Written By Dr. Olukayode Ajulo
The commentary of the President of Nigeria at the opening of this year’s annual Nigeria Bar Conference in Abuja to the effect that national interest supersedes the rule of law and fundamental human rights delivers yet another concern to patriots.
The same stance raises genuine fears as it sweeps up the need for fundamental queries regarding both the conceptual and legal implications of this positioning.
While national interest is often referred to by the French expression raison d’etat (Reason of State) referred to a country’s goals and ambitions, whether economic, military or cultural, the rule of law which is essentially the restriction of arbitrary exercise of power, the subordination of power to established laws.
National interest in the context of political transactions may have its roots in a political association’s ideology or calculation. The same cannot be said of the rule of law.
The president may need a candid reminder of the fact that the ultimate national interest is codified in the Constitution, wherein the fundamental human rights are given primacy of place and hinged on the rule of law.
It therefore portends a dangerous trend where the rule of law now has to play the second fiddle and be at the mercy of a political power.
It signals strong dictatorial tendencies and potential trampling on the rights given and protected under our constitution.
With this assertion coming from a democratically elected government, there is the founded fear that the President may not be standing on the right footing.
It supposes too that the president could be taking the wrong advise by ‘political lawyers’ who only perch on his whims and experience as a security and war lord.
There is no previous decision of the apex court to that effect – the decision being referred to by the president’s yes-men was a side comment in the Mahjid Asari Dokubo’s case.
It is rather unfortunate that no one in the president’s kitchen cabinet could be patriotic enough to guide him properly. It is even more unfortunate that the leadership of the bar cannot stand up to him for protocol constraints.
The more dangerous implication on the commentary is that the president by the statement, is equating Nigeria, a federal republic, to a banana republic!
The president’s statement without doubt ultra vires our constitution, in fact it is an attempt to hogwash our constitutional democracy vis a vis the constitutional rights of the citizenry and even the very tenets of his claim to the Office of the President of our Federation. The statement has no legs to stand on!
No serious citizenry would and should take the president serious on this.
President Buhari should not lose sight of the transient nature of power. He should note that whatever influence or the rank of enthusiasts cheering him on to the extreme, they would sure abandon him the moment he falls out of grace.
It’s therefore very important that the President guards against sliding into bad errors, such as trying to build something on nothing by attempting to place emotion above the law.
Dr. Ajulo is the Founder/Lead Counsel, Castle of Law and Chairman, Board of Board, Egalitarian Mission for Africa.