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A nation ruled by law

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Scale of Justice. Photo/Sealchambers

Fifty-nine years after, we are no longer ruled by Britain, no longer ruled by the military, for we have achieved freedom and democracy, but not the rule of law. In spite of 20years of democratic rule, our nation is perhaps now more than ever divided along ethnic lines, plagued by spate of insecurity, ethnic clashes, corruption by public servants, failure of the existing infrastructures and a perverse moral decadence. Perhaps all of this is because we as a people, have failed to see the correlation between the many maladies which we currently face as a nation, and our abject lack of respect for the rule of law. No nation can pride itself of institutions strong enough to drive development, peace and unity if it lacks respect for the rule of law.

In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “being democratic is not enough, a majority cannot turn what is wrong into right. In order to be considered truly free, countries must also have a deep love of liberty and an abiding respect for the rule of law.”

If there’s one thing for which the current President Mohammed Buhari’s administration has been most accused of, it is the serial violation of Court orders, particularly when not in consonant with the policies of the administration, which has led many to term the President’s anti-corruption war, highly selective. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, may be crude in his approach to governance, but in spite of how strong the convictions of his administration might be, his policies are often subjected to criticism by Congress and ultimate sanction by the judiciary.

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It is sad to note, that our judiciary, which had once occupied a place of reverence and dignity has in recent years, been caught in the mudsling of the dirty politics as practiced by most of our elected office holders. The judiciary to which the common man looks for hope, has now taken the dock. At the throes of military dictatorship in the history of Nigeria, we were blessed with courageous members of the bar and bench alike, whose sacrifice and steadfastness in the struggle for the preservation of the rule of law remains a point of reference to this day. The likes of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Afe Babalola, Femi Falana, Justice Nicki Tobi, Kayode Eso, Chukwudi Oputa are names that will forever be etched in marbles of our history, for they were the heroes of the common man.

While we are quick to criticize our leaders, we often fail to consider the effect of how our everyday violation of simple traffic rules could lead to congestion on our roads and the ultimate loss of manpower, reduce productivity output, and ultimate earnings to the government, occasion poor service delivery and ultimately deter investors etc. While we are quick to call out the Police for acts of extortion, we fail to see how offering bribes to compromise a law enforcement officer in the course of his duties could ultimately lead to a weak security institution and expose the nation to insecurity. We all have a role to play in the development of the nation, and it begins by observing rules put in place for our overall benefit. The law is a tool that if well harnessed, can lead to social and institutional development. Members of the bar as primary custodians, are ministers of the temple of justice, and represent the voice of the common man on the street, so preach we all must until ours is a nation ruled by law.

* Mr. Efeturi, a member of the Editorial Board is The Guardian’s Legal Adviser.

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