Adherence To The Rule Of Law And Due Process As Nigeria Advances
By: Paul I. Adujie
New York, USA
June 2, 2003
An imperfect democracy, yes, even an imperfect democracy! Is still the best form of government that is known to humankind from Abuja to Zungeru, from America to Zimbabwe and from A to Z! The same is true of constitutions and constitutional imperfections, it is better to have rules albeit, with some flaws, than not to have rules at all! Having and respecting rules, is what the rule of law and due process is all about.
Accepting democracy, respecting the rule of law and having patience for due process are one and the same things, they interconnected and interrelated concepts, their acceptance and practice, in my view, would lead Nigerians and Nigeria to a quick advance is all aspects and spheres of life.
The certainty of reward or punishment for human actions goes long ways to assure compliance with the interests of all and for the benefits of all, the absence or lack of fixed rules or certainty of results arising from same actions or conduct, breeds disaffection, cynicism and state of anomie.
Democracy, Rule of law and Due process are like a good traffic lights, good traffic lights regulates the conduct of all motorists passing through the street or intersections, no matter the size of their vehicles, no matter the color or value of their vehicles, just as laws and rules in a functioning democracy, make due process certain, as all decent people are patient at traffic lights, waiting for the colors to change from red to amber and then green! Democracy, the rule of law and or due process similarly require incredible patience and real-time human terms tolerance, rules are not for the frenzied intolerant persons! Good laws and rules are not always necessarily fast or speedy, but meticulous.
This all means that, democracy and good government are only possible, where and when, all and sundry are willing to be patient, willing to obey and respect the rules and willing to let processes commence and pursued to logical conclusions, this means restraint, especially self-restraint! Democracy, the rule of law and respect for due process, requires that we all restrain ourselves from hurrying the sunrise, even when we have the power or the ability and right to do so, even when we are simply tempted irrationally to do so!
Maturity and decency often requires humans to defer actions, often require patience and tolerance and restraint; It is the case especially in a democracy, that we learn these qualities or attributes; Due Process entails our ability to exercise self-restraint in the face of theft, instead of resorting to wetie! Or burn alive with tire/tyre or mob lynching? Or Area Boys or Bakasssi Boys instant-justice, which is often heavy-handed and arbitrary. Exercise patience and let the law takes it due course, time and practice will fine-tune it.
The rule of law and due process entitles an armed robber to a fair judicial trial, after a probable cause and or reasonable suspicion based arrest, and the same rule of law and due process, entitles every other person to fair and equitable treatment based on set rules and standard processes; Nigeria already has a many good laws in the books, what is lacking is giving the laws freedom of due process implementation, let the process be! Don�t truncate!
In Nigeria, some of our good citizens have become so cynical and distrustful of the law enforcement agencies and even the judiciary! This must change, there must be noticeable reform in law enforcement procedures, and reform of the judiciary must be pursued urgently and vigorously, this, in order to re-establish and re-instate confidence of the citizenry and public, this in turn will result in the banishment of skepticism and cynicism and this, can only be good for Nigeria�s advancement!
Good people sometimes, out of frustrations, accumulated disappointments and anger, take the law into their own hands, they resort to what lawyers call self-help! This is not recommended at all! Self-help is vigilantism, self-help enforcement of rights leads to lawlessness and anarchy, this is mostly because there are no set rules! There are no dispassionate and objective arbiter or fact-finder, it is like a soccer match without a referee! The teams my cheat or elbow each other, because there is no referee to enforce the rules! Therefore, the aggrieved party becomes the judge, the committee or jury and the executioner, all in one! That is the equivalence of absolute power! And Nigerians all know the repercussions and consequences of absolute powers, as the military in government taught all of us
This is the exact same arbitrariness of vigilante justice! Or a disregard for the rule of law, due process and the engagement of self-help in dispute resolutions!
It is conceded that, the acceptance of the rule of law and due process is concomitant with the certainty of reward or punishment for our conduct, a person waiting for a bus ride will be patient, will have no cause for mad dashes for the first bus that appears, if this persons is certain that there is a bus schedule to come by, every few minutes! But in the absence of the certainty of schedule (rule of law) potential passengers in trepidation of lateness for work, the rains or harsh sunshine and whatever else, will jump, run and dive for the first bus in sight! The rule of law and due process are as such, like the certainty of bus schedules!
The former Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Alozie Ogubuaja used to have a poster in his office in Ikeja that he and I used joke about so much, because it pointedly stated a plain truth! �If you do not like the Nigeria Police, call armed robber for your protections!� Truly, reform is needed in our prisons and police services, they are good, they can do better, but they are all we have! Better to demand reform within them, than to remain professional cynics! Or call an armed robber for protection!
So if I owe you money? And even if you are stronger than the legendary late Dick Tiger of Nigeria or Mike Tyson of America or you have their combined boxing prowess? Do not beat up, because you can and you do have the power! Sue me! Take me through the due process!
It should not matter that you are an army man policeman customs man or the councilor the commissioner, governor or even the president! Or the brother or cousin or some relative of all the above; My mother used to tell us children that it is a bad idea to bully, or be unfair, because �life is a middle� there is always someone superior to you in authority and achievement as there is also, always someone to whom you are superior in authority, achievement or possessions and wealth! She recommends fairness always, akin to the biblical do unto others axiom! We all deserve fairness, so does our neighbors!
The War Against Indiscipline or WAI, notwithstanding its attendant imperfections, demonstrated how orderliness benefits everyone in Nigeria! Suddenly, you could go to the Post Office, the Banks and even Bus Stop and expect turn-by-turn comportment and decorous behavior, as it turned out, even private citizens became custodians of the rule of law, so that, if anyone who got drunk and started to urinate in public in Lagos those days, you will quickly hear the air rented with the shouts by many onlookers of �WAI, WAI WAI!!! In other words, it was evidence of the ordinary citizens imposing sanctions, but without resorting to self-help, everyone knew what the set rules were! Nigerians should learn to swear by the Nigerian constitution, though imperfect and continue to reform and amend the constitution, it should become our guide and rule book, next to the Holy Koran and the Holy Bible.
When Nigerians become assured that any natural person or company who violate or take their rights for granted will be held accountable and will face liability and sanctions, there will be no need for self-help or vigilantism; There is an urgent need for confidence re-building, there a dire need to restore respect and trust of Nigeria�s law enforcement agencies and the judiciary! Cynicism makes nonsense of laws and rules or due process!
It breed contempt for all that is good and orderly.
Nigerians should no longer accept arbitrary actions, injustices or self-help vigilantism, as Mallam Habu Fika of Amanaonline.com wrote recently, we should all reject injustices not selectively, but always, regardless of whether we are directly affected or not, injustice suffered by any Nigerian should concern all other Nigerians, it may actually be in our collective best interests to care, if we do not, injustice could be meted out to us next! Those who display nonchalance could be injustice�s next victims! Nigerian must therefore imbibe the culture of eve-handedness, and defining fairness objectively.
We cannot be wishing democracy and at the same time be acting arbitrarily or demanding arbitrary actions akin to the military attitude; Nigerians should cease and desist from demanding and wishing for democracy but retaining behaviors that reminds all, of the evils of dictatorship, Mr. Maiwada Zubairu alludes to the same thing, when he said that Nigeria�s challenge is such that so many proclaim the law but many seem not to want to observe or obey the laws! Reminiscent of dictatorship, orders, without rules or justice; All Nigerians irrespective of wealth or station in life, must actively cultivate the good and easy habit of obeying the laws, it serves and protects collective interests of all Nigerians and it is a good cure for hypertension and nightmares! I am never scared or concerned anywhere, because I operate within the laws everywhere! It adds to self-confidence!
It needs be said again, that the rules of democracy are arduous and can also be painfully and tortuously s-l-o-w, but the rewards are immense and are well worth the wait and patience and tolerance! Democracy, rule of law and due process are like the rains and the citizens are like farmers, it is the case that rainfall, does not discriminate between good farmers and bad farmers, rain falls evenly! And the acceptance of democracy, the rule of law and due process by Nigerians, will benefit all Nigerian citizens, the good and the not so good! But we need democracy, the rule of law and due process nonetheless, and notwithstanding that the not so good persons might benefit, or that the not so good may occasionally abuse the system or take undue advantage of it.
Some Nigerians pay their taxes as and when due, some Nigerians pay their NEPA bills as they accrue, some Nigerians paid their full fares on Nigeria Airways, but we also know that a great number of Nigerians neglected to pay their taxes, NEPA bills or for flights on Nigeria Airways! The consequences are that, the good and not so good citizens are adversely affected by negative behaviors! As when Nigeria Airways wound up in bankruptcy, it is a loss to all Nigerians! It will be a good thing for all Nigerians to begin to see �government properties� as public properties, as taxpayer properties, that your properties and mine! That is what NEPA, NIPOST, NITEL, NNPC etc are! Ours!
When we notice fraud we should report it, it is in our best interests, we notice the Area Boys vandalizing NEPA transformer or NNPC pipeline? It is our property! We must jealously protect them! We must report criminals and vandals and white collar fraudsters and tax cheats/evaders for the rule of law and due process to take course, or the consequence might soon stare us in the face, vandalized transformer, result in inability of NEPA in the transmission of electricity, vandalized NNPC pipeline or installations? Leads to no gas for cooking or for running Egbin Thermal Stations and others! Tax frauds, tax evaders, tax dodgers, tax cheats? They are the reasons the road to my hometown has not been tarred, resurfaced or repaired for 20 years! Consequential thinking in all its flamboyance states that! Every word and action has consequences for us; If government is broke? No services for us! Help prevent thefts!
All Nigerians must start accepting, protecting and upholding democracy, the rule of law, due process, as all Nigerians stand to benefit from the dividends of allowing the system work to protect our collective national interests! In my opinion, the state of affairs in Nigeria is a culmination of everyone waiting for someone to take of our national interests and everyone being selfish and so nothing gets done! Help NEPA provide good services, if you are selfish and buy your private generator, scarcity of petrol may soon give you reality check, how about the noise from the generator, the fumes and pollution etc, so if we hear someone cheating NEPA? We should take it as a personal affront and report and follow-up, if he/she is adequately rebuked or sanctioned for the opprobrium? Others may learn and be deterred, this is how it works, it is simple and it can be done in the name of the law and all of us! And the late General Idiagbon will be delighted at modernized and democratized War Against Indiscipline and wanton destruction or pillage of public properties! All Nigerians must start afresh to be our brothers and sisters keepers!
Democracy requires participation, even active involvement!
The rule of law requires obedience and observance
Due process requires patience and tolerance including fairness to all!
Nigerians must not wait until all circumstances are perfect in Nigeria before we love our country or before we start obeying the laws and start urging the others to do, same; Nigerians cannot wait until all the conditions in Nigeria are perfect, We should pay our taxes, urge others to pay or report them if they do not, report corporate tax evasion and corporate wrong-doings, we should not accept pay-offs to cover-up, when we cheat Nigeria, we cheat ourselves and generations unborn! We should start blowing the whistle on corruption and fraud, whether by people or by companies, whether foreign or domestic, Nigerians should become WHISTLE BLOWERS on wrong-doing of all types and all sorts, blow the whistle against crime and corruption! Blow the whistle against injustice to anyone, We will benefit, We are Nigeria, Nigeria is us!
When our house leaks, we should patch the leaks, instead of demolishing our home, when our ship angles for an abler captain, we should not sink our ship, when our rights have been or are being, likely to be infringed up? We should not engage in self-help vigilantism, we should instead follow the rules of democracy, the rule of law and await due process patiently; Nigeria�s cup of abundance is half full!
Individuals and nations in the natural course of events of human lives do experience challenges and even failures; Any person who proclaim to others that he has never failed, is liar, a magician, or he is not ambitious enough, as failure can be where the rules of success are honed! We all fall and get up, We all make mistakes, same reason, all pencils have erasers! Nigeria will get up! And Nigeria is a destined champion and champions are those willing to put everything on the line to see how good they really are!
According to the former president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari�s NPN, Nigeria is One Nation, One Destiny, One God!
Democracy, the rule of law and due process are the basic and fundamental essences and elements of prosperous and great societies and the time is now, for all of us to accept and practice these concepts and their tenets, Nigeria will arrive at the destined glory and promise land in our time! Insha Allah.
God has always blessed Nigeria and will continue to do so, even more abundantly!
Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and an Information Technology Professional