Prof. Wole Soyinka has described President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment on national security and national interest coming first before the rule of law, as an advanced warning.
The Professor noted that Buhari apparently means that his government is willing to violate the law for national security.
Buhari had in his speech at the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference on Sunday, said that it was settled in court that national security should always come first before the rule of law.
“Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue in this regard and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that; where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society,” Buhari said.
Consequently, Soyinka in his statement against Buhari mocked him by saying that his (Buhari) incarceration by former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, in 1985 was also in national interest.
President Buhari who was Head of State after overthrowing the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari December 1983, was also overthrown by Gen. Babangida.
Soyinka in his statement titled; ‘Buhari’s Pernicious Doctrine,’ noted that there is no shortcut to democracy and that the history of law, is as old as humanity.
“At his first coming, it was ‘I intend to tamper with Freedom of the Press,’ and Buhari did proceed to suit action to the words, sending two journalists – Irabor and Thompson – to prison as a reward for their professional integrity.
“Now, a vague, vaporous, but commodious concept dubbed “national interest” is being trotted out as alibi for flouting the decisions of the Nigerian judiciary. President Buhari has obviously given deep thought to his travails under a military dictatorship, and concluded that his incarceration was also in the ‘national interest.”
“We have cause to be thankful for the advance warning, since not all rulers actually make a declaration of intent, but simply proceed to degrade the authority of the law as part of the routine business of governance,” Mr Soyinka said.
“We have been there before. It should be of mere interest, not despondency, that this latest proclamation of dictatorial recidivism has also been made before an assembly of officers of the law, the Nigerian Bar Association. We expect a robust response from the NBA as part of its conclusions.”
“Numerous rulers have tried again and again to annul that institution,” he said.
“Sometimes, they appear to succeed, but in the end, they pay heavy forfeit. So does society.
“The rule of law, however, outlasts all subverters, however seemingly powerful. If the consequences for society in defence of the rule of law were not so costly, any new attempt would be merely banal and boring, hardly deserving of attention. We know, historically, where it will all end.”