Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday joined the fray in condemning the Federal Government’s move to stifle civil liberties and subjugate the rule of law under the guise of promoting national security. President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier this week declared that his administration would place national security above the rule of law.
In a short but terse response released yesterday, Soyinka said the declaration was typical of Buhari and urged Nigerians to brace up for the challenges ahead. According to the erudite scholar and playwright, Buhari, while serving as a Head of State and leader of a Military junta about 30 years ago, made a similar pronouncement which culminated in the gagging of the press and incarceration of two journalists for doing their job of reporting the issues in the public domain at that time. He urged the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) under whose roof the President served the notice to brace up for the challenge and not to take it lying low.
The statement titled “Buhari’s pernicious doctrine” read: “Here we go again! At his first coming, it was “I intend to tamper with Freedom of the Press”, and Buhari did proceed to suit action to the words, sending two journalists – Irabor and Thompson – to prison as a reward for their professional integrity. Now, a vague, vaporous, but commodious concept dubbed “national interest” is being trotted out as alibi for flouting the decisions of the Nigerian judiciary. “President Buhari has obviously given deep thought to his travails under a military dictatorship, and concluded that his incarceration was also in the “national interest”.
“The timing is perfect, and we have cause to be thankful for the advance warning, since not all rulers actually make a declaration of intent, but simply proceed to degrade the authority of the law as part of the routine business of governance. We have been there before. It should be of mere interest, not despondency, that this latest proclamation of dictatorial recidivism has also been made before an assembly of officers of the law, the Nigerian Bar Association. We expect a robust response from the NBA as part of its conclusions. “There is no short cut to democracy. The history of law, even where uncodified, is as old as humanity.
Numerous rulers have tried again and again to annul that institution. Sometimes, they appear to succeed, but in the end, they pay heavy forfeit. So does society. The Rule of Law however outlasts all subverters, however seemingly powerful. If the consequences for society in defence of the Rule of Law were not so costly, any new attempt would be merely banal and boring, hardly deserving of attention. We know, historically, where it will all end.”