The Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday knocked President Muhammadu Buhari for saying national interest is greater than rule of law.
Buhari had spoken in Abuja on Sunday at the commencement of the 2018 conference of the Nigerian Bar Association.
But in a statement entitled “Buhari’s Pernicious Doctrine”, Soyinka yesterday said history had proven over the years that rule of law often outlives leaders who attempt to trample on it.
He stated: “Here we go again. In 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 said Nigerians should be thankful for Buhari’s 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,” he said.
According to him, there is no shortcut to democracy and that 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,” he stated.