By Polycarp Onwubiko
Political activism relates to the concerted efforts of man to better his environment through progressive advancement in the style of governing a dynamic society. This premise guided people in the advanced countries of the world and gave rise to peaceful coexistence. Added to this is the supreme importance attached to law and order, hence the maxim that “the law is no respecter of persons”.
It is very sad that political activism in Nigeria has been anything than respect for the laws which accord primacy to the integrity of public institutions. It is no wonder that fifty six years after political sovereignty, Nigerians have been unable to appreciate the primacy of rule of law in the running of public institutions.
What have apparently been institutionalized are flagrant disrespect and brazen violation of laws and by extension, the vile notion that some people are above the laws of the land.
The arraignment of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, for alleged forgery of the standing rules of the Senate which allegedly facilitated their present positions in the National Assembly has elicited sentiments instead of recognizing the primacy of law in governance.
It is an incontrovertible fact that it was the failure to accord primacy to the observance of laws and respect to the provisions of the constitution that has led us to this situation.
What is playing out in the Senate is a result of lack of unity of purpose in the conduct of affairs of the political parties. It is baffling when people go about with the notion that the laws of the country do not apply to the conduct of political parties. This naïve impression is very wrong because the essence of laws is ostensibly to govern both private and public conduct in the society.
The notion of law has never been to be of selective application, going by the anecdote that some animals are more equal than others. The essence of laws is to highlight the intention of the Almighty God in creating human beings different from other creations.
In the organization of political parties, especially the conduct of primaries for the selection of candidates to vie for election, respect for the laws are thrown overboard in the silly notion that it is the private affair of the political party. It is this vile notion that throws up brazen impunity, bribery, manipulation, rigging and nepotism.
When the marginalized and aggrieved go to the law courts, the judge will have to declare that complaint is the private affairs of political parties. Last week, a Federal High Court in Abuja, ruled that the forgery charge against the Senate President and his deputy, was a gross abuse of court and legal process.
It is grossly wrong to say that the forgery saga in the Senate is the private affair of the upper chamber of the national legislature. It was the height of naive judicial pronouncement that it was wrong for the Clerk of the House to invite the law enforcement agents to investigate the alleged forgery of the Standing Rules which enabled the election of the two principal officers of the Red Chamber. A legislator has no power to violate the rules in the legislature because the legislative institution was put in place by the law.
In other words, the rules were the logical outcome of the law that established the legislature and therefore it is imperative that legislators must conduct themselves in accordance with the rules governing the legislature. Consequently, violation of any of the rules will attract sanctions.
It is, therefore, a brazen display of impunity borne out of primitive mindset for a legislator to go with the impression that he can do what he likes to realise his ambition.
It is soothing, however, that the Secretary of the Government of the Federation has mustered the courage to advise the senate president and the deputy senate president to face the charges of forgery of the Standing Rules preferred against them in the law court.
It is naïve for some senators to threaten the executive branch of government for instigating the law enforcement agency to interfere in the supposed internal affairs of the House.
It is laughable for the Deputy Senate president to have written petitions to the international community on the court action. Such sentiment smacks of pettiness since the outcome of the letters might be to make Nigeria a laughing stock. The leaderships of the international institutions know that the laws of Nigeria are meant to be observed in all the institutions of government, including the Senate.
In other words, the legislature should not be governed by a separate set of laws to enable the members to do whatever they fancy in the name of private affairs or the vaulting ambition of a few.
Nigeria should not be ridiculed within the international community. One can say that the only discernible difference between the advanced countries and developing countries is the primacy accorded to the observance of laws by all and sundry.Nigeria cannot witness genuine and sustainable socio-economic and political growth and development without recognising the supreme importance of strictly adhering to the laws of the land and jettisoning the notion of private affairs in the running of political parties and the conduct on the legislators.
*Onwubiko writes from Awka, Anambra State