2019: “Thanks For Giving Us Advance Warning” – Soyinka Berates Buhari For Rule Of Law, National Security Comment


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Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka has condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment that the rule of law was subject to and can be suspended for national security concerns.

Soyinka said that the president was only attempting to enthrone and justify dictatorial rule under the garb of national interest.

Addressing the gathering of lawyers at the 58th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Sunday, Buhari said that “Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation ’ s security and national interest.”

But reacting via a statement titled ‘Buhari ’ s Pernicious Doctrine’, Soyinka described the president’s comment as an attempt to “degrade the authority of the law”.

He thanked the president for making his intention known in time and urged Nigerians to take note of Buhari’s advance warning.

Soyinka said, “ 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.”

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He recalled that Buhari’s anti-rule of law posture first surfaced during his time as a military dictator when he hid under national security to lock up journalists for doing their jobs.

The Nobel laureate 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.

“ 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 (by his successor, Ibrahim Babangida) was also in the ‘ national interest. ’”

While expressing happiness that Buhari made the comment before lawyers, Soyinka urged the NBA to issue a robust statement to the president’s comment.

“ 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.

“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 . ”

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