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Soyinka: Buhari hiding behind ‘national interest’ to subvert rule of law
AFRICA’S foremost Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has criticised Buhari’s comments that the rule of law may be overlooked in matters of national security, saying that the President has given Nigerians a forewarning of what to expect from his administration.
Soyinka made this known via a statement he issued on Thursday in reaction to the remarks attributed to Buhari at the 2018 annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Sunday, August 27.
“The rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest,” Buhari had said at the event, while trying to justify why some people were still being detained by the government in spite of several court judgements ordering their release.
But Soyinka, in his statement, recalled that Buhari towed the same line when he assumed power as a military Head of State after a coup in 1983.
“Here we go again,” Soyinka wrote. “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.’”
Soyinka was referring to Buhari’s imprisonment by then Military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, after the latter’s regime was overthrown in 1985.
He described Buhari’s comments as a “declaration of intent”, adding that he was not surprised as “we have been here before. However, Soyinka added that he expects “a robust response from the NBA” at the conclusion of their conference.
“There is no shortcut to democracy,” he stated. “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.”