Victoria Olagbegi-Oloba: Employing The Rule Of Law To Advance Liberty And Good Governance In Nigeria

Just as aptly submitted by Kofi Bentil, the concept of Rule of Law is the principle that governments must be governed by well-defined set of laws that binds all within a particular jurisdiction.  The rule of Law among others entails fairness, equality before the law, respect for human rights, life and personal properties, just and equitable treatment of all as opposed to the arbitrary treatment of the masses by the leaders, government and government officials. To this end, respect for the rule of law is key to the overall development and stability of every African nation and in this case, Nigeria.

The key idea of the rule of law is that the law should apply equally to all that is; the governors and the governed alike. Thus, in the words of the 19th century constitution expert A.V. Diecy, the rule of law ensures a ‘government of law and not a government of men’. The alternative to the rule of law is nothing but arbitrariness, lawlessness, insecurity and lack of order.

The rule of law establishes and binds the relationship between government and the people. As John Locke put it, ‘whenever law ends, tyranny begins.’ For a law to be respected and obeyed, it must reflect the spirit of the people, just as submitted by Von Savigny. The rule of law must protect the fundamental rights of the people it governs and be able to meet their changing needs. The rule of law promotes democracy, judicial independence, peace, security, orderliness and good governance to mention but a few.

It is on records that despite the fact that African countries have experienced widespread human development and improved economic opportunities since 2000, the rule of law has deteriorated in a number of countries, according to the Ibrahim index of African governance (IIAG). Although on the papers, Nigeria is being governed under a democratic system of government, and have very good legislated laws on enormous subject matters, it is however unfortunate that tendencies of dictatorship, autocracy, corruption, mismanagement and abuse of public office are still evident. The result of which includes overall socio-economic and political stagnancy, inequality, poverty, hunger, mass unemployment and in fact, under development which are generally being suffered by many. In order to save the situation, there is an urgent need for the total overhauling of the various systems that make up Nigeria.

It has been submitted by a school of thought that rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated and consistent with international human rights principles. For freedom and liberty to thrive and survive in Nigeria, these elements should at least be present in our democracy.

The courts play an integral role in maintaining the rule of law, particularly when they hear the grievances voiced by minority groups or by those who may hold minority opinions hence, the urgent need for active, judicious and independent judiciary in Nigeria. Access to justice in Nigeria should be ensured and equally assured for all.

It is worthy of mention that the constitution, in any country, has a major impact on the judicial system and the rule of Law. It is therefore submitted that the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria be sincerely amended to reflect the spirit of the people and respect for the rights of the people it seeks to serve. Chapter II of the Constitution should also be made to become enforceable particularly against the State. Law enforcement agents and agencies also have very important roles to play in Nigeria towards sanitizing, ensuring and upholding her rules of Law.

The masses at election should vote wisely and elect selfless leaders that would lead in accordance with the tune and dictates of the law. Nigerian youths should become more active in governance and decision making, while on the other hand, elder state men should encourage and give way to more participation of youths in governance. Organizing relevant educational workshops and seminars are very important, and the media has a very great role to play as most Nigerians and Africans do not know their rights let alone, knowing how to fight for same. But with the aid of related programs on the media, a larger and greater part of the people would be well informed and enlightened.

It is no more news that Africa is blessed and rich. Given the fact that the rule of Law is the foundation and bedrock of true democracy and socio-economic stability the world over, it then becomes very necessary for African States and Nigeria in particular to look inwards to redefine and restructure their goals, parastatals, agencies, leaders and mode of leadership selection in whole.

The present level of corruption, abuse of human rights and lack of respect for the rule of law at large by the political leaders in Nigeria is not only worrisome, but absolutely shameful! To this end, towards advancing the cause of liberty in Nigeria, the youths should constantly demand accountability, transparency, true democracy and good governance on the one hand; and respect for the rule of law on the other hand. All other stakeholders too must become very active, otherwise, the status quo may continue, hindering development and progress.