In Defence Of The Rule Of Law
Bashir Abba Sharif
It is not for nothing that, in the best of democracies all over the world, what one finds as the most visible is the strict adherence to the rule of law and conscious internalization of democratic values that largely define relationships within institutions and between individuals. In such societies, justice, in its broad sense, is seen not just as a relative concept but the conscience of the society, so much that its equitable dispensation is more of an article of faith than an exigency. Public office is therefore all about trust reposed and solemnly kept by those it is entrusted to.
In spite of the intermittent Military incursions that we have had to contend with as a country over the years, Nigeria has been a democracy, blessed with resources, enormous enough to take it to a very higher level and ahead of its peers. However, due to weakling institutions, impunity, by and among the political elite, dominates, in large proportion, the conduct of public officers in our governments. Rule of law, for instance, that other countries take seriously, is daily abused to the detriment of development without appropriate or at best selective sanction. Consequently, endemic corruption and nepotism find the opportunity to gradually erode whatever consensus the nation was built on.
Determined to face the challenges that tended to undermine good governance, Nigerians, by decisive choice, decided to effect a change of leadership orientation for the country when the opportunity presented itself in 2015 Presidential election and elected President Muhammadu Buhari, with the expectations that he would turn things round with his three point agenda. Happily, against all odds, a little over two years now, the President has justified the confidence reposed in the administration. Impunity and nepotism, that found cover under rule of law abuse in the previous administration, are being curtailed substantially to the delight of not a few.
However, while good governance is now taking root, Nigerians are bewildered by what is best describe as the resonation of rule of law abuse and impunity in the most unexpected organ of the government. One is here referring to the purported suspension of the Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, Professor Usman Yusuf, by the Minister for Health, Professor Isaac Adewale, who construed public office as synonymous with personal power and authority, not anything to do with accountability and responsibility.
On learning about this paradox, I was seriously worried and felt unjustifiably put on the defensive. Here is an administration that we put our all with many that paid the ultimate price to install, somersaulting to the inglorious method of the previous administration, when the President is not only far away but recuperating from serious sickness in London. I then begin to roll back the memory of places and congregations assured of absolute respect for the rule of law in this administration. Well, after all the alls, my conclusion is that, there is more to this perfidy than that meets the eye.
Be that as it may, the Minister needs to be tutored that the Public service is driven by transparent guidelines that, with emphasis, outlines span of control and responsibility such that no one can suspend whom he has no power to appoint. To this extent, the purported suspension of the Executive Secretary is nullity as it contravenes and circumvents the law establishing the Scheme and the public service rules. Of course, given his condition, the President could not have delegated the power to suspend the Executive Secretary to anybody. Moreover, it is very doubtable for the authorization to come from the Acting President, given his refusal to swear in two Ministers confirmed by the Senate, on the ground that it was the President that nominated them. Besides, the Minister cannot claim ignorance of the futility of the move by Senate in respect to the Comptroller of Custom based on power to appoint or remove from office.
One is not suggesting the coadunation of any wrong done by anybody in the administration. The insistence here is that, the Minister cannot accuse, out of own volition, investigate, suspend and lurk somewhere close to remove whom he did not appoint or have power to appoint. To do that, would entail not only infraction on the appointing authority and persecution on the part of the victim but equally an abuse of the rule of law that he swore to depend.
It is worth to note that, sensing the inherent danger, the Federal House of Representatives has called the Minister to order. However, commendable as the call is, it came after Minister has succeeded in ridiculing the people and Government as well as embarrassing the President in many fronts. If the untoward action was intended to be a kite flown when the President is indisposed, it has to be sanctioned otherwise nepotism that we believe the country has parted ways with will resurface in the administration.
One cannot say the President is infallible. Far from that, it is believed that he can make wholesome, safe and unintended mistake like many people. It therefore appears, the appointment of Professor Isaac Adewole is, by inference, one of such mistakes. For this reason, it is a justified agitation for the President to restructure his cabinet before much more havoc is done to his credibility and selfless service profile. After all, we are all one in defense of the rule of law.
May the Almighty bring back to us the President, stronger and healthier, to continue leading this country so that it will be better for us and future generation.