Anarchy looms when chief law compliant becomes chief law breaker under a democratic dispensation. The Federation of Nigeria under Muhammadu Buhari is both in danger and endangered. Though President Muhammadu Buhari’s open and brazen contempt for constitutionalism and rule of law during his last night’s maiden presidential chat is condemned by all and sundry; but his courage to declare same openly is commendable. Nigerians and members of the international community are now fully aware that President Muhammadu Buhari is the chief law breaker and chief enemy of constitutionalism and rule of law in Nigeria.
Also as far as the President is concerned, it is either that there is no rule of law and separation of powers in Nigeria or their existence amounts to executive appendages. President Muhammadu Buhari has in black and white convicted and jailed the duo of Citizens Nnamdi Kanu and Sambo Dasuki and magisterially prepared them for capital punishments at his designated time. Mr. President is now the accuser, the arresting authority, detainer, investigator, prosecutor, convicting and sentencing authority as well as the executor. This is ANARCHY in its entirety!
The words of President Muhammadu Buhari are now vox dei, supreme and meta-constitutional. In the history of judiciary and rule of law in Nigeria, they have never received the kind of mockery and contempt being received under the nascent Buhari administration. All our critical and unbiased advocacy positions taken against the Buhari administration prior and after his presidential inauguration have come to pass. We had as early as May 2015; weeks before his presidential inauguration, called upon his political party (APC) to send him to the National Democratic Institute in USA so as to be tutored on tenets of democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law as well as political tolerance and politics of inclusiveness.
Sadly, his party marked us out as one of its enemies till date. When clear signs of dictatorship and its triggers began to unfold and take their positions; we, again, cried out, but nobody bordered to listen. The country’s leading agents of democracy and rule of law pretended and the pretence became a case of a certain reverend during the dying days of the second world war; who refused to act or speak out when Nazi fighters came for the Jews and others in turn; until they came for him and members of his ethnic origin. Dictatorship is like a swarm of bees that knows no friend or enemy when on rampage. Today, Buhari’s wind of dictatorship is sweeping and threatening the foundation of the judiciary, which is not only the bastion of democracy, but also the socio-economic livewire of the country’s legal profession.
The human rights movement, community and practices in Nigeria are also under serious threat; the unholy union between the Buhari and his APC and leading Southwest dominated rights CSOs; leading to consistent and conspiratorial unholy advocacy silence, notwithstanding. All the coercive establishments in Nigeria have suddenly become murderous, lawless and corruptively uncontrollable. Roadblock, pre-detention and pretrial bribes are riotously demanded by security forces; with instant death and physical and mental barbarous treatments as consequences for those daring not to pay.
Apart from incoherence and uncoordinated nature of Buhari’s maiden media chat, the President’s open opposition to rule of law and constitutionalism is an open invitation to anarchy and lawlessness in Nigeria. In the security forces’ circles, it will lead to return to “I can kill you and nothing will happen” or “your long detention without trial is sequel to orders from above”. Present IGP, Solomon Arase, is reported already to have used it in the case of detained Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky in response to a request by the latter’s relatives and lawyers to visit him in detention. The President’s open contempt to constitutionalism and rule of law can also bring about mass resort to self help and civil disobedience as well as disrespect and degradation of social values and sharp increase in criminal activities particularly street and cyber crimes, domestic violence and communal and urban neighborhood violence.
Remedies: As we have always been doing, for any advocacy criticism we hand down against any ill-fated government policy or conduct, it must be accompanied with a critically considered solution or way out. This is occasioned by our firm conviction of putting in our best for collective betterment of the society. One of the remedies to tackle President Buhari’s blundered and vexatious maiden media chat is to beg all Nigerians not to resort to self help and civil disobedience on account of Buhari’s open contempt to constitutionalism and rule of law. It must be noted that President Buhari cannot give what he does not have. An example is biblical Paul (Saul) and Peter in matters of knowledge and wisdom.
Also no matter how neat a mother dresses her child and ties him or her on her back, once he or she is detached from her mother’s back, he or she relapses on the ground and becomes dusty in a twinkle of an eye. If South Africans can manage their stark illiterate President Jacob Zuma, Nigerians can as well manage their not-too-educated President. Other than the above, President Muhammadu Buhari’s private and public affairs managers have a lot of work to do. A ceremonious written speech is totally not the same as “live media chat”, which is “extempore”. The President must be taken back to a mini thinker’s corner inside the Aso Rock Villa or State House and be properly brushed and made to realize the difference between the world of “1984-1985” and 2015. In the world of “1984-1985”, for instance, Soviet Union or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still one country, but in the world of 2015, it is now moribund with 15 distinct countries; likewise former East and West Germany, now United Germany; Czechoslovakia, now Czech and Slovakia; and former Yugoslavia, now moribund with six distinct States.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s private and public affairs managers must importantly make him to realize that it is legislatively impeachable for a democratic and constitutional President to openly and inexcusably lend credence or justify his disobedience to judicial pronouncements as well as unconstitutional infringement of the constitutional and judicial liberties of his fellow Nigerians whom he merely accused of being in conflict with the law; who must enjoy their constitutional rights to fair hearing and presumption of innocence until judicially found guilty. Mr. President must also be reminded by his kitchen and public affairs managers that his open admission of disobedience to court orders and opposition to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution including constitutional and judicial bails amount to grave violation of Section 1 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (supremacy of the Constitution above any other law or presidential pronouncement).
Another remedy to tackle the blundered and vexatious maiden media chat of President Buhari is for Nigerians to ignore his anti constitutionalism and rule of law stance and reassert their total faith in the judiciary, rule of law and constitutionalism. These three are pillars all Nigerians must stand up and protect at all times for our common good. This is more so when the same judiciary, rule of law and constitutionalism that President Buhari is rapaciously mocking and disrespecting today, will surely come to his rescue someday especially now that it is obvious to him and his followers that when civil power changes to another civil powers; the hunters of today will become the hunted of tomorrow.
As for security forces and their headships that have become murderous, lawless and corruptively uncontrollable overnight, on account of President Buhari’s dictatorial disposition and anti human rights stance; they must retrace their murderous and lawless steps and ignore elements in the camp of a former President, who reportedly encouraged them periodically to continue their atrocious conducts, citing the cases of unaddressed Odi and Zakibiam massacres among similar atrocious others. They must be reminded that the hitherto global culture of impunity for varying atrocities like crimes against humanity, is steadily waning and culture of criminal responsibility is now the order of the day.
Finally, we call upon the families, followers, supporters, friends and lawyers of those citizens accused openly by President Muhammadu Buhari of being in conflict with the law particularly the trios of Citizens Nnamdi Kanu, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and Sambo Dasuki not to be cowed by any presidential intimidation; but to have implicit confidence in judiciary as the country’s bastion of democracy and last hope of the common man. The culture of disobedience to court orders adopted consequent upon the direct orders of President Buhari as well as the attitude of resorting to “re-arrest” and slamming of fresh charges should not deter them as well.
In handling these, in addition to preparation of their defense and bail applications; their lawyers must not lose the sight of clear provisions of Sections 36 (8), 36 (12) and 35 of the 1999 Constitution as well as Sections 293 to 296 and 150 to 188 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015. These provisions are adequate safeguards to crush the criminal investigative and prosecutorial gambling and ouster practices presently adopted by the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. Let them continue to disobey court ordered bails and go on and on in re-arresting the accused and re-charging them until graver felonies in the Criminal Code are exhausted; resulting to them being charged for “common or simple assault”.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Mobile Phone: +2348174090052
Barr Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program