GOD bless the Late Sonny Okosuns. In the mid 1980s, when Nigeria looked like a paradise compared to today’s hellish realities, he sang, “Which way, Nigeria; which way to go? I love my fatherland, so I want to know which way Nigeria is heading to.” Were he to resurrect briefly to see how far we had journeyed into the jungle, how sad he would feel in the afterlife out there!
Our flight to the edge of the abyss is the story of the sufferings of democracy and the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is the foundation of democracy and when laws are selectively applied or disregarded outright by institutions and personages of government, allowances are created for dangerous resort to self-help and subsequent slide into anarchy.
Barack Obama said, “One of the challenges of democratic government is making sure that even in the midst of emergencies and passions, we make sure that the Rule of Law and the basic precept of justice and liberty prevail.” These are what can arrest the rule of might and gravitation into chaos. In Nigeria, there are clearly spelt-out procedures for apprehension of all manners of wrongs and crimes in the constitution and the penal codes. It is the duty of the policing and security system firstly; which is under executive supervision, then the duty of the independent judiciary, to rigorously, promptly and impartially pursue. Once undone, the door to the rule of force opens wide.
Therefore, the first responsibility belongs to institutions of government manned by those the people voted for and elected into offices at the executive and legislative levels (with their appointed aides); and the best of the professionals manning the policing/security system, and the third tier of government – the judiciary. Once they fail in their duties to the people and the nation, for lack of vision, courage, passion and democratic commitments, their wrongful acts and inactions precipitate public distrust, disrespect (and eventually even rebellion) towards government and institutions, and leads to a chain reaction of leadership failures down to the grassroots level. Self-centredness, nepotism and clique/cabal rule replaces the Rule of Law and the travails of democracy begin, as patriotism and nationalism disappear down the drain.
When a nation finds itself as such at the edge of the precipice drowning in unremitted violence, crimes and rumours of war, what is to be done, with majority of its instructions weakened by corruption, ineptitude and dominated by blind and self-seeking drivers? Of course, despair, desperation and panic are not the options; rather, it is time for sacrifices by well-meaning, forthright and patriotic leaders and citizens, with their first acts being the resurrection and purification of their organs for mass mobilisation against sinister errors, diabolic machinations and rules: a time for return to their popular organisations.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The clearest way to show what the Rule of Law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no Rule of Law,” . So, if these patriots remember not only the horrors of the civil war but the dark days of the military, they must now rouse themselves and rouse their slumbering, disoriented and compromised structures of struggle, shift the gear and step on the accelerator; turning the mass of the people, and thereby the nation, in a new, redeeming direction.
“When dictators and tyrants seek to destroy the freedom of men, their first target is the legal profession and through it the Rule of Law,” said Leon Jaworski, and we have seen that happened in this country; and Benjamin Franklin warned too that “whosoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech,” which we have witnessed along with assaults on peaceful protests while armed, killer bandits are being appeased!
Confronted today by what is quickly amounting to a taciturn government not alive to its core responsibilities in a crippled democracy, organised labour, trade and professional bodies, the students’ movement, rights and pro-democracy organisations, religious and cultural associations, the press and independent judiciary must now be rallied by those who can rightly do so, and are positioned to so do – to speak out, speak up and do the needful. It is surely one of our last resorts for a return to sanity, a retreat from the brink of destruction, and a match towards “unity and faith, peace and progress.”