Nigeria’s own Noble laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has torn apart President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment that national security takes precedence over the rule of law.
Going by Buhari’s antecedents, Soyinka warned Nigerians to expect certain actions that will justify the president’s declaration.
Buhari made the comments at the opening ceremony of the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Monday.
In a statement on Thursday, titled ‘Buhari’s Pernicious Doctrine”, Soyinka said: “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 – Sunny Irabor and Tunde 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,” said Prof. Soyinka.
“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.”
Soyinka noted that there is no shortcut to democracy and that the history of law, even where not codified, is as old as humanity.
“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”, his statement concluded.