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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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