When the stakes are high, as Buhari noted, rule of law takes second place to national interest instantly. That is not some kind of Buhari doctrine…
President Muhammadu Buhari must himself have anticipated ruthless responses when he asserted security over rule of law while addressing the annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association. Such responses have come from both sincere critics and publicity seekers notorious for commandeering public issues to sustain their relevance in society.
Buhari’s major weakness is his bluntness. There may be nothing against such trait except that, all
over the world, hardly are leaders so blunt. Not even the stormy American President Donald Trump. Otherwise, there is nothing in the doctrine which Buhari enunciated that does not operate all over the world. At the most hypocritical, the situation is that even in the most flaunted democracies, rule of law and priority for national security are concomitant instruments in running every country.
Each is applied as the need arises, although, on the surface, it is solely rule of law. That, in American parlance, is more of bullshit. As in Nigeria, so it is in Britain, United States, Germany, France, Russia, China, etc. Whose theory is it that the major responsibility (indeed, first duty) of government is security of society in any country? And such security is expected to be guaranteed strictly on the basis of rule of law? Nothing could be more naïve, if not ignorant. Boko Haram is a vivid example.
Described by United States and United Nations as the most deadly terrorist organisation in the world,
the blackmail by critics, under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, was that Boko Haram was unleashed by northerners to deliberately undermine Jonathan. Buhari came and prioritised dislodging of Boko Haram along rule of law in combating seeming ordinary criminals. Buhari was ridiculed for allegedly failing to guarantee security in the country. There then had to be a surge in the military operations, for which the Nigerian Amnesty International turned round to accuse Nigerian government of violation of human rights, something short of massacre or even genocide, an allegation so convenient for their Amnesty International to negatively focus on Nigeria. Even United States, which had earlier labelled Boko Haram as the most deadly terrorist organisation in the world, turned round to condemn Nigeria.
Which government in the world would at this stage treat Boko Haram insurgents or any collaborator(s) along rule of law? This is a fine example where national security or national interest supercede rule of law.
A major mistake was the rush to conclusion that national security or national interest, which should supercede rule of law is in any way Buhari’s security or national interests.
On the contrary, at stake is Nigeria’s security. Boko Haram, an insurgent group, bombing churches, mosques, motor parks, markets, kidnapping and murdering primary as well as secondary school pupils, murdering university undergraduates and lecturers? Which civilised or even democratic society in such circumstances would fail to prioritize security over rule of law?
When Britain, generally regarded as mother of democracy, faced Irish rebellion through the Irish Republican Army in 1968, government’s response among other harsh measures like tough interrogation methods (torture) was the introduction of INTERNMENT, which in reality meant indefinite detention without trial. The stern action was endorsed by British parliament. The judiciary was not necessarily suspended in Britain as ordinary courts still sat to determine legal and criminal matters. Neither have courts ever been suspended or will be suspended in Nigeria, if and when the need arises for national security to supercede rule of law. In any case, wen Buhari mentioned national security (or national interests) to supercede rule of law, that did not mean an end to trial of petty crimes like traffic offences or looting of public treasury, as Nigeria is a country where such can be classified by lawyers as petty crimes.
Only Britain? United States woke up one morning in 2001 only to discover that its daily normal national life was under threat of international terrorism with the bombing of Al Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden. At the end, over 3,000 Americans and foreign visitors were killed. Did America not rise to the occasion by prioritizing its national security over rule of law? United States thereafter picked up culprits and their collaborators not just within the country but all over the world – Pakistan, Nigeria, Britain, Kenya,
Somalia, etc. Rule of law still operated but became secondary to national security as ordinary crimes continued to be tried in ordinary courts.
Meanwhile, America’s President George Bush (junior) ordered the arrest of Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive.” For years, Osama kept operating and directing his murderous activities from a hideout in Pakistan. Eventually, it was not even George Bush’s luck to capture Osama Bin Laden dead or alive. Instead, the luck fell on successor President Barack Obama. Which rule of law was followed? At best, the interest of the world and, at the worst, American national interest superceded or indeed rubbished whatever rule of law as Obama Bin Laden was traced to his secret hideout in Pakistan and ordered to be legitimately assassinated in a bloody operation reportedly watched live by top American government officials in the situation room inside the White House in Washington.
Osama Bin Laden’s corpse was not even buried but dumped in the deepest ocean. Who talked of rule of law? When the stakes are high, as Buhari noted, rule of law takes second place to national interest instantly. That is not some kind of Buhari doctrine. Rather, it is a universal principle from ancient times. Why did the world, including Nigeria, rise against Adolf Hitler? Which rule of law was followed without interests of the world even at the Nuremberg trials? Conventional human rights were discarded to allow for executions or life sentences, so life that many of them died while serving sentences. Hitler himself
had to commit suicide to avoid being executed.
As earlier remarked, former American President George Bush just declared Osama Bin Laden wanted and to be arrested “dead or alive.” If such an order was given by Buhari for the arrest of Osama Bin Laden dead or alive, that would be another controversy allegedly as something unprecedented.
Rule of law? Nigeria’s highest court – the Supreme Court – is on record on this all-important issue of national interests superseding rule of law. Federal Attorney-General Malami should help this debate by publishing in national newspapers the entire judicial authority, a ruling which dismissed, on grounds of human right being secondary to national security, an appeal challenging the detention of Asari Dokubo and others under the administration of former President Obasanjo. The Supreme Court can then be approached by any interested party to reverse itself.
And, by the way, it was a relief that our secret police, the State Security Service (SSS) eventually dissociated itself from, and pleaded, even if only for public consumption, not to be rail-roaded into a collision course with the government. That was interesting following what had all the hallmarks of a well-coordinated pushed blackmail/ intimidation of government spread across sections of the media.
What is the big deal about appointing a new substantive replacement for an acting director-general of State Security Service? In clear understanding of civil service language, the very fact of acting in a capacity in the civil service remains such, with 50-50 chance of being dropped or confirmed substantively, depending on the patron. The acting director-general of SSS is about only a month in office and is reportedly due for retirement next year. Whoever is trying to force or even rush the government is surely not helping the man, and indeed, may be unconsciously but surely creating a missed opportunity. Do these people know how government operates? Threatening hell and brimstone? What if that bluff is called?
Furthermore, in all para-military setups, it is most risky to leak operational matters to the media. It is, therefore, in the interests of SSS to block all areas of possible leakage of directives, if any, to the media, which, by the way, are not bound to disclose the source of their news. If the news should be true, it is up to those affected to firm up.
It is also not possible for any paramilitary set-up to try something funny like some kind of autonomy from the office of the Commander-in-Chief. If any instruction is to be resisted, that could be sensible only by ensuring the instruction was not from the Commander-in-Chief or through his surrogate. Otherwise, such would be disobedience of lawful instruction, not a light offence in paramilitary circles.
Chairman Magu of EFCC is over two years in acting capacity in that post. Heavens have not fallen. Others should learn from him. Persecution complex, blackmail or desperation are not part of an enviable career.