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By Olusola Adegbite, Esq.
Ninety days running, the Nigerian President, his cabal’s monitored self exile in medical peregrination, and the agony of a state of hopelessness tabled before the Nigerian People, has become the butt of jokes across the globe. Not only did Fareed Zakaria take time out of his CNN’s schedule to participate in the comedy, the sarcasm of the President of Nigeria being caricatured as an Effigy in the British museum, has since become perhaps the most humiliating symbolism to be made of any country’s President. Yet, our country has carried on in her business as usual mode and so sordid has the game become, that as one page of the dirty script is torn by the few citizens bold enough to ask questions, another is quickly written to keep the praise-singing crowd alive. Certainly, there are very few parallels of the Nigerian game of political deceit in the world space, and the mastery of those in government, in the art of mental hostage-taking is simply legendary. Anyway, let this Author not lament, after all the job of freeing the mind is not a gift, but an eternal vocation.
Let me therefore address the current mess, it’s peculiarity, and the end of the story that both the praise-singers and the onlookers know. Anyone sufficiently educated in the historical collapse of governments, and the rise and fall of Human societies, know that it takes more than a surreptitious hide and seek romance with the Law, whether carrying the signage of “Statute”, “Precedent”, or “The Constitution”, for a Society to survive. The survival of every society has always come about by the realisation and decision of men, that man is not made for the law, but that the law is made for man. Why then would it be difficult for anyone to understand the use and context of the word “Acting”? A search in any legal literature will reveal this word as meaning “temporary”, or “for a time”, and this is to the extent that within the realm of reasonability, the application of the understanding of the term would in any manner, be to the effect that to it is attached a return date, a resumption stipulation, or a definite plan of cessation. Where anything is contrary, it must immediately be seen as an assault on whatever legal document improvised the use of the term.
Flowing from the above, it therefore becomes the worst form of executive rascality, presidential immorality, and huge character deficiency, for a Sitting President to dump the job he was so passionately voted to do, on the fragile laps of an Acting cum Temporary President, beset with an assortment of ethnic, sectional and political battles, and not give notice of a definite re-appearance date. But what has being the defence so far? Section 145 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The President and his choir within and without the government, have been running around town with the tired narrative in Section 145, and in the desperation to save a drowning presidency, a decent constitutional provision has become an indecent tool in the hands of dangerous men. But what exactly is the character of the so called Section 145. Any right-thinking Man knows, or ought to know that Section 145 is not a bottom-less pit that you keep dumping every constitutional excuse, with the expectation that it can never get filled up, neither is it a fantasy land that any President escapes to and from there starts sending voicemails to his people. Section 145 is a Constitutional provision with both letters and spirit; the letters to guide the people in any normal situation, and the Spirit to instruct and save them from destruction in abnormal situations. The current situation is totally abnormal, and thus that Section cannot strictly be applied by it’s letters alone. Where that is done, as it is in the present case, it becomes a dead law that can not save itself, nor help the person it was so misapplied to protect.
What then is this Author saying? Let me continue the interrogation this way, what is the law if not fragmented codes that a reasonable society must start with, but not die with. So even though the society starts with the law, it does not end with the law. What is therefore the end? Simple, Commonsense. Sadly, most times commonsense itself is neither simple nor common. Commonsense is nothing but reason, the Natural law jurisprudence that views Man as a being equipped with a rational faculty, elementarily knowing the distinction between what is good and what is bad. Thus, without commonsense every law is dead. A law is only as good as it’s application based on commonsense. So, within the context of the ongoing presidential mess, even if Section 145 in its ordinary letters does not mandate President Buhari to tell those who he leads when he would return, the strict demand of modern governance which signpost responsible leadership, accountability, and acting at all times in the best interest of the people as against the claim of empty privacy rights, in the supremacy of the spirit of the consitution, mandates him to hold himself to that high standard. If a Councillor or Local Government Chairman absconds from his duty post, that may be forgivable, certainly the same is not for a President. So far, with President Buhari going totally incommunicado without a definite return date on record, Section 145 has become a tool devoid of commonsense in application, it has become useless in the circumstance. And it doesn’t matter if the President and his apologists have become slaves to the above provision, the reality is that once this stillborn gets to it’s dead end, these same apologists will become the new undertakers. But this is a different level of law, a level that many Lawyers carefully avoid because it takes power from them and puts it in the hands of the People. And to say that the Nigeria Police notwithstanding it’s badly discredited image, would still further lend itself as a willing tool in the hands of desperate politicians in furtherance of this charade, by escorting jobless Baby-mamas masquerading as ‘For Buhari’ protesters, simply again cast the force as that proverbial dog, that is never tired of going back to it’s vomit. For this Author, the entire Buhari mess is nothing but a shame on a shameless presidency, a disgrace on a conscience-less ruling party, and the highest form of ridicule that has ever been brought on a People.
But in the long-run, there is nothing new under the sun. Like it has become our familiar history, this is a story which end everyone already knows; it is a road once taken, a notorious lane always preferred. Once it was Yar’adua, and it ended in shame. Then Suntai came along, and the thoughtless soap opera eventually collapsed in fatalities. Now it is Buhari. The same script, but with a new set of actors. When the profession of a political class is to do the same thing over and over again, but still dream of a different result, the diagnosis of the ailment in view should not be so much of a task. “The Buhari should return” versus “The Buhari should keep enjoying himself” clash of protesters is the current political telemundo. There is certainly no point appealing to those involved to behave like Human beings, history is sure to record for everyone what they deserve. Whether Buhari should return or not is a matter in the womb of time, but one thing is certain, “Dew is all that is required to bring down a house built with spittle”.
Olusola Adegbite, Esq. is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.He is currently away at the Benjamin N.Cardozo School Law, Yeshiva University, New York.