‘National security’: Rulers who tried to annul the law paid heavily – Soyinka warns Buhari

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Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for apparently saying his government is willing to violate the law for national security, reminding the President that those who tried to alter the rule of law did so at a heavy price.

He stated this in response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertion that “the rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.”

Buhari, had at the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, annual conference last Sunday, claimed that it was a settled law that national security should always trump the rule of law. He defended the detention of Nigerians even against judicial pronouncements.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Soyinka mocked the President by saying Buhari had obviously given a deep thought to his travails under a military dictatorship and concluded that his incarceration during the Ibrahim Babangida era was also in the ‘national interest’.

In the statement entitled: ‘Buhari’s Pernicious Doctrine’, Soyinka wrote, “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.

“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.’”

While describing the timing of Buhari’s comment as “perfect”, the nobel laureate said, “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.

“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.”

The revered playwright insisted that there is no shortcut to democracy and that the history of law, even where uncodified, is as old as humanity.

According to him, “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.”

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