Democracy in Nigeria is fast deteriorating to a level where we, as a people, have become a laughing stock among the comity of nations. It is only in Nigeria that a court of competent jurisdiction would make a pronouncement and the government of the day would deliberately refuse to obey it.
The executive arm has succeeded in arrogating to itself the powers to make and adjudicate laws, a function constitutionally reserved for the legislative and judicial arms of government respectively. The situation playing out in our country is clearly making a mockery of the principle of separation of powers, as propounded by Lord Baron de Montesquieu. Separation of powers is a constitutional principle introduced to ensure that the three arms of government mentioned above are not concentrated in any single body, be it in functions, personnel or powers.
For the avoidance of doubt, the legislative arm is the lawmaking body, the executive implements the law, while the judiciary is saddled with the responsibility of interpreting the law and settling of disputes whenever they arise. It is intended to prevent the concentration of unchecked powers by providing “checks” and “balances” to avoid “autocracy” in a democratic setting like ours.
However, it is generally believed that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, but when law officers are subjected to the law itself without any recourse to fair hearing and obvious interference from the executive arm, the common man may then have no choice, than to look up to God or resort to self-self for redress. Indeed, no man is above the law of the land, which is the grundnorm. No matter how highly placed an individual may be, they must subject themselves to the dictates and principles of the law.
Recent events in our polity particularly in the judicial arm of government have, however, left a sour taste in the mouth of many citizens who approach the courts on a daily basis to seek one redress or the other. The invasion of the private residence of some judges, by security operatives in the middle of the night, some time ago, to the arrest and arraignment of some senior lawyers on corruption charges and very recently, the allegation and subsequent arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, for alleged non-declaration of assets, clearly show the whole plot is designed to bring the judiciary as an institution to disrepute, which in my opinion is ill-conceived and highly despicable and should be condemned by every right-thinking Nigerian.
The consistent interference in the affairs of other arms of government by the executive must stop, if truly we want to practise democracy as a country. I must say this act is impinging seriously on the principle of separation of powers which is a key element in any flourishing democratic society. That is not to say the CJN cannot be prosecuted if indeed he has erred. The law remains the law and no man is above it.
Fighting corruption is good, but it becomes bad when it is laden with political coloration, which tends to rubbish the whole anti-corruption framework. The fight against corruption should be holistic and systematic in nature. We must begin to build strong institutions as against building strong and powerful individuals, who end up running them as emperors of some sorts, that approach is no longer acceptable and will take us nowhere.
A constitutional democracy should be about the rule of law. Unfortunately, the political class in the country has so much fouled the political spaces such that no meaningful development can take place. The rule of law must be adhered to in order for us to build a sane society.
Undesirable and corrupt elements must be weeded out from all the arms of government and it must be fought without any form of bias. A member of the National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani, once said: “When it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly and the Judiciary and in the larger Nigerian sectors, the President uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the Presidency, they use deodorants. We have a political atmosphere where you have a saintly and angelic Presidency and a devilish and evil society.”
There seems to be a well-orchestrated plan by some powerful political actors within the executive arm of government, who are bent on strangulating other arms of government into submission, by doing their bidding at all cost. A dangerous precedent is being set in our temple of justice system, if this ugly trend is not quickly checked; it might come back some day to haunt us as a nation. For me, this is politics taken too far!
John Kokome, Lagos, firstname.lastname@example.org , 08083241780
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