Liberty, Democracy And Rule Of Law: Whither Nigeria?

by Ritchie Ejiofor

Vigilance remains the ultimate sacrifice and price to pay for liberty. Liberty and democracy must necessarily interlope with one another to fine tune the system so as to produce lesser friction and injustice, which is hinged on a well-defined concept and application of the rule of law. The call for restructuring Nigeria seeks nothing more than a country with a well-defined application of the rule of law and defenses of liberty and freedom, which is what democracy, seeks to enthrone.

During the last one year or so, the score sheet of Nigeria’s romance and gyration with civilian type government, which could in honesty be described as anything but democracy, has given so much concern at the level of degeneration and grasping with the concept of liberty, democracy and the rule of law. Democracy in its original intention is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. It presupposes that the government is responsible to the wishes of the people as expressed by their majority opinion through their elected representatives. The system ensures that the executive only initiate and execute policies approved by the legislature while the judiciary interprets impartially the laws that are clearly written to govern the people.

An x-ray of what goes on in the Nigerian example gives one so much to ponder about. The rule of law is the backbone on which personal liberty and freedom must exist. It recognizes the respect for equal protection and access to the law. And ensures that liberty and freedom are so protected to safeguard it being trampled by excessive government overbearing, over zealousness or callous exercise of discretion.

The military is able to trample easily on the rule of law because of the legendary manner with which they churn out decrees and edicts and in most cases conflicting pronouncements. For the rule of law to be validated, there must be clear and concise rules which to all intent and purposes ensure that too much government discretionary powers are eliminated .The absence of this safeguard leads to abuse of freedom. This safeguard with respect is still lacking in Nigeria today. The recent military cum police wahala over arrest of military personnel is a case in point.

Talking about abuse of freedom, the Nigerian police readily comes to mind. The wide powers of the police makes them unchallengeable and anyone who dares to is made a scape goat. The police have gradually eroded the liberty, freedom and rights of the average Nigerian to the point of non-existence. Take the case of bail, warrant of arrest, detention, awaiting trial, stop and search, motor vehicle particulars, road blocks, etc. These discretionary power granted to the police in Nigeria have been so abused that many Nigerians regard the issues of freedom, liberty, and rule of law as mere academic exercise and utopian at best. The police have come to be seen as the enemy of the people, an army of occupation as witnessed in most anti-riot quelling, an impartial arbiter. In anti-riot situations, many Nigerians are killed and maimed more from police brutality than from the disturbances themselves.

The recent invasion of Okigwe and izonland by soldiers in a bid to effect what could not be described as a riot situation explicitly buttress how much the present leadership regards the issues of respect for liberty and rule of law. The arrest, detention without trial of Fasheun and members of the OPC are all cases in point. To date, Nigerians still read with utter dismay and embarrassment incidences where the police and other government agencies storm in commando-like operations to newspapers and news media houses to confiscate supposedly “offending” publications. News editors and journalists are arrested and intimidated, Police invaded the house of the former federal senate president in search of the “golden mace”. Till date nobody has inquired who gave them the authority to do so. A government cannot preach or claim to be democratic if it does half-measured democratic policies. Once the mass media are compromised in a state where their freedom for free speech, opinion, and expression is restricted, the democracy and all it’s beautiful features would be jeopardized.

Democracy in the 21st century is tied to global economic rejuvenation. A stable political atmosphere precipitates and encourages investors to the economy. This is the most singular reason why the economies of African nations refuse to attract foreign investors. No investor invests in an economy where there are no clear stated rules and procedures. Many investors to Africa fear losing their investments largely due to the whims of government. Instead of our leaders trying to show and lead by example, our legislatures engage in fist fighting over pettiness and how to share their booty…this is definitely not a good example. Our leaders cannot tell us to listen to Moses, and they go back dancing round the golden calf.

As Nigerians, we should not lose sight of the enormous responsibilities we owe to future generations. We owe the future a legacy of transparent government, a system that makes life less brutish, a just society, an equal society and above all, an ideal nation. We should not wait for the likes of late M.K.O. to experience the bitter pills of the “mad dog” syndrome before we stand and fight to eliminate it. It takes the citizens to rise up and change an unjust system. It begins with the first step and everyone owes Nigeria that duty to help change the country for the better.

Nigerians should not be content to reside overseas and help them build their system while our dear country wallows in abject disarray. Every day in the life of the ordinary Nigerian in Nigeria is brutish; we must overcome this yoke. We must learn how to be civil in dealing with the Niger-delta crisis; we must learn to tolerate issues we don’t necessarily agree with. We should not eliminate the Ogonis because the government hates them. The people of Okigwe and the entire Igboland should be spared their present agony. Same goes for the OPC members who are clamoring for right to self-actualization.

Conversely the Christians and non Muslims in the sharia imposed states should be guaranteed their freedom inherent in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which allows for freedom to religion, opinion, association, etc., without any imposed religion dictating for them what their health concerns or social concerns and restriction should be. We have courts to solve these issues. The police should be thought to respect the liberty of accused persons .The police should remain an impartial arbiter and not an army of occupation used by Lord Luggard in his famous “race to Nikki”.

Fellow countrymen, let us join hands to make this country work. Daily, Nigerians are denied their liberties, freedom and rights… VIGILANCE IS THE PRICE TO PAY FOR LIBERTY.

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emma January 31, 2007 - 9:14 am

Goverment rule of law in Nigeria

Anonymous August 2, 2005 - 9:57 am

it very incisive


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