Rule of law is the truth and what guides the leadership and citizens against crime or other acts against the nation or fellow citizens.
These are two different principles. National interest is the idea that is supposed to guide a nation. Every country has interest and will always want to protect the interests. Also, every ethnic group has its own interest. We have the Arewa nation, Yoruba nation, Igbo nation, Ijaw nation etc. And each of them is canvassing for their own interest. That is why we have diverse interests in Nigeria. What is good for the Yoruba may not be good for the Igbo, Arewa and others. That is also why the various agitations like Biafra are coming up. National interest is good when two different countries are concerned. Nigeria is not a nation for us to be talking about national interest. Rule of law is a legal principle, which gives details on how a country should be ruled without a right of an individual or a group being infringed upon. With the rule of law, peace will reign in a country. There will not be any special treatment to anyone.
With the rule of law, everyone will be treated accordingly and equally without sentiment or favour. So, it should supercede the national interest. In national interest, whatever the president decides to do, he will go ahead and do it. So, it is not for the best interest of Nigerians. For instance, during the war between America and Iran, the national interest of Iran was to be among the super power, protect the Arab world and the Islamic religion. And as a result, they are fighting other countries according to the dictates of their religion. But in Nigeria, one cannot say what our national interest is. Each ethnic group is fighting and championing their interest. And if we allow the president to go on with the national interest superceding the rule of law, he will become dictatorial and will be the one to determine what will happen in Nigeria.
Politics determines who has the power not who has the truth”. Both rule of law and national interest are important. Rule of law is the truth and what guides the leadership and citizens against crime or other acts against the nation or fellow citizens. So, it is paramount. It is unfortunate that sometimes those in power think they are above the law, even when they are not. Inasmuch as national interest is also good, I believe that rule of law comes first.
Dr GABRIEL OMONAIYE
It is patently wrong for the President to have said so. If we do not follow the rule of law, we are heading for anarchy. There are enough laws to take care of our national interests. If he feels that there are lacunae, nothing stops him from sponsoring bills to the National Assembly to take care of such. We should say no to impunity and jungle justice.
JOHN MAYOR ECHEFU
This is the return of Decree 4 enacted by the military government under Muhammadu Buhari as the head of state. People were hounded under Decree 4 in the name of national security. Why should we be talking about this dark side of the nation’s history at this time of our democracy? That statement was undemocratic, and cast slur on the country, and that is why the international community doesn’t take us very seriously. I disagree with the president. Rule of law is the pillar of democracy, and its absence breeds fascism, which shows contempt for democracy. So, this is reason why the government hardly obeys court orders. The court has granted bail to Dasuki, and he is yet to be released; the same with El-Zakky. The court also granted Nnamdi Kanu bail, it took time before it could be obeyed. Only a despotic government can undermine the order of court. I’m afraid of fledgling democracy and if this type of statement is allowed to become real, we may gradually have a full- blown dictatorship.
Generally, the rule of law is what guides every citizen. And the richest and poorest person in the land are under the rule of law. National interest is part of rule of law. If it is going to be a national interest, I think, there should be a portion of the constitution that will make it to be so, thereby making it a law. That is why we have the House of Assembly and the Senate who could look into that kind of condition and see whether it can be put into law, because it is of a national interest. So, it is nothing one man will say something is a national interest when there no constitutional provision that backs it up. There is no way the national interest should supersede the rule of law, rather the rule of law supersedes whatever interest anyone has, because all national interest is for the good of all citizen and the citizens must respect the law. If it is going to be an emergency that should be addressed immediately, I think there is a part of the constitution that allows the president to do that without looking at the certain angle of law. Also, the president has the right to address some certain issues in line with the rule of law because they are of national interest. For instance, on the issue of security challenges or an emergency, because it is a national interest the constitution gave Mr. president power to over- rule, and to take an immediate order for the interest of all. Rule of law is paramount and every citizen must respect it.
Rule of Law should in any way supersede national interest. This is because rule of law is structured and gazetted. But national interest is at the mercy and understanding of the President, with no definite shape. And, he could manipulate it at his own will.
Legal Practitioner/ Notary Public
My reaction will not change. We cannot say that national interest should jettison rule of law. Rule of law is made and kept down for no particular person. As far as the law has been made, not considering who will go against it, we should follow it from the definition of law, it is an act, it behaves in a manner or way beyond human comprehension. Then, I tell people to obey the law because there is nothing greater than the law, except God. It is unfortunate that the government is using few people as sample to jettison the rule of law in Nigeria. It is not right for the president to refuse the ruling of the court to get some of those under investigation granted bail. What law do we use to correct all the wrongs a particular government has committed? If an Attorney General can advise the president to go against the rule law for whatever reason, which law are we going to use to correct the wrongs and errors a government has committed? This particular government has shown us their position and that is why we are where we are today. The government has put perpetual fear in the judiciary, legislature, market women and others. That is not how a government is supposed to be run. What does it take a father to make a child to be scared of him? Then, in his absence, the child will not know what to do. It takes a father to tell his child the entire moral, what to do and what not do. That is what rule of law stands for. So, they should follow the rule of in everything. I join all well-meaning Nigerians, legal practitioners who are saying that we cannot down play rule of law.
GODDAY ODIDI AGURIASE
It is sad that Nigeria’s democracy is gradually dying with the recent gale of defections from the ruling party to the opposition party and now the controversy on national interest and the rule of law supremacy. Obviously, national interest is different from rule of law. There is no way national interest can supersede rule of Law. When it comes to national interest, every politician either in APC, PDP or other political parties, must pursue the interest of Nigeria’s development
In the past, politicians defected from one political party to another, as a result of national interest and not for selfish interest in order to cover their misrule. It is unfortunate that rule of law is no longer respected; where the judiciary will order the release of those facing trial, and the government refused to respect the law. Rule of law is very important that any country where it is not upheld, will be heading for anarchy. National interest means politicians must work for the progress of the country. That is why in advanced countries; it is interest of their countries that matters to politicians, while rule of law guides citizens on how to behave well. I, therefore disagree with President Buhari that National Interest must be foremost because it will encourage the end-time politicians to disregard the rule of the law. That is why most politicians can talk about impeachments without due process. Unless President Buhari is looking at the area where politicians must protect the interest of the country and not their personal political interests.