There are fears that a dictator can hide under the canopy of the ‘supremacy’ of these interests to subject citizens to undue detention, torture and other inhuman treatments
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday hugged controversy while opening the 59th annual general conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) when he elaborately stated that “The rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest. Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that; where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.”
The president’s speech has received criticisms from lawyers, human rights activists, politicians and journalists across the country. Most Nigerians faulted the president’s position and argued that such a proposition will take us back to full dictatorship. It is even wrong that the president chose the lawyers’ annual meeting as the venue to say such a thing that touches the rule of law and questions the principle of separation of powers under a democratic government.
It is only those in the All Progressives Congress (APC) government that can support such a view that will make Nigeria become a Hobbesian state where life is nasty, short and brutish. It is very important that we disagree with the president on this issue and tell him and his supporters that the rule of law on which the 1999 Nigerian Constitution was fashioned is superior to “national security and interest.”
We say this because the Constitution is the supreme law that governs Nigeria. Any other law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution is inferior and therefore null and void. Section 1 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states clearly that “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
By the way, who determines when such the nation’s security and national interest are under threat? There are fears that a dictator can hide under the canopy of the ‘supremacy’ of these interests to subject citizens to undue detention, torture and other inhuman treatments that vitiate the human rights of the victims which the Constitution, the grundnorm of the nation’s legal system, guarantees.
Therefore, the Constitution is supreme, nothing is superior to it. The protection of the nation’s security and its interest must be based on the rule of law. The ongoing war against corruption, which many critics say is selective, must be based on the rule of law. Any action of the government, its agencies or appointees must be based on the rule of law.
The government must obey court orders and rulings. Every action of the government must be backed by law. Anything outside this is extra-legal and therefore unacceptable. Acting outside the provisions of the Constitution will ultimately lead to autocracy and full blown dictatorship, the type we experienced under the various military dictatorships. Mr. President’s stand is unacceptable.
We are in a democracy and the 2019 general election is around the corner. We don’t want the president to hide under any interest to clampdown on vocal Nigerians, the media and the opposition and perceived enemies of the administration. A nation exists because human beings exist. No nation will exist without human beings. Therefore, the human rights of the citizens are superior to the nation’s interest.
That is why such inalienable rights are protected by the Constitution, continental and international conventions which Nigeria freely signed. All Nigerians, including the present state actors, are equal before the law. That is the essence of the rule of law. The law will cease to be the last hope of the common man when the nation’s security or interest is placed far above the rule of law. Nigeria’s security and national interest will be much assured if the government subjects itself and its actions to the rule of law.
Inevitability of restructuring
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, recently stated that “the problem with our country is not a matter of restructuring and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into the argument that our problems stem from some geographical restructuring. It is about managing resources properly and providing for the people properly, that is what it is all about.”
This statement credited to the VP in far away United States contradicts his earlier stand on restructuring. It also contradicts that APC stand on restructuring before and after the 2015 general poll. Osinbajo’s u-turn conforms to his principal’s position on the matter. What the VP said does not vitiate the stand of most Nigerians who strongly believe that restructuring is the way to go and the only thing that can save this African giant from falling apart.
Osinbajo has not convinced Nigerians on what made to abandon restructuring which he argued that the APC government is not against. The party formed a committee on
restructuring headed by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, and the committed came out with recommendations. Since then the party’s leadership has been double-speaking on the matter. The party, instead of facing the matter that is inevitable, has resorted to name-calling of those behind restructuring campaign.
We believe that those calling for restructuring are not self-serving as this government has labeled them. In fact, they are the real patriots of the country. Whether APC likes it or not, restructuring this unworkable edifice has become inevitable. Any edifice that harbours over 87 million very poor citizens that live below $1.90 a day is overdue for restructuring. The era of “monkey de work, baboon de shop” should be over only through restructuring.
Good enough, restructuring will be a major campaign issue in the 2019 election. People that own the resources all of us enjoy must have a major portion of the national cake. We cannot run away from this reality. That is how it is done all over the world. A nation of over 200 million people of diverse ethnic groups, cultures and religions is quite overripe for restructuring. A nation that is burdened by insurgency, kidnapping and herdsmen killings must be restructured.
Theresa May’s home truth
The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, on Tuesday hit the nail on the head when he said that Nigeria is home to highest number of the world’s very poor people. May said that 87 million Nigerians were living below $1.90 a day and concluded that Nigeria is “home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world.”
May’s home truth has further confirmed Brookings Institution’s report that named Nigeria the poverty capital of the world in June. The World Poverty Clock reports that seven Nigerians fall into extreme poverty every minute. These are worrying statistics. Let the APC government pay heed to these revelations and do the needful to salvage the slumbering African giant.