claim to practice. Yet not for once did I come across such an example as ours, where moral justice is considered less important. Are we really serious, or are we mere pretenders? I need to be educated…