“A rose”, says Shakespeare, “called by any other name would smell as sweet”, President Muhammadu Buhari called by another name would undoubtedly spell soldier, jack-boot and, of course, Major General. Soldiers are known for their regimentation or what is popularly known as “Order”.
As a Soldier, you must obey orders. No discretion please. A Junior Officer or subordinate is not allowed to raise an objection to order. Whether the order is wrong or right, it must be obeyed. This is why it’s difficult for a General, who was used to seeing his order being obeyed with promptness, to adjust to the dictate of rule of law that is the foundation of democracy.
Buhari’s speech that marked his 70th birthday has betrayed the soldier (Military Head of State) in him to the chagrin of acolytes who have been shouting from roofs that (Buhari) he is now a democrat to the core. What did he say? Buhari said on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at Presidential Villa, Abuja, that democracy was too slow for his liking. His remarks came on the heels of comparing the prosecution of the current anti-corruption war to the one he prosecuted between 1983 and 1985. Buhari lamented that he had learnt the hard way that the current democratic system was different from that he ran as a military ruler in 1983.
His lamentation is not a surprise to observers, as Buhari in 1983, within a few months had jailed many Second Republic Governors for allegedly stealing government money in their care. He was nostalgic. He craves a situation that would give him a free hand to send fraud and embezzlement suspects to jail with promptness once he is convinced such suspects are guilty. His whim and caprice at play, you say!
With the quest for wanting his whims carried out with telling immediacy that brushes aside Due Process, those who have been up in arms, shouting democratic credentials of Buhari would undoubtedly now have a rethink. They should cover their faces in shame. Whether they accept it or not, their principal has confessed he finds democracy and its attendant mechanism of the ruling, challenging, putting him under unbearable pressure, a discomfort on him.
Buhari from his remark in his 70th birthday speech does not believe in the sacredness of convention. To him, the Rule of Law is an anathema. He subscribes to the belief in the ruler’s infallible wisdom. That a ruler is equipped with knowledge that places him above inadequacy and incapacity-dogged with defection and constraints that are huddles on his path to make people live a better life.
Such a belief portrays his irreconcilable difference with those who insist that Rule of Law is supreme in any society that craves peace, freedom, equity and fairness. There is a great danger in allowing the spur of the moment or emotion to dictate the course of events, for a person or society.
In the past, people have been detained, jailed and even killed for a crime they didn’t commit. Damages could be paid to atone for wrongful detention and imprisonment. However, a life wrongfully terminated can never be returned or revived.
That is the danger embedded in treating the Rule of Law and Due Process with contempt. The military background of Buhari and its attendant regimentation could not allow him to see merit in the Rule of Law and its wheels that grind slowly but surely dispense justice to all and sundry.
Between 1983 when Buhari took power and 1985 when he was shoved out be General Ibrahim President Babangida, Buhari romanced with a retroactive decree that took lives of three alleged hard drug pushers
The President’s refusal to observe Due Process in the prosecution of Dasuki and Sowore had given the two a status of prisoners of conscience as it has diverted public attention from the gravity of the crimes the two accused were charged with. The continued detention of the two after courts of competent jurisdiction had granted them bail was nothing but a height of lawlessness. Foolishly on the part of those dictating the tone to the DSS to trample on the Rule of Law and temple of justice, they encouraged Dasuki too to be recalcitrant as he refused to come to court since July 2018 to face his trial unless the bail given to him was observed to the letter. Is it not a shame that the accused were allowed to go on bail after much internal pressure, protest, demonstration and uncomplimentary comments by some United States (US) lawmakers besides, U.S. Ambassador, Ms Marry Leonard, raised an observation that Nigeria is on watch list of US of countries that have no respect for fundamental human rights and freedom. What the Federal Government did by belatedly releasing the two from detention after an instruction (directive) from the office of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was nothing but a disgrace to the judiciary and a slap on Nigeria’s claim to sovereignty.
President Buhari thus proved Lord Acton’s assertion that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Today, Nigeria runs a democratic government, constitutional administration where the rule of law is king. Ironically, Buhari’s winning mantra is fighting corruption. There is no corruption worse than abuse of law, power and order. Buhari has betrayed those who claimed on his behalf that he is a converted democrat. Thus, his statement that democracy was too slow for him in his crusade against corruption in his birthday speech has shown that he might be after all a pretender to democracy.
Recalled that it was his absolute power as a military head of state that engendered execution of three drug pushers, Bernard Ogedengbe, Batholomew Owoh and Lawal Ojuolape, using retroactive decree 2 and the jailing of The Guardian’s two journalists, Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson over decree, 4 that said that publishing the truth could send a reporter to jail if the report embarrassed the government officials.
A retroactive law is not only dictatorial but vindictive. It allows anybody in power to rootlessly deal with those he has an axe to grind with, in the past, before he came to power.
A retrogressive law that does not recognise the sanctity of life is fit for only the jungles. Besides, the Rule of Law has no space for such a decadent law in the law book. In the glory of his military power, if a news item is true in all of its ramifications, it could send a journalist to goal, if it portrays a government officer in bad light or denigrates him/her in the estimate of members of the public.
Today, it would not be a surprise that Buhari would support Hate Speech Bill in totality. Any legal framework that protects and upholds the fundamental rights freedom and liberty of people is unlikely to be famous in the precinct of Major-General turned Civilian President.
Would it, therefore, surprise observers that officials of the Department of State Security (DSS) were disobeying the court’s order and ruling with impunity? They desecrated the temple of justice, violently arrested a treason suspect inside a courtroom, while the court was in session.
The presidency or to be more appropriate President Buhari did not see anything wrong in all this. He would not regard it as lawlessness either.
Sowore, an Advocate and Convener of Revolution Now was arrested and taken to court because there was a ground-swell suspicion that he has a case to answer. Fine.
The court, however, granted him bail and officers charged with upholding law and order regarded the bail bad in their estimation and trampled on the court order. It is regrettable to say the least. This is democracy, not a military dictatorship. Buhari should face the reality of democratic governance that rests on the pillar of the Rule of Law. Not on the whims and caprice of the man in power.
– Tajudeen Adigun
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