A few months ago, I used to kid myself that I could never be a victim of injustice in my country. That no matter what happened, I would always get a redress from the courts. Then I perceived some, if not necessarily real, semblance of a rule of law.
My country has a written constitution and a form of government which we copied from the Americans. Whereas the American document evolved through consensus and is sanctioned by the will of the people, the one in my country was imposed by a small, but powerful military clique, dominated by a tribe with a born to rule mentality.
On paper, we have a lot in common with the Americans. In practice however, we are like day and night. The Americans knew the delicate deficiencies of the human nature and that every person innately is a mini tyrant. They thus built institutions above powerful individuals. The checks and balances are such that at times, the legislature can and will shut down government.
The American document is amended when the need arises to further the common goal and nip nascent dictatorship or a semblance of what might lead to it in the bud. Thus when Roosevelt won a fourth term, it occurred to them it was necessary to put a term limit in the constitution. At times, human nature inadvertently promotes and submits itself to dictatorship.
At some point in the life of a country, a mob mentality develops. Mob mentality allows people to act out their base inanities. It allowed the Port Harcourt 4 to be set ablaze. It allowed Farkhunda to be lynched in a manner unimaginably inhumane. It allows a country to inadvertently drift into dictatorship.
Buhari, his desires, and the Rule of Law:
My country is presently experiencing the last mentioned consequence of mob mentality. The president of my country no longer sees the need for the courts of law. He sees them as unnecessary hindrance in his quest to ‘sanitise’ the country. To him, the only arm of government is the one he heads. All the other ones are unnecessary adornments that can be made use of if and when necessary.
The present state of affairs bears no wind of good fortune for discerning individuals. In my country today, any person could fall victim of power abuse. Depending on how powerful the abusers are, such persons could be perpetually damned.
President Obama recently stated he never knew how helpless or powerless the American president can be until he experienced his limitations in the face of situations demanding urgent actions. So, the president of my country should know he is not the only president whose desires and expectations are curbed by laws and conventions.
The president of my country is however getting it wrong by embarking on self help to eliminate his frustrations and helplessness. He should remember that he would not have become president, but for the constitution and the rule of law. He should allow the courts to remain the last hope of the common man and the erstwhile powerful.
© Ola Animashaun 2016
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