THE UNFORTUNATE DEMISE OF THE RULE OF LAW IN PRESENT DAY NIGERIA
Nigeria as a country is not renowned for her exemplary leadership role in the advocacy for due process and the rule of law within her sovereign territory or Africa at large.
But, in recent past – since the return of democracy to Africa’s most populous nation – the former leaders at least tried to be democrats and espouse its principles, but one stood out head and shoulder above equals in the bid to maintain the rule of law in the art of governance. That one leader, still very fresh in our memories is late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. As the President, he became known in some quarters as ‘Mr Due Process’.
This is a President who reversed a number of governmental policies enacted by his administration on the account of court rulings. He enforced the Supreme Court ruling which ousted Chris Ngige as the Governor of Anambra State who was of the same party with him, in favour of Peter Obi on the Platform another party – the first of its kind Nigeria’s history.
In obedience to a court ruling, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua without question paid Billions of Naira illegally withheld by the preceding Olusegun Obasanjo administration into treasury of the Lagos State Government. He went further to reverse the privatization of Nigerian refineries on the grounds that the bidding process did not follow ‘due process’. In other words, the privatization process did not follow the rule of law, thus, the outcome was illegal in the eyes of law. This is a man who openly accepted at the beginning of his administration that the election he worn was laden with flaws, and was ready to step down should that be the final decision of the election tribunal. He was a president like no other in the history of Nigeria.
For ‘Mr Due Process’, the most memorable achievement of his administration remains the amnesty program in the Niger Delta. Using the rule of law, he was able to bring about lasting peace in the region, even though its implementation falls short of the original plan due to his sudden demise. Considering just the aforesaid few, out of the numerous attainments of that administration, especially as it concerned the rule of law, could one emphasize today that we are on the right path as a nation? Your guess is as good as mine!
Just imagine to yourself that the Niger Delta militancy crises – which turned armed conflict – handled with such diplomacy in a ‘carrot and stick’ approach by the Yar’Adua’s administration was in fact happening in this dispensation. Given the lawlessness of this present administration of Muhammadu Buhari, it would have been a genocide. This is based on his handling and deadly crackdown on the Shiites Islamic Sect and IPOB demonstrators. And if you followed the ‘body bag’ rhetoric by his stooge – Nasr El-rufai and Mr. President’s recent ‘ruthless’ order to the military to make election day offenders ‘pay with their lives’, then you know what I am talking about. We need to make them understand that we still have laws in this country.
This administration lacks the patience and discipline to stay committed to the rule of law, thus, most of its dealings are without due process, thereby rendering them illegal. From its running of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to the management of Asset management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the manner through which funds are moved from the treasury, are fraught with illegalities – as exemplified by the reported withdrawal of 462 million dollars from the Excess Crude Account without the approval by the National Assembly which the President had to make an explanation.
The arbitrary and illegal detention of accused persons or offenders while on bail, and the unconstitutional suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) etc, indicates a pattern of operation by this administration – a suspension of the constitution, which implies the demise of the rule of law in present day Nigeria.
One only need to compare the commendable commitment to the rule of law by the Yar’Adua administration – by far our best President ever in my opinion, Goodluck Jonathan’s mild continuation, and the fiasco of this present regime to come to terms with title of this piece.
What the precedence of the Yar’Adua presidency brings to mind – given the short span of that tenure – are the questions; how bad must it get before we get it right as a country? Must we have a full-blown anarchy on our hands or fulfill all the characteristics of a ‘failed state’ in the right sense of its definition before we realize that as a nation, ‘we are failing? And, where have the good people of the good people of this nation kept their conscience?
The quest for political power must not be a ‘do or die affair’, but the prerogative of the masses to bestow upon an individual the means to lead. Power so gained is for service and nothing personal!
Patrick S. Jr
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