Saraki- the travails of democracy and the rule of law

Saraki- the travails of democracy and the rule of law

By Rotimi Opeyeoluwa

 Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible. But man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary”– Reinhold Neibhur.

It is best that I confess that the title of this piece is taken from the seminal book of legendary Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a great politician, who in the First Republic alerted the nation that the continued assault on democracy and the rule of law was a compelling recipe for the end of constitutional democracy as inherited from the departed colonialists. His arguments that the continued disregarding of democratic ethos, if it was allowed unchecked would result in anarchy, was disregarded and the country was worse off for it, with the collapse of the First Republic, intrusion of the military in 1966 and subsequently the 30month fratricidal war which claimed over three million lives, all because of clash of personalities and ego. A panoramic assessment of what is evolving today bear semblance and the danger of continued assault can lead to the unraveling of the legislature.

The attendant possibility of a systemic collapse, because of clash of personalities and ego, which has arrested governance since the APC led government came to power would rather the heavens fall than for a an autonomous organ of government run their business in conformity with the doctrine of separation of powers as evident in all constitutional/liberal democracies the world over is frightening. The 8th Senate upon resumption chose Saraki and all hell has since broken loose. Where is the avowed and much taunted doctrine of separation of power?  How many more errors will the country needlessly grapple with all because of the ambition of one man or some other men? When will the battered and prostrate economy receive the attention required and when will the promise of change begin to bear fruits? Just when? I ask because of the pains, palpable pains and dashed hopes which stalk the land in the early stages of a government who rose on the crest of wanting to save our republic from implosion.

It is extremely important for me to quickly state that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, as the chief enforcer of the Constitution is empowered to bring charges against anybody, be it the Senate President or any other person. Such a right cannot be denied but like Caesar’s wife, he must be seen to be above board. The question is, is Abubakar Malami truly above aboard on this case? It is doubtful and I shall state my reasons in the following paragraphs.

The right of the Senators to choose one of their own to lead is a fundamental right which President Buhari once attested to. With Saraki’s emergence, the APC has been in a bellicose mood and mode. It has been one attempt to wrestle Saraki to the ground after another in an orchestrated attempt to nail him. Only recently, Saraki and his deputy, Ekeremadu, were arraigned over acts purportedly committed in the exercise of their legislative functions. This is a clear violation of the Legislative House (Power and Privileges) Act 1990 which confers immunity on legislators from legal proceedings for any action taken in the conduct of legislative duties. That is the position of the law until it is vacated. The issues of forgery emanated only after the Unity Forum Senators were roundly defeated.

The Unity Forum Senators in bitterness sought to externalise a purely internal event by reporting a case of forgery to the Police and instituting a civil suit. It is interesting to note that Abubakar Malami, SAN, was counsel to the Unity Forum Senators before his appointment as the AGF. Can it not be argued that an interested party to the matter is using State apparatus to pursue personal objectives?

Justice Godwin Kolawole and later Justice Adeniyi Ademola had ruled that the case of alleged forgery of the Senate Rules was an internal affair of the Senate and that the Senate should grapple with the correction from within its chambers. That was last year, 2015, and Abubakar Malami, neither as their private counsel or even as Attorney General and Minister of Justice has not appealed that verdict. A learned silk, the AGF, is pursuing an agenda that is inimical to the doctrine of separation of power and abuse of his office in clear violation of a subsisting court order. It is significant to note that the AGF, a lawyer to the Unity Forum Senators is only pursuing a vested interest using the cover of office. It is so strange that the promised renaissance has crumbled in a regrettable manner.

The power tussle is tragically a sad remainder of the poisoned politics of our recent past where partisanship, pettiness, immaturity, impunity and gangsterism were the order of the day. These things, candidate Muhammadu Buhari, I recall, promised to end once voted into office. The APC must arrest the increasing relapse to an order that is injurious to democracy as the demand for the survival of our democracy is glaring to all concerned citizens. Nigerians are growing anxious about the promise of change. Admittedly, errors have been made, but more errors would not correct the situation. What would correct the charged atmosphere is a spirit of give and take. The clash is political and can only be corrected through political means.

The long night of neglect, want, misery and disease begs for attention. What is unfolding needs to be handled with caution. The unfolding event clearly reveals that truly Saraki and some of his associates may be the primary target for annihilation but in the long run the Senate already ensnared might become an unintended causality of the power play. It is extremely important for the protagonists and antagonists to be mindful that Nigeria’s hard earned democracy should not be sacrificed in pursuing vendetta or settling personal scores.

Only recently, President Barrack Obama of the United States of America may have had Nigeria in mind, when he averred, “Democracy requires compromise even when you are right, this is hard to explain sometimes, you can be completely right and you still gonna embrace folks who disagree with you, if you think the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, but you‘re not going to get what you want, and if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually compromise the whole system which will lead to more cynicism and less participation and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair, and that’s never been the source of our progress, that’s how we cheat ourselves of progress”.

The Presidency’s imprint is all overall this assault but it has repeatedly and illogically denied any involvement. The AGF does not act unilaterally. He is answerable to someone. Let that person call him to order. It is not worth bringing down our constitutional democracy because of the beef against a single man. Fair is fair, Saraki is not above the law but the law is not expected to become a whip in the hand of a man to be used to settle personal scores.

Currently, Nigeria’s democracy is under ambush. Constitutional democracy in Nigeria must not be made bankrupt. The ultimate task before us is not to let Nigeria become a banana republic. NEVER!

Rotimi Opeyeoluwa is an Abuja-based journalist. He can be reached through rotbaba@gmail.com


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rule of lawSaraki