Absolute Powers – Latest From Nigeria, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics
By Gabriel Amalu
Lord Acton, a 19th century British politician, historian and moralist, was right when he said in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power absolutely corrupts.” Great men are almost always bad men. In another version of the saying, William Pitt, a British Prime Minister (1766-1778) put it this way: “unlimited power is liable to corrupt the minds of those who possess it”.
Clearly, however the declaration is portrayed, the Nigerian socio-political conundrum presents a caricature of power, as those in power abuse it, as their power increases. Of course, power is used here to include authority-power, derived from state laws, and raw power, resulting from the forced appropriation of power, by non-state actors. In either case, the tendency is that as power increases, moral righteousness decreases, and the result is an abuse of power and privilege.
In the past week, the leader of the Outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was intercepted and forcibly returned to Nigeria, to appear before Judge Binta Nyako, at the Federal High Court in Abuja. . Kanu jumped on bail in 2017 after an attack on his country house by the Nigerian army. Shortly after jumping on bail, Kanu surfaced abroad and continued his campaign for the independent state of Biafra.
Over the years, Kanu has become an icon for many Nigerians, especially the younger generation in the east of the country and beyond. As the quality of life in the country deteriorated, many Nigerians at home and abroad looked to Kanu’s separatist agenda as the rulers’ cure for poverty that reduced the country to a beggar nation. Soon after, words such as “Supreme Leader” were used to describe Kanu by his staunch supporters.
With many people increasingly indebted to his campaign, Kanu has taken on courage to openly challenge the authority of the federal and state governments, which he sees as part of Biafra. From simple rhetoric, the agitators of Biafra would have turned into an armed group, under the auspices of the Eastern Security Network (ESN). As might be expected, the federal government and state governors along the axis of former Biafra began to panic, over the potential of Kanu’s antics.
As usual with power, it is possible that Kanu in turn began to truly see himself as the potential leader of the emerging Biafran nation. The success of the recent sit-at-home order, by IPOB, on May 30, in memory of the genocide committed against people of the former extraction of eastern Nigeria, during the Biafra-Nigeria war, must also have given rise to the impression to the powers – that is, Kanu, if not controlled, could become a potentate of the Igbo race.
To add spice to the emerging crisis, an ESN chief, Mr. Ikonne, was killed by security agents in Imo state. Emboldened by the broad support of sympathizers at home and abroad, the agitators made the fatal mistake of engaging in direct military confrontation with Nigerian security agencies. According to the media, the supreme leader, in the exercise of the powers that he thought he had, would have given the order that in retaliation for the murder of Ikonne, a thousand heads be sacrificed.
Of course, all of the reports remain mere allegations, and it is possible that Kanu will be able to prove his innocence, when confronted in court in a free and fair trial. On the federal authority side, the challenge is what to do with Kanu, who has become a pain in the ass in recent years for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and the southeastern governors and security agencies he had. ridiculed as incompetent?
Kanu being in police custody, would the federal government fall into the temptation to exercise absolute powers over him, treating him as a fugitive enemy, who does not deserve the privileges of fundamental rights granted by the constitution of 1999 (such as as amended)? To show how tempting the option to exercise absolute powers over Nnamdi Kanu and company can be, the 1st Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr. John Aikpokpo-Martins, in bizarre case law, has argues that the “president is constitutionally bound to crush” secessionist agitators.
Aikpokpo-Martins articulates his disjointed argument on the premise that after swearing to protect the constitution, the president is ipso-facto empowered to crush anyone he thinks opposes this constitution. If the learned lawyer can be asked, then what is the role of the tribunal, as provided for in Article 6 (6) (b) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), if the president can unilaterally crush people who have opinions opposed to the Constitution?
If the media report of what Mr. Aikpokpo-Martins said is true, then the learned lawyer can be described as a conservative of the saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Because, in essence, he was saying that if you have the power, you must use all means to protect and preserve it. Fortunately, the president does not seem interested in crushing all those who argue for the dissolution of Nigeria, since as in the case of Kanu, the case is being pursued in court.
Of course, the overwhelming armed insurgency against the state, which the government should legitimately pursue, should never be equated with overwhelming separatist agitations, when pursued peacefully. If the reverse is the case, then the constitution is a bundle of confusion. Because it provides in Article 39 (1) that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
To say that a Nigerian cannot legitimately have a dissenting opinion on the viability of the country as it is currently constituted is to reverse the logic. This is clearly a legitimate opinion as envisioned by the constitution. Indeed, while those who hold the point of view can convince the majority to reason in the same way, Nigerians have the inherent constituent power to determine how they are governed, and that includes the power to dissolve the country as it is. constituted.
What President Buhari and other state actors have to accept is that the majority of Nigerians are disappointed with the state of the nation. Of course, breaking the deadlock is controversial. While some believe President Buhari is skilfully leading the way, others believe his tactics are at the root of the crisis, and people like Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho and others have consequently lost faith in the Nigerian project. .
This column therefore urges President Buhari not to resort to authoritarianism to resolve the crisis. He must abjure to become an evil man, by the corrupt appropriation of absolute power.