Samuel Rutherford swung it better than a man in cassock should. But does truth reside in the sanctimonious alone? Does it dwell behind the veil of spirituality or is there something so deep about truth, so lucid about it that like water it defies space and time and moves against gravity or in consonance with it …all the way home?
Let’s count the votes: For all his contribution to Physics, Philosophy of Science and the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein still said: Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. In admonishing his audience to absorb the truth of life, W. Clement Stone once said: Truth will always be truth regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or ignorance. To stone’s lay up of words, I add: Not even deceit can defeat the pungent nature of truth.
Why do we talk about truth this week? Last week, the Nigeria Bar Association observed its annual national conference with the theme: Transition, Transformation and Sustainable Institutions. The address of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari put the theme on its head when he said that the rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest citing out of context, the Supreme Court’s decision in Mujahid Asari Dokubo v. The Federal Government of Nigeria (2007). It is doubtful if he didn’t know the implication of what he said or if he wanted to mould facts into his own version of truth.What was however not lost was that the President caused a ripple.
President Buhari’s Deleterious Definition.
President Buhari’s pernicious doctrine pitches Dicey’s Rule of Law against Buhari’s Ruse of force in stark ways. The tendency to define Law in individual terms and to organically destroy reason through repeated application of arbitrary judgment shows how a nation can end up on a swamp pile when those in leadership positions are left to craft their own laws. A few weeks ago, I sat on the same panel with Prof Femi Odekunle and soon got animated in our side talk. Prof was concerned that there was much emphasis on the Rule of Law but not the Rule of Justice. After some minutes of engaging the facts, we got on the same page and agreed that Law void of morality were at best sterile rules and at worst, tools of benevolent dictatorship. And then Prof stopped midway: ‘What party do you support Gloria?’ I smiled and held his gaze: “I support the Nigerian party. Things are bad enough and the leading political platforms we have operate more on whims than on principles’’. He sensed that my postulation came from a deep place and then he answered “ I support President Buhari, because he is not corrupt.” Aooh! I nodded knowingly and held back my next line of reply.
You see, I have known Prof. Femi Odekunle for a long, long time. He was delighted to learn that I was a student of the Masters in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Criminology programme he designed before leaving Ahmadu Bello University. He was even more excited when I reminded him about a time he visited the Faculty of Law as a guest lecturer when I was the student adviser of Liberty Chambers. A lot of people hold Professor Odekunle to really high standards just like they do Prof Itse Sagay both of whom serve on the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption. Today, both Professors seem to be operating against the weight of the realities of the President Buhari’s administration.
First, Buhari is under the illusion that he is a better craftsman of the laws than those before him. Unfortunately, his handlers and advisors see Buhari as a better counsel to himself when it comes to expert opinion. The result is what we inevitably saw at the NBA conference when the President claimed that the Rule of Law could be suspended in favour of National security. I doubt the President wrote that speech himself if he didn’t the speech crafter did a disservice not only to the nation but to all lovers of a just society.
Here we are in a country where court orders are blatantly disobeyed; where the concept of separation of powers is almost non-existent; where the state takes for itself prisoners of its choosing and the crisis of confidence between the leaders and the led is exacerbated by failed promises, a blistering polity and a biting economy. It is a time where the PMB-led administration turns blind to the impunity and infraction in its cabinet in order to pick the specks in the society.
Like Charles Dickens Two Cities, it is the best of times with some of the most experienced hands in government but the worst of times with the reign of impunity. It is the age of wisdom in new media and international politics but the age of foolishness in being deliberately blind to truth. It is the epoch of belief-of a sanctimonious presidential priest tainted by the ills he preaches about and the epoch of incredulity of the President’s handlers who do not see the water sinking the ship. It is the season of light where faith was high on performance and a season of darkness where faith is being defeated by doubt.
Out of the Woods.
Buhari is in a lonely place. His memory and ignorance collide and the balance hangs in the unknown. When the term Rule of Law was conceptualized, four universal principles were envisioned: First, that government and all people must be accountable under Law for justice to be birthed. Two, that Law cannot be the spurious concept of the sovereign but must evolve from the people and be precise, just and evenly applicable for the protection of fundamental rights .
Three, that democracy should mean an open government where laws are enacted, administered and enforced in fair and efficient modes. Four, that justice is timely delivered by competent, ethical and independent representatives who are accessible, have adequate resources and reflect the realities of the communities they serve.
It is this absolute predominance of law over all citizen, no matter how powerful that moves a country from the Hobessian nasty, brutish and short state of nature to one where there is improvement of quality of life and general progress of society and mankind. The times may have changed but the time tested principle of the Rule of Law remains.
I refuse to believe that Nigeria is so tragically bound to impunity that the Rule of Law has to be restyled by Buhari, no! The honesty and integrity of justice should and must have the final say. When the courts issue judgments according to justice, it behooves those in authority to show clear example by being the first to obey it. The immiscible fusion of military rule to a form of democracy that is intolerant to divergent views, hostile to civility and inclusion must give way to a more coordinated and integrated Nigerian state where we are bold in our national ambitions, high on moral standards and strong in values so we can enable the transformation to social justice and a strong economy.
Farewell to Kofi Annan
I grew up with Chief Kofi Annan right up every now and again on my TV screen. His name was so common and synonymous to peace that it is easy to forget the ceiling he smashed to make his way up as the first and perhaps the most remarkable global peace scribe. If there ever was a man who exemplified the blessedness of peacemaking, Mr. Annan was that man. His words were gentle but firm with peace.
His looks exuded it. How he found courage under fire and demonstrated the version of higher humanity in the midst of wrong would be something to study for a lifetime. For many of us who never found the privilege to meet him but who felt to us like a favorite African uncle, Annan was and will always be the man to save in the annals of history.Thank you sir for many years of being the conscience of the world.
Thank you for demonstrating that we can rise above the baser instincts that frail humans. Thank you above all for seeking peace and for which reason many who would have needlessly died got a chance to live only because you fought to stay on the side of peace and justice. Son of the Prince of Peace, your duties have come to an end. On earth you lived in peace now reign in power! Good night.
Barr Gloria is a lawyer and writes from Kaduna