Flying high on the wings of the wind of change and a socialist Hymns of endless chains of promise, the present Nigerian government and regime came into power.
Two years is passed and the regime is to undergo the litmus test of effectiveness and efficiency of which democracy as a concept is paramount among others. defined by Abraham Lincoln as a system of governance where power lies in the people, and those in authority merely derive legitimacy them. it is of utmost importance to ask.
How has democracy fared under this regime?
29th of May reckoned as democracy day gives us just the opportunity to evaluate at each point in time our collective compliance to the rule of law and the supremacy of our Constitution. these both being the cardinal objects of evaluation. it thus may be given brief consideration.
RULE OF LAW.
the rule of law is one of the most challenging concepts of the Constitution. the principle insists that every person regardless of rank or social status should be subject to the law. it also implies that both government officials and elected representatives of the people comply with the provisions of the law. the rule of law can only be meaningful where a country exhibits the attributes of a democratic governance. Thus in Gouriet V Union of post office. Lord Denning stated “be ye never so high, the law is above you” where the rule of law is strictly adhered to, then the exercise of absolute discretion by any person or institution whatever will not be allowed. it flows therefore that equality before the law is also synonymous with rule of law. a system of governance devoid of favoritism, nepotism and tribalism.
To uphold this sacred doctrine for purpose of legality of government the court has been empowered to ensure absolute compliance and adherence to the rule of law. A.V Dicey in his classical exposition argued “that no man is punishable or can be lawfully made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land. in this sense”
Sec 6(6)(b)of the 1999 Constitution provides that judicial powers shall extend to all matters between persons or between government or authority and any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.
Consequently, the protection of personal liberty and promotion of fundamental human right is a duty the Constitution imposes upon government and its agencies. and in a nation where this is not guaranteed, it will be erroneous therefore to rank it as a democratic nation. where secret trial is practiced, where the right to bail is refused to some people, where people are indiscriminately looked up in prisons without trial nor conviction. It then becomes ironic to continue to classify such nation as democratic.
The government of the day in their bid to fight corruption has also incursed upon the rights of innocent Nigerians who are disgraced and given media trials, aspersions, derogatory and defamative treatments is least to be mentioned among list. The unprofessional and disgraceful conducts of the National Assembly reeking in corruption from its leadership to the least officer, or the endless tug of war between the executive and legislature?. what then is left of our democracy which is on a daily basis dragged to the mud by those empowered and commissioned to protect it, that is, the judiciary where some judges are facing trial for presumed corrupt practices and dollar judgements. or do we talk about the rising unemployment ratio of our nation which goes along way to disclose what a failure we have become. what about the iron fist used against any figure or Institutions trying to question the status quo?
I can boldly declare that the Nigerian democracy is a fraud and a deception. what is democracy where elections are ‘Tinkered’ where the masses are not allowed to select through a balloting system their own representatives and the attendant blood shed that follow where the powers that be are not comfortable with the results? do we speak of our security and law enforcement agencies who are but maid servants to politicians. a system rottening in corruption and their power to stop and search is exercise in lieu of bribery. or the inequitable distribution of national wealth? all these culminate into a positive assertion our nascent democracy has even died before maturity.
SUPREMACY OF THE CONSTITUTION
A Constitution can only be said to be supreme where it constitutes the yardstick upon which every conduct is measured. A system of governance where there is separation of powers between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. a principle of law expounded by the English political thinker John Locke and developed by the French philosopher Baron d’ Montesquieu. separation of powers as provided for by the sections 4,5,6 of the 1999 Constitution, is a condicio sine qua non for Constitutionality.
It is therefore disheartening to discover that the authority of our courts have been in recent times undermined and neglected. an act contrary to the basic ideology of democracy which is the supremacy of the law over all irrespective of rank or status. a doctrine that preaches obedience to court orders and judicial pronouncements.
The present regime has failed in this regard as it has continued to show blatant disrespect and disregard for court order. it is pertinent to note that such act is undemocratic and reduces our indices on the chart of law abiding nations of the world.
The Nigerian Constitution being the grundnorm of all legislative action and a compass of operation, its vital role of shaping our social existence cannot be over emphasized. what happens then when its provisions are not obeyed by citizens and more so by the government, then the surest experience would be impunity, lawlessness, tyranny, nepotism and the most troubling tribalism which has crept into every facet of human endeavors. the spirit of federal character as enshrined in Sec 14 (3)of the 1999 Constitution which recognizes an equitable distribution of federal appointments along regional divides has been thrown into the trash bin by this present government where we see not just the unruly dominance of one section of the country but as well the fearless manner in which it is executed, an act capable of inflamming the nation.
What we find today is a conscious socialization of corruption. where Nigerians are trained from birth to do it the wrong way, to bend the rules and break them when necessary to achieve selfish goals.
Question for thought:
Is Nigeria a democratic nation?.
Is this present regime democratic?.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where can our democracy be graded?.
Can we ever be democratic with the rising decline of morality and positive consciousness?.
What is the way forward to making our nation a democratic one?
NJOKU DAVID CHIBUEZE is the president of Legal Ideas Forum International. And a law graduate of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State.
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