The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday, condemned what he described as the indiscriminate approach to the war against corruption in the country, saying that strict adherence to the rule of law and respect of provisions of the constitution were the sure ways to prevent tyranny and oppression in a democracy.
Ekweremadu said the war was “being pursued according to the whims and caprices of those in power who persecute people according to the party they belong to.” Ekweremadu who spoke on the topic: “Strengthening the Foundations of Rule of Law in Nigeria,” at a public lecture in honour of late Prof. Godwin Amadi, a renowned professor of Law from the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, UNEC, added that anything short of respecting the rule of law would lead to anarchy.
According to him, flagrant disobedience of judicial pronouncements remains a major threat to rule of law and survival of Nigeria’s democracy. “The efficacy of the rule of law is hinged on the compliance by governmental bodies and agencies with decisions of courts of law and other judicial or adjudicatory bodies. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, disobedience to court orders appears to be the norm rather than the exception in many facets of our national life,” he added.
The lecture was jointly organized by the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria and Prof. G. O. S Amadi Foundation at the Moot Court Complex, UNEC. However, Ekweremadu stressed that the rule of law was indispensable in any society that craved for justice, equity, and fairness even as the foundation of the rule of law in the country was the 1999 constitution, as amended.
Ekweremadu, who is an alumnus and former lecturer at the Faculty of Law, stressed that to make the foundation strong, all Nigerians should play their roles well. His words: “Those who think the strengthening of the rule of law is not their business are only playing the dangerous game of the cockerel, which refused to attend a meeting in the animal kingdom, claiming it was not his business. But, sadly for him, it was agreed at the meeting that his lineage would be used as sacrifice to the gods.
The cock and his kindred are yet to recover from that I-don’t-care attitude.He maintained the rule of law is everybody’s business. “We must all be ready and willing to live by the spirit and letters of our laws. Much of our problems are not about the laws themselves, but about our disrespect for them. Indeed, a major difference between us and the developed world is that while we choose which rules, laws, or court judgments to obey or not to obey, they command obedience to their laws through strict enforcement that does not respect persons.
We need to imbibe that attitude and culture in order to strengthen the foundations of the rule of law in Nigeria. “On leading by example, the words of Justice Louis D. Brandeis in Olmstead v. United States are instructive. In his dissenting opinion,he states: ‘Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher.
For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
“It is very clear, therefore, that impunity and lawlessness are contagious. If those at the helm of leadership have no respect for the rule of law, their subordinates are not likely to respect the rule of law also…” “If they by any means show that the law is meant to catch their opponents and perceived enemies alone, they have unwittingly licensed their purported friends to scorn the rules and break the laws. And certainly, as a leader, you cannot choose which law or court verdict to obey or which to disobey.
” Quoting a former American statesman and President, Thomas Jefferson, he further maintained that even under the best of leadership, no man was good enough to exercise power outside the dictates of the Constitution or law, as that would amount to an invitation to tyranny and anarchy.
Also, eulogising the late Professor Amadi who he described as a true “trade unionist”, he said labour leaders of these days live ostentatious lives and drive luxy vehicles but turn round to criticise those in power. “The other day, some labour leaders came to the Senate to protest against plans to acquire Sports Utility Vehicles, (SUV) for senators and members of the House of Representatives but when some of our people went out, they took pictures of the SUVs these labour leaders drove to the National Assembly in.
” Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the event and Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi, had described Senator Ekweremadu as “an icon” and a worthy alumnus of the UNN, emphasised the need for strict adherence to the process of arraignment, stating that there was nothing like “Holden Charge” under the Nigerian legal system. “The process of arraignment is a strict part of the law. If you don’t observe it, then everything you have done would have been rendered null and void”, he added.