April 12, 2018

More on lawmakers as lawbreakers


House of Representatives

By Josef Omorotionmwan

UNEASY lies the head that wears the crown. There is no way that the high position you occupy will not stand you out for public opprobrium, sometimes, most unfairly. It would be restating the obvious to say that if the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, were not occupying the exalted position, he would have been in the good books of many. In more concrete terms, if he was a rubber tapper in one remote village in Kwara State, he would have had no business with asset declaration, talk more of under-declaration. As they say in the colloquial, “wetin concern fish with rain coat?”

Whatever we do in Nigeria today, no amount of objectivity will totally obviate some aspects of witch-hunt colouration from our anti-graft war. We observed quite early that since corruption is sufficiently widespread in Nigeria, there would be nothing wrong with our leaders diligently applying the anti-graft laws against their perceived enemies. Call it the “punish your enemies approach” to crime causation, if you like. With time, the entire nation would be cleansed.


Since Nigeria’s return to the current democratic experiment in 1999, had our Presidents – Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and down the line, now Muhammadu Buhari – vigorously used the EFCC to deal decisively with their perceived corrupt enemies, Nigeria would by now have been virtually corruption free. Let every corrupt official know that sooner than later, the law will catch up with him. That’s the only cure for this “my corruption is better than your corruption” syndrome.

In the name of freedom, democracy destroys freedom. One disturbing trend that is emerging in Nigeria today is the raw impunity with which our lawmakers disrespect the laws they make. Ordinarily, they are duty bound to accept the legal sanctions and punishments imposed by the laws. Attempts to evade and escape them amount to betrayal of the entire legislative process.

The argument of Socrates in the CRITO is particularly valid here – you may disobey the law you detest; but you cannot run away from the sanctions and punishments prescribed for such disobedience.

It is the pain, the hurt and the indignity, which the law-breaker voluntarily accepts that stir citizens to compassion towards him. Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his followers in the defunct Action Group, AG, endeared themselves to the hearts of many by the courage with which they faced the treasonable felony trials during the First Republic.

When we observe the heroics of disobedience being followed by the dialectics of legal and illegal manipulations geared towards evasion of prosecution, we question their real motives. It is like wanting good teeth while you hate to visit the dentist.

By their actions, our lawmakers attract opprobrium and outright cynicism to the entire process of law-making. The moral message they leave is that disobedience to law pays dividends; but invariably, that breeds confidence erosion and total disrespect for the process and practice of law.

Enter Senator Bukola Saraki, President Of The Senate: The Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, accuses him of breaking the law by under-declaring his assets when he was the Governor of Kwara State – the type of accusation that is normally based on empirical and observable evidence.

In some more advanced democracies, a leader would not allow himself to be dragged on. Once he is caught in the act, he throws in the towel and submits himself for trial. He would walk into prison if that is the prescription for his offence. But not in Nigeria.

Here, every effort must be made to straddle and obfuscate the course of justice. Saraki came slightly short of starting his defiance from the customary court level, exploring every loophole – legal and not-so-legal – to evade prosecution by the CCB. The idea behind the judicial rigmarole may not be an outright win but to buy time – just keep appealing to everywhere and everybody until your tenure expires and the case dies. After all, every problem has an expiry date.

The taxpayer is the worse for it all. Each time the court jamboree came up, the entire Senate migrated to the courtroom and legislative sitting was aborted. At what cost to the taxpayer was this legislative rascality? A matter for conjecture!

Why is Senator Dino Melaye (APC/Kogi West) running from pillar to post; and taking the entire country for a ride in his merry-go-round expedition?

The provisions of Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution are quite clear: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives may be recalled… if there is presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission a petition in that behalf signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member; and the petition is thereafter in a referendum conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission within ninety days of the receipt of the petition approved by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency”.

In the foregoing process, we find no direct role for the courts. Notwithstanding, we find that Melaye has advanced Saraki’s methods some steps further: for a very long time, he was incommunicado, thus making himself unavailable to be served the process, only to reemerge after he thought that the period allowed for service had lapsed.

After that, he was constructively engaged in the process of shopping for justice (or injustice?) everywhere. He arrived at the Supreme Court last Thursday to appeal to the apex Court to prevail on INEC to discontinue the process of his recall.

Men have lost their reasons! So soon, we have arrived at the point where a Distinguished Senator, so-called, is appealing to the Supreme Court to debase itself by prevailing on INEC to abandon its constitutionally-assigned responsibility.

It gets messier by the day. Add to this, the new allegation of the descent to thuggery – all that a lawmaker should triumph over the wishes of the electorate. What a theatre of the absurd! Whither Nigeria?