In a statement, yesterday, Prof. Soyinka described the president’s position as ‘dictatorial recidivism’ and a ploy meant to degrade the authority of the law.
• Don’t tamper with rule of law
Chinelo Obogo and Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka has knocked President Muhammadu Buhari for advocating the subordination of the rule of law to national interest.
In a statement, yesterday, Prof. Soyinka described the president’s position as ‘dictatorial recidivism’ and a ploy meant to degrade the authority of the law. Soyinka is the latest in a long list of prominent Nigerians who have condemned Buhari for taking a stance which they considered not only undemocratic, but also a grand plot to violate the rule of law.
At the opening ceremony of the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which had the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen and hundreds of legal practitioners in attendance, Buhari had said his administration will continue to place national security and national interest above the rule of law.
READ ALSO: Onnoghen: Politics of judicial reform
But an angry Soyinka referred to the imprisonment of Buhari in 1985 after he was overthrown by the regime of the former military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida (retd), saying he (Buhari) must have given a deep thought to his troubles under the military dictatorship and concluded that his incarceration at the time was also in national interest.
Prof. Soyinka said: “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 – (Nduka) Irabor and (Tunde) 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 shortcut 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.”
Buhari had also come under fire from prominent lawyers including Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and the civil society, for the continued detention of the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) and the leader of the Shiites, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky in disregard of court judgment that they be released on bail.
In a related development, elder statesmen under the auspices of Northern and Southern Elders and Leaders have also flayed Buhari’s position as an attempt to rewrite the constitution.
Led by the Niger Delta leader, Chief Edwin Clark, the group claimed Buhari’s position was a calculated assault on constitutional governance, the rule of law and democracy in the country. and vowed to resist it.
“Nobody will, at this stage, come and enslave us and use religion, ethnicity and nepotism to separate us. We have to take this issue very serious, it is not a joking matter at all. Buhari is taking steps each day to silence opposition. We will not accept this impunity. We must take serious steps to let Buhari know that he is taking wrong steps,” the group warned.
The elders further vowed to continue to oppose the president on issues that were not embedded in the rule of law, insisting that he should withdrew his statement.
“This is a country where the rule of law should prevail over national interest. For the Prime Minister of Britain to come here and say that, we are backward in our economy. This are issues that concern all
of us whether you are in government or not. We all have the right to talk about our country. On the national security, I want to reassure you that no one can intimidate us from discussing the progress of this country,” he declared.
In attendance at the meeting were Ayo Adebanjo, Olu Falae, Cornelius Adebayo, Prof. Ango Abudulahi, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd.), Dr. Bitrus Pogu, Yinka Odumakin and Dr. Ogbu, among others.