Events of the past few weeks in my home state of Ekiti and the Middle Belt state of Plateau have been nothing short of alarming. In what appears to be a trepid dance to anarchy, both states have been consumed by the desires and ambition of the dramatis persona. The reasons I am shocked is not the politics that have been the hallmark of the whole process of indicting the apparently corrupt state governors, the more alarming dimension is the seeming lack of respect of both the “bad people” and the “good people” in these brouhaha for what many will simply call the rule of law, the law of the land or the constitution as the case may be.
In Ekiti it began with the rightly deserved impeachment notice by legislators who were in EFCC custody to the thug residing in the Ekiti state governor’s mansion. In his characteristic thuggish manner, Fayose called the bluff of the legislators, getting the help of his godfathers in Olabode George (the man who sat on NPA while billions got missing and Obasanjo looked the other way) and focused his attention on threatening the Chief Judge who obviously having been intimidated did rather do his bidding in selecting people who obviously have an interest in seeing Fayose continue his kleptomaniac rule of Ekiti state. The members of the panel indeed must be ashamed of themselves, so also must the Chief Judge Bamisale who has proven that he is not worthy of the high office he holds. I mean what a joke? If you did not have procedure to sit or even the blessing to proceed, how can you declare an accused before you innocent? The worst you can do is to dissolve the panel or at least dismiss case against the accused. But if the actions or constitution of the panel was abnormal under the rule of law, then wait from the shocker from the makers of the law themselves.
Showing their ignorance, the Lagos based Ekiti legislators threw caution to the wind the moment the Chief Justice released the bias list and did the unimaginable. In a total breach of the constitution, they purportedly suspended the Chief Justice and even went ahead to appoint an acting Chief Justice – who innocuously now has a panel, now also declared illegal by the head of the Nigerian Judiciary- the Chief Justice of the Federation. Without getting into the details of the law, you cannot build something upon nothing. It thus appears that the whole Ekiti saga has been dogged by one extreme act of illegality to another such that now the will of the people is being held hostage by a group of ignorant thugs of course made up of PDP Chieftains in the national secretariat of the party, to the state governor, to the legislators and even if I must say members of the Judiciary and of course the panel. It is a shame!
In all of these, one thing that is certain is that when the rule of law is thrown out of the window what we get is anarchy. This is already evident in Plateau state where two lives have since been lost at the altar of political struggle between an obviously displeased Aso Rock that wants to dislodge the stealing and bail jumping governor by all means possible. How on earth can eight legislators sit in quorum? It beats my imagination that indeed, some resourceful Nigerians have since started quoting Section 102 to support this illegality. Can then, one legislator sit in quorum and constitute a house of assembly because of the absence of the others? The truth is that for a house of assembly to truly be seated, a number of things including the mace, quorum and indeed a notice of sitting duly signed by the subsisting speaker need to be in place for it to qualify as a legal sitting. Indeed, two out of these three essential ingredients were missing in the EFCC enforced sitting in Jos that in one fell swoop impeached a sitting speaker (by 6 votes out of twenty four members, since two members obviously refused to be party to the actions of their colleagues). The case is in court, and an injunction was obtained on Thursday to stop further sittings by the new “house” (widely reported in the dailies but obviously disobeyed) which led to the fracas on Friday. It also beat me that suddenly PDP after throwing the clause of the constitution that prescribes relinquishing a legislative on cross carpeting to a new party, is suddenly trying to implement the same clause on the 16 Action Congress (AC) legislators of Plateau State. That is standing rule of law on its head and makes the party look dumber.
Throwing out the rule of law is particularly not a new thing to this administration; it has been going on from day one and it in fact can be traded to the allowance of the Sharia debacle in the North for political reasons in the first term. Indeed, if the President were interested in defending the constitution which he swore to uphold and the secularity it seeks to preserve he would have been in the Supreme Court to challenge that move by the Sharia governors. But heck, he threw that in the wind in exchange for short term peace and as usual a long chain of law breaking which led to Ladoja being removed under similar sub-two thirds vote in Oyo Stateawhile ago. Ultimately however, the will of the people would eventually prevail to remove these stealing governors and it is only proper that it should. Fayose ad Dariye will sing very soon and it will not be a palatable song.
Without a doubt, I have supported the EFCC use of extreme measures in the past to obtain impeachment and prosecution of state executives. One of such instance was the case in Bayelsa. In that instance, I thought the response was commensurate to the crime of breaking immigration rules, jumping bail and bringing the name of the nation to international disrepute all crimes then perpetuated by Governor Alams. In that instance however, the necessary quorum of legislators was secured and vote duly obtained. Procedurally, the Governor was legally removed and it will stand scrutiny in the court of law. Indeed, it is my believe then and now that since in most states the Chief Executives and their legislators were in the know to steal the people’s money, the onus then lies on EFCC to force the hand of legislators by the combination of threats and blackmail to do what is right and boot their thieving godfather out of office. This tactics is largely appropriate for the Nigerian situation but the extreme of providing protection and security for illegal actions as was or is being perpetrated in Oyo, Ekiti and Plateau states is nothing short but alarming.
Throwing the rule of law out of the window for short term gains including securing conviction or punishing corrupt leaders is short sighted and self defeating. In fact, I reject every claim that the choice before Nigerians is to have the rule of law or fight corruption. We can do both; in fact if the EFCC and the Police are products of the law, then it is their duty to uphold the law; but I am afraid that recent events seem to point otherwise. Many commentators have expressed their readiness to trade the rule of law for the momentary spat at perceived corrupt politicians, but I must say that the under belly of such actions is anarchy, use of the same tactics to settle personal scores and ultimately a demise of our hard earned democracy. While we might disagree with the provisions of the constitution, especially on executive immunity, it behooves on us to ensure that all parties play by the rule. This includes the crime fighting agencies, the legislators, the executive and above all the judiciary. When the judiciary becomes enmeshed in intra-party politics, we destroy the last hope of the common man. And a society where every modicum of justice breaks down is one festering black hole for prolonged and sustained anarchy. Corruption is a far more tolerable disease than all out anarchy – a word is enough for the wise. The mantra that exceptional problems deserve exceptional solutions should be muttered along with the other that two wrongs do not make a right – except of course it is mathemati
The incidents of the past few weeks shows the limit of using government apparatus to cure national diseases, it speaks no doubt to the heart of libertarianism that if people must be free indeed then freedom will not come from a reformer politician, or one person in government but from the society at large. Ribadu might be serious about curing our nation of corruption but he is only human and he will make mistakes; he has his biases and he will act on them; he is answerable to a very corrupt politician in the person of the President and may be his VeePee. The next phase of fighting corruption should place more emphasis on our society, our orientation as this is the only way we can leave a lasting legacy to the next generation; our society needs healing. The EFCC is Nigeria’s baby, and it must be saved from itself and indeed, its number one enemy- President Obasanjo; May 29 2007, here we come.