By Charles Ogbu
Mr President Sir,
This memo is necessitated by issues of urgent national importance not unconnected with your statement at the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association where you told a gathering of eminent judges and lawyers that the rule of law is not supreme and could be set aside in the interest of National interest and Security.
When I watched you read that statement with a straight face, I was tempted to simply pause and die crying. Crying at the sight of a democratically elected President trying so hard to destroy that same democracy in a way and manner that is brazenly blatant.
I'm tempted to ask, Mr President, who defines what constitutes National interest? You?
With due respect, Mr President, in a democracy, that statement of yours is as atrocious as it is criminally offensive. In fact, there is a sense in which it can be interpreted as verbal treason. That you had the audacity to air such iniquitious and dictatorial view in presence of members of the judiciary which is a separate arm of government portrays you as an unsalvageable Emperor who has nothing but raw unadulterated contempt for the checks and balances of democratic processes and Procedures. The failure of the judges and Lawyers present at the gathering to immediately protest that legal sacrilege by staging a walkout is nothing short of a walking shame, one that should be studied in the University as a 3 unit course.
Mr President sir, Rule of law is the basic foundation upon which democracy rests and democracy is like pregnancy. You cannot be 'a little bit pregnant'. You are either pregnant or you are not. As a President, you are either practicing democracy, in which case, you must abide by the sacrosanctity of the rule of law or you are a full blown dictator. There is no "but", there is no "If".
Mr President, It is not rule of law that threatens National security. The greatest threat to National security and national interest is a President who treats the constitution, court judgments and human rights of his fellow citizens, who by the way, are his employers, with criminal disdain. A President that thinks the law should be replaced with his own whims and caprices is a danger to not just the society but himself.
Rule of law is the basic foundation upon which every civilized society rests. And it is anchored on certain principles which can be summarized as follows: (1)SUPREMACY OF THE LAW which explains that the society must be governed in accordance with established laws which must supersede the whims and caprices of any individual (2) EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW which states that all men are equal before the law and that no man shall be treated above the law nor beneath the law. The way a Charles Ogbu is treated before the law should be the same way a Muhammadu Buhari is treated before that same law (3) THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS which simply guarantees that citizens are entitled to certain inalienable rights which is not the government's to give to their friend or withhold from their enemies. Sadly Mr President, you've violated and continue to violate all of these principles.
Mr President sir, rule of law is about fairness, orderliness and impartial administration of justice. Without social justice, equity and good conscience, all of which are ingredients of rule of law, a State has no legitimacy. In fact, these ingredients are so indispensable that the Roman African theologian, St. Augustine of Hippo had to conclude that "without justice, a State is nothing but a band of robbers". And in the popular Television series "Prison Break", the drug Lord Lechero would even put it better when he asserted, "Without rules, we are nothing but savages"
Permit me to remind you, Mr President, that most of the very serious challenges our national security and national interest are battling with today stem from your determination to ceaselessly subject the rule of law to bottomless ridicule. For instance, on December 17th, 2015, a federal high court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola ruled that the Department of State Security(DSS) under you should release the leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra(IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally. You neither obeyed that court order nor did you appeal it. You would later subject the judiciary to bottomless ridicule again on the same Kanu issue by invading his home, killing hundreds of people and disappearing him and his parents EVEN WHEN HE WAS STILL UNDER BAIL GRANTED HIM BY A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION. If you felt he had violated his bail conditions, you should have approached the court that granted him the bail. It is not your place to unilaterally determine that and take to self help the way you did. And if you felt he had committed fresh offenses, you ought to have filed fresh charges against him. Your handling of Kanu's case endangered national interest and security more than a million and one Nnamdi Kanu could ever have.
As a write, the former National Security adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) has been in detention for over 3 years and counting despite not less than 6 court orders including a ruling by the ECOWAS COURT, the same ECOWAS you now preside over, ordering that he be released on bail. Sheik Ibraheem Elzak-Zaky and his wife yet languish in detention despite numberless court orders that they be released.
Mr President sir, each time you disobey court order, violate the constitution and abuse the principle of Separation of Power, regardless of your reason, the clear message you pass across to Nigerians is that they too should resort to self help each time they have any disagreement with either their government or fellow citizens.
Finally Mr President, let me remind you that it was the rule of law that made you President. If you remove the rule of law as you are clearly trying to do, we will be left with nothing but the rule of force which is a euphemism for anarchy. And as a former dictator who once ruled Nigeria with a loaded gun and suspended constitution, you will have completely shattered the Buhari myth in such a horrible way that even history would be too ashamed to reserve a memory for you.
Remember, Mr President, that no man, no matter how powerful, can make a private bargain with history. Please accept the assurances of my highest regard.
By Femi Fani-Kayode
The greatest threat to national security and the national interest is a President that cannot appreciate the sanctity of the rule of law and the sacrosanct nature of the constitution.
If this rhetoric of national interest and national security being more important than the rule of law continues it will have grave, disasterous and cataclysmic consequences for our country. It will lead to strong resistance, subversion of the state, conflict, war and the disintegration of Nigeria.
This is because we are not prepared to live in or accept the imposition of a totalitarian police state where dissent, opposition, free speech, human rights and civil liberties have no place.
This is Nigeria where freedom flourishes and where democracy thrives and not Saudi Arabia or North Korea where it is dead.
Martin Luther King said "if you are not prepared to die for something then you are not fit to live for anything".
He said "If we are wrong, justice is a lie and love has no meaning".
Every Nigerian was born free: we will not allow anyone, including a lifeless President, to turn us into slaves.
The only things that we have asked for and are insisting on are the preservation of our liberty and cherished values, the right to an unhindered and unencumbered life and the establishment of an equitable, multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious modern and plural nation-state in which there are no masters and servants and in which every man, woman and child is regarded as being equal and having equal opportunities regardless of his or her faith, ethnic nationality and circumstance of birth.
We insist on the establishment of a nation in which we are free to make our own choices and in which our respect, pride, sense of self-worth and dignity are guaranteed and preserved. Anything less than that is unacceptable.
We hear the threats and boastful words of those that are in authority today, that control the levers of power and that man the organs of state.
We see and acknowledge their awesome power to crush, kill, maim, jail and destroy those of us that they hate and that they consider to be their enemies and adversaries yet we are not intimidated and we harbour no fear.
We refuse to bow and tremble before them or to bend the knee. We refuse to be cowered or to be silenced.
Instead we challenge them do their very worse because we serve an awesome God whose name is the Ancient of Days and the Lord of Hosts, who is mighty in battle.
We defy them and laugh them to scorn because the things that we have asked for are worth fighting and, if necessary, dying for.
We would rather live as free man for a single day than live as slaves for one thousand years. And make no mistake about it: we are not alone.
We are the voices of the voiceless and the servants of truth: when we speak, we speak for millions.
When we are killed, locked away or declared missing in action, in the name of the Living God, others will rise and continue the noble struggle and glorious fight.
We cannot be deterred, we cannot be defeated, we cannot be subdued and we cannot be overwhelmed.
Ultimately, in the name of God the Great and He who holds the universe together by the power of His word, you will fall and we shall prevail.