It’s the rule of law, eat it!
By Garba Shehu
Don’t argue about it, there is something to Yar’adua’s Rule of Law mantra. He could have chosen the lawless ways of his mentor and predecessor in office and all would have been paying dearly for it.
As a citizen victimised by President Olusegun Obasanjo, I benefited from the favourable disposition of the new administration to the rule of the law.
As small and insignificant as I consider myself to be, Obasanjo breathed down the neck of the SSS on the ordeal he unleashed on me, accusing them of treating this “enemy of state” with kid gloves.
The former President’s willing accomplice and stooge, Col Kayode Are (rtd), the then Director General of the SSS who must take the blame for the politicisation of the security outfit, charged his directors to handle this case with the firmness and enthusiasm that it warranted; after all this is the “enemy of the man who put me in this office.”
He saw this and many like it as an opportunity to ingratiate himself to the budding dictator and architect of the emerging single party state in Nigeria.
But once the political interest in the case was removed, the law took its course and Justice Lawal Gummi of the FCT judiciary had no difficulty throwing out the case.
All this however is not to say that the battle cry of “rule of law” can not like the tired cliché it is, be over-used. Rule of the law cannot be the “be all, end all” of the problems of any society.
Nigerians may probably only understand how wrongly wired we are, and how deeply in trouble this country is until they read their President’s full interview in Financial Times, published on Sunday May 18th. When they asked him to name his single most important achievement after one year in office, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua predictably mentioned this as being the “Rule of Law.”
In a country reeling under the weight of corruption, and is listed in the “cesspit 15” of the most corrupt; a country with the lowest per capita electricity supply in the world with no clue whatsoever of how to tame the deteriorating situation; a country that is gradually coming to terms with a so-called “low-intensity civil war” in the Niger Delta; a country that once led the African crude oil producers but now queues up behind a more organised and a more disciplined new-comer Angola; a country on the throes of a single-party rule and the aggressive decimation of political pluralism; a country that appears confused and unsure of what steps to take in view of the growing world-wide concerns about food shortages and drought would, to the rest of the world appear as if we know not our way around town when our leader proclaims that “the rule of law is the greatest battle this nation is facing today.”
Rule of law? Really? What about soil erosion; the desert encroachment and the challenge of climate change about which the rest of the world is showing helplessness and growing worry figuring out how to save the environment?
One writer, in an essay last week described the Nigerian roads as a museum of potholes. The governor of this country’s Central Bank says our graduates are unemployable and the country’s former President has shown how low the nation’s leadership sank in the past eight years, to a new low of cultural and moral depravity.
To each question, Yar’adua’s handlers seemed to have instructed that the rule of the laws is the best answer.
This reminds you of President Shehu Shagari’s “national unity” mantra. Shagari was so obsessed with the unity, unity and national unity of Nigeria that when they asked him for the solution of virtually every Nigerian problem including the lack of the development orientation of his government, Shagari’s ready answer was, and had always been to prescribe national unity.
They seem to share this shockingly casual approach to serious national problems. I love democracy and I don’t doubt that the rule of the law is as important as it is expected of any well-meaning administration. But democracy and the rule of law cannot be the sine quanon of national development. The so-called Asian Tigers including Japan under the Meiji dynasty achieved national development under dictatorships.
In Europe, democracy became a need only after the industrial revolution. So the rule of the law, important as it is, cannot substitute for the discernible lack of seriousness to govern this or any nation.
Such absence of perception and rigour dogged this anniversary interview, such that the President had to literally be rail-roaded by the interviewer to look beyond rule of law to admit the danger that the influx of oil money supplied to the states, states that keep hankering for more and more, posed to the economy.
Asked whether he saw the danger which the state governors’ insatiable demand for money posed to economic stability and as a pressure on inflation, the President seemed just okay with the appeal his rule of law slogan has with his subjects.
For him, “the sharing of reserves is controlled by the laws which are even constitutional… we will follow the law… Because where the law says this is what you do, you cannot do anything outside it.” Wow! When they say that the laws and the Constitution demand that all revenue be shared, does that in any way suggest that the President must put all cash into the pockets of the free-spending governors on the same day?
If we can wait for a month or a quarter (that is three months) before the ritual of Federation Allocation Committee meets to share money, we surely can wait some more time for when it is safe for the health of the economy to allow the money be spent. If the law intended the otherwise, it could have prescribed in detail that that be done.
The Argentine revenue sharing formula makes that the second a Dollar Cent of revenue lands in the joint account coffer, the computerised sharing formula takes it around in the right proportions to the state and central governments.
Lastly, we are daily being reminded that we have a President who has a mind of his own and that nobody can kick around. His advisers say that the major reason he has not started funding projects, one year hence, is that the people in charge of many ministries and agencies have remained the same. Which is alright, where the development orientation is manifest.
It is difficult to imagine however, for how long Nigerians would continue to be “patient” with a system that yes, seeks to better their lives moving at the speed of the millipede in the face of the rapid transformation taking place in oil economies all over the world with crude oil at USD 130 per barrel!
One has no quarrel with the arguments of those who insist that those we should be optimistic under the administration. Let us however heed the wise words of Voltaire, the French social critic who said ”optimism is the tendency of believing that all is well when things are going so badly”
Media Consultant in Abuja.