News The African Way

Buhari, Rule of Law and Impunity

By Vinny Mba

The current controversy in certain quarters with regards to President
Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight can at best be likened to a
justification of impunity with the rule of law. Similarly, the dictum
that whoever seeks equity must come with clean hands also shows that
those who ran the country aground must be prepared to face the full
wrath of the law.

The controversies arise from the continued detention of retired Col.
Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu after they got court rulings ordering
their release. Both men are facing different charges bordering on
corruption and treason, respectively.

However, rather than see reason with the security agencies for
pressing fresh charges against them based on the enormity of their
alleged offences, many Nigerians have chosen to blame Mr President as
being behind their continued detention.

Undoubtedly, the court orders are facts, but the court is only an
adjudicator and not an investigator. The security agencies are saddled
with the security of the country and are in a position to determine
who is a security risk.

On the Kanu case, without prejudice to the court and its order, it is
pertinent to ask questions as to whether a man has the right to hold
the country to ransom for as long as he is allowed to do so and cling
to a court pronouncement and walk the streets as a free man. Perhaps
those who cling to this line of thought fail to think out of the box
to consider the interest of the generality of the people.

They also fail to think of the responsibility of the government to the
people. A government has, as its primary responsibility, the
protection of the people’s right to life. So, anytime this right is
threatened, it is expected that the government should rise up to the
occasion.

The use of Radio Biafra, a pirate radio station, to threaten the unity
of the country calls to question Kanu’s personal integrity. The
impunity with which he operated the station has also cast a strong
dent on the integrity of the country’s security system.

It is, therefore, foolhardy for anyone to think that the security
agencies will release the agitator because of a court order issued on
technical grounds. More so, the security agencies can press as many
new charges as they wish, based on the information available to them.

The arrest of Kanu, in the first place, was a big catch. Keeping him
under close watch is, indeed, a victory and letting him loose is,
predictably, a call to anarchy.

It is pertinent to ask how Kanu’s detention compares with the loss of
lives that trailed his arrest. Does Kanu know any of the innocent
people who died during those protests? Will his release restore those
lost lives? Is his right to freedom more precious that the rights of
the dead to life?

The constitutional guarantee of freedom does not extend to the freedom
to cause disharmony. As a popular saying goes, the freedom to swing
one’s arms does not permit him to hit someone else with them. Those
raising the dust over Kanu’s re-arrest have failed to situate it with
the collective impact of his pirate broadcast on the psyche of the
listeners. Can we rightly say that one person’s right exceeds that of
the collective?

As criminologist Femi Odekunle said in a recent interview, ”one of
the problems we have in this country is that we put the interest of
the individual above the interest of the collective. As a professional
criminologist, I am not for unmoderated democracy, I’m not for
unmoderated rule of law in which the rights of the individual will be
so hyperbolised and override those of the collective.’’

Politicising the fight against corruption using the rule of law mantra
is in itself self-serving. Those who do so are, perhaps, those who
benefited from the slush funds.

The failure of Nigerians to question the source of wealth of
individuals has driven the country into a maze of impunity. Otherwise,
how could people take pride in sharing our collective wealth and
painting a picture of a rosy national economy.

Protecting people who barefacedly plundered the treasury and put
Nigeria in a financial quagmire is to say the least undemocratic. The
use of the courts to get injunctions to stop prosecutions cannot be
encouraged if the country must grow.

The countries that have developed their economies did not do so with
massive corruption. It took certain leaders with impeccable qualities
to put those countries in the right direction. Nigeria cannot be an
exception unless we continue to pay lip service to development.

Like everything in life, there is pay-back time. Even the holy books
say that no sin shall go unpunished, meaning that those who called the
shots while in power should be cautious of the future. Like they say,
the only thing that is permanent in life is change.

And protecting the rights of an individual against the interest of the
collective is in itself against natural justice.

Mr. Mba is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Enugu

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