Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has berated President Muhammadu Buhari for saying that rule of law can be suspended for the sake of national security.
Soyinka opined this was a plan by the President to hide under the national interest umbrella to undermine the rule of law.
Buhari had at the opening of the 58th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja on Sunday said, “Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.”
In a statement titled, ‘Buhari’s Pernicious Doctrine,’ Soyinka said he was thankful that Nigerians were being given an advance warning of what was to come.
“The timing is perfect, and 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,” he said.
The Nobel laureate recalled that during his rule as a military dictator, Buhari locked up journalists under the guise of national security.
Soyinka said, “Here we go again! 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.”
While mocking the President’s stance, Soyinka said it was also possible that Buhari was detained after his ouster in 1985 for the sake of national interest.
He said, “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.’”
Soyinka said he was happy that the ominous statement was made in the presence of lawyers.
He called on the NBA to make a sound reaction to Buhari’s statement.
The playwright added, “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.”
While insisting that there was no short cut to democracy, Soyinka said history had shown repeatedly that those who tamper with the rule of law never end well.
Soyinka added, “There is no short cut to democracy. The history of law, even where uncodified, is as old as humanity. Numerous rulers have tried again and again to annul that institution. 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.”