:by Kehinde Ayeku
Law, according to Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary 8th Edition, is the whole system of rules that everyone in a country or society must obey. The place and importance of law in any society cannot be overemphasized. Its essence is that everything does not become permissible.
From the definition of law above, a striking feature which is very germane to this discussion is revealed, and that is its binding nature. Everyone must obey it. It is what a society has accepted as their code of conduct towards the achievement of their common goal, which is orderliness. And anyone who goes against it will face its wrath.
Corruption in Nigeria and the attitudes of Nigerians to it can be likened to a man who knew certainly that it would rain based on the weather condition, but decided to go out without an umbrella, and few minutes later, the rain descended heavily on him. He was drenched because there was nothing to use as a shield neither could he find a place to stay.
This nation is drenched in corruption. Although it is called a democratic state, but there is nothing relating to democracy at all in Nigeria. Democracy can only survive if we can expunge corruption from our dear nation.
Nigeria is one of the countries that claim to practice the doctrine of rule of law. This doctrine stipulates that everyone is equal before the law. Individuals, private entities, government, its officials and agents are all accountable under the law. Also is the fact that an independent, incorrupt and neutral judiciary, among other things, is needed for the rule of law to be practical in any state. However, understandably, Nigeria is far from operating this doctrine. Many instances prove this submission to be true.
A nation where corruption thrives at its peak can never be just, and it is indisputable a fact that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. In as much as those who are meant to administer justice to everyone are corrupt, then logically injustice is the order of the day. In Nigeria, the majority of those who use their office to loot national resources consider themselves above the law. They can always thwart the verdict of cases against them by “meeting” the judge(s). We have seen countless number of times corrupt public servants buy their way to freedom.
The constitution is the supreme law of the land and by the doctrine of rule of law; it must be above the citizens and not vice-versa in any way. But Nigeria’s constitution has been turned to a mere book of reference for the poor in most criminal cases. Rich and influential individuals are exonerated from punishment, even when glaringly committed. The definition of justice has been changed to “winning people to your side through the power of money.” A broken, deteriorated, epileptic and dysfunctional justice system is naturally a failed nation in every sense of it.
Former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili, has a perpetual injunction (an order of the court restraining an action by a person) against prosecution by security agents, (EFCC, ICPC and the Police) for the ‘crimes’ committed during his tenure as governor. Stella Oduah, the former Aviation minister, under the Jonathan led administration, was accused of stealing #255million. In fact, a committee was set up to probe her for this. She was even indicted, but sadly she has been shielded from further interrogation and arrest by the EFCC.
Majority of those at the helm of affairs like government officials and high profile people are guilty of some certain crimes against the state, but with tonnes of money, they bribe their way to freedom. It’s quite strange that the former Petroleum minister, Diezani and her cohort were in the United Kingdom being charged with bribery and corruption, while Nigeria is still struggling to establish the facts of their crimes. These are all attestation to a notable description given by an English writer in one of his books Animal Farm that “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than the other.”
Recently, I watched a movie titled “City Hunter”. It’s basically about a young guy whose initial plan was to bring an end to the life of a “council of five” who killed his father and 20 other people when carrying a mission for their country. But while in the course of doing this, he ends up correcting some ills in the society by bringing the corrupt officials to justice. These five men are political heads in South Korea, but are rotten in corruption. The law has tried all it could to bring them to justice but has failed continuously. In fact, the law has even helped to conceal some of their crimes by the doctrine of statute of limitation, and diplomatic immunity in some other offences.
However, the method used by the so called city hunter to bring about a corrupt free society goes against the law. In the course of achieving his goals, he causes civil unrest and panic to the citizens who are confused and at the same time happy because the corrupt ones are subject to punishment just like every other person according to the doctrine of rule of law. But despite his unlawful means, he ends up creating a society where rule of law prevails. The so called ‘City Hunter’ did what the law could not do. The law created the standard; provided for ways in which the standard was to be maintained, but was too weak in action to bring about the desired result.
Although this occurred in a movie, but we must understand the fact that movie is part of literature, and literature has brought about different changes in the world. The power of literature cannot be denied. It triggers thoughts and actions in humans. South Sudan understands this, and that’s why the country frowns at any work of art that does not go in line with their customs, beliefs and values. Fayadh’s case is a perfect illustration.
An established truth is that the movie ‘portrays’ the current trend in Nigeria – corrupt officials who see themselves as being above the law; who bribe their way to freedom; who see public funds as their heritage; who see their office as only a place to serve their needs and not the peoples’ and above all, who commit serious offences against the nation. Our written law does not permit this, but sadly, it’s as though it’s permitted. This is the reality we face in Nigeria.
As I was thinking before writing this piece, these issues came up in my mind and I need your sincere opinions. What if someone who is not permitted by law but has what it takes to bring about a corrupt free society-the ultimate desire of the masses-decides to bring down the leaders one by one with strong evidence of their corruption, coupled with other related offences, would Nigeria still be regarded as a democratic state? This will definitely cause civil unrest, but since the law does not have what it takes to maintain the standard it creates, wouldn’t it be ‘injustice’ on our part denying “City Hunter” to maintain the standard created by the law?
However, we mustn’t forget the fact that everyone is equal before the law. Wouldn’t “City Hunter” be above the law by causing civil unrest if we allow him to continue?
These might be the questions we’ll need to answer in the future.
A concerned Nigerian must think about those questions.
Kehinde Adeyemi Ayeku is a 300 level Law Student in the University of Ibadan.