By Innocent Anaba
Mr Joseph Daudu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA.
In this interview, he speaks on the just concluded Ekiti State governorship election, disregard for court orders by the executive arm of government, allegation by the executive that the National Assembly inserted some items into the 2018 national budget, insecurity in the country, among other issues.
The Ekiti election has come and gone, what is your view on the outcome and are there any lessons therein for the stakeholders?
There is a consensus amongst stakeholders that the election that took place last Saturday was marred by acts of vote manipulation through outright inducement – the purchase of votes with money, ballot box snatching, use of force cum violence.
The most distressful vice is that a substantial part of the electorate openly offered themselves to the highest bidder by accepting sums ranging from N4,000 to N5, 000 and in some cases, even higher sums of money. On the scale of its being able to tip the scale of the election, offer of money for votes reared its head in Edo State and made a difference in the final outcome. This is a very serious development in our body politic and if not addressed now and nipped in the bud, will torpedo our nascent democracy. It is sad that in an environment where Government’s major policy handle is its anti-corruption drive, such Government cannot acknowledge that money politics at this disgraceful level is corruption itself and should be combated accordingly.
Do you have any solution on offer?
Yes, Nigerians seem to have a wrong idea about the philosophy and attributes of democracy.
It is not a merchandise that can be bought and sold or traded off to the highest bidder.
Democracy as a system of governance encapsulates the greatest good for the greatest number of people through a selection of its leaders by a majority of the people.
The idea of selling votes for temporary mesh of pottage is akin to selling one’s birthright. The proper and indeed desirable solution is for Government to condemn vote buying in all its ramifications. That will probably be too difficult for them as Government functionaries have been fingered in the vote buying.
There is a lot of hypocrisy in the air but government and civil society groups must re-educate the society and put all the machinery in place to discourage and eradicate the crime of vote-buying.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently accused the National Assembly of inserting some items in the budget and the National Assembly has responded. What is your reaction to this and what does it portend for our democracy where it appears that the executive and legislature are divided on the functions of each other, mostly in budget matter?
It is unfortunate. The legislature is the organ of government entrusted with law-making.
The Executive implements the law. It is not for the Executive to dictate to the legislature how to make laws. ‘Padding’ is an unfortunate terminology invented by the Executive to ridicule the legislature. Assuming a budget item is ‘padded’ i.e. ‘inflated’, it is still up to the Executive during budget implementation to detect the said inflation and dishonour it. Consequently, it is not fair for the Executive to engage in calling the Legislature derogatory names. It is a diminution of our democratic culture.
We have cases where federal lawmakers are arrested by police or DSS and charged to court on some occasions. How will this impact our democracy?
If it is malicious, it does not engender well for our society. But most arrests and prosecutions for corruption are as a result of political differences.
There have been calls for the cut in the number of lawmakers we have due to the huge sum of money required to maintain them. Do you agree and why?
The solution for the excessive recurrent expenditure on the Legislature is not in reducing the number of seats available to the constituents but in encouraging fiscal discipline and anti-corruption measures.
The NBA is going to elect a new set of leaders to pilot the affairs of the association for the next two years, what is your advice to the association and members having led the bar yourself?
The eyes of the whole world is on the Nigerian Bar Association. My advice is that all stakeholders should live above board and ensure that at all times, they adhere to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal practitioners 2007.
The NBA has cleared some candidates for the elections and the non-clearance of one of the presidential aspirants had generated a lot of heat. What is the way out?
I understand that the matter is now in court and therefore subjudice. It is not safe to comment on such appending acrimonious court proceeding.
The NBA has been accused of being silent in the face of alarming executive arm of government’s disregard for court orders, even though it’s on record that one of your clients is a victim, what do you think the NBA should have done to ensure that the executive arm obeys court orders?
The NBA acts through persuasive means and this is achieved by strong advocacy, public interest litigation, seminars, press releases etc. The NBA as the foremost public interest group should be in the vanguard of the advocacy of citizen’s rights. I agree that more needs to be done on the part of the Association in order to galvanise political and human rights.
Do you think it has got to a point where lawyers in the country will boycott courts to demand observance of rule of law in the country?
No, not yet, but we are getting close to that point.
Delay in cases has been blamed on judges and lawyers, while some argue that it is more of the failing of the bench to stamp its foot down when handling cases, as responsible for the delays. Do you agree and what can be done to check the development?
Delay in the prosecution of criminal cases arises from a number of factors, some of which you have identified. The process of speedy adjudication takes time for it to be ingrained in any system. The judge is usually diminus litis; that is the master of the domain and should ensure that criminal matters are dealt with in accordance with the rules of fairness.
From your frank analysis of Nigeria today, from the fight against corruption, economy, poverty, energy, etc, are Nigerians better off?
No they are not.
How do you assess the security situation in the country today, in the light of the spate of killings being carried out across the country and what advice or solution can you offer to the Federal Government?
The intensity of killings and loss of lives of innocent Nigerians is frightening. It is painful to hear, virtually on a daily basis of the loss of Nigerian lives. Some school of thought have attributed the killings to herdsmen in search of grazing pastures, killer terrorists on the prowl, cattle rustlers etc. Whoever may be involved in the senseless killings of Nigerians do not possess superior firepower to Government. The latter possesses the constitutional fiat and mandate to protect the lives of all Nigerians. That is the basis and essence of the doctrine of social contract. The bond of State and Citizen will be strained if the former does not take the matter of the security of lives seriously.