Rule Of Law, Blind Men And The Elephant | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Rule Of Law, Blind Men And The Elephant

Posted: Mar 22, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
Celestine Okonkwo, Lagos
Suddenly, obedience to court order has become the only yardstick for measuring adherence to rule of law and sustenance of democracy. According to such definition, a governor or President or any person can
go against the constitution, by stealing, extortion, embezzling of public funds, and not even paying workers’ salaries ; but once he obeys court orders especially granting of bail to anyone accused of such misdemeanour, he is in the right books of the pro-rule of law exponents.
Under such definition too, the government or its agencies will be adjudged keeping to the ‘rule of law’ if they do not challenge an order of a court restraining them from ever arresting and or investigating an official accused of embezzlement or mismanagement of public funds.  Therefore, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) was deemed to be obeying the ‘rule of law’ when it complied with the bail orders for the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and Faruk Lawan, who were standing trial. Also Chimaroke Nnamani and Joshua Dariye, former governors of Enugu and Plateau States respectively, who were in court for embezzlement of state funds, even when those cases are currently suffocating in courts. Rule of law advocates applauded and looked the other way since the ‘rule of law’ has been obeyed by allowing the suspects to go on bail, even if that meant an apparent end to the cases. All of a sudden too, the refusal of the bail order for Dasuki for allegedly diverting funds meant for arms purchase has given birth to an avalanche of ‘rule-of-law’ defenders. They have inundated the nation’s media with comments, articles, arguments, and calls for the crucifixion of the present government for being dictatorial, and for derailing the country’s hard-won democracy because it failed to allow Dasuki go on bail.
Luckily, for the EFCC and the administration, an Abuja Federal Capital Territory High Court judge, Justice Peter Affen, has ruled that the continued detention of Dasuki did not violate the order granting the ex-NSA bail on December 21, 2015. Earlier, Justice Baba Yusuf of the same court had on February 8, made a similar declaration that the detention of Dasuki was not a breach of his order granting him bail on December 18 2015. But whilst this article is not in support of the government disobeying court orders, especially bail orders, it is, however, concerned and is asking why the sudden birth of such critics when, in reality, the rule of law had all along been suffocating and had suffocated in this country. Where were the current crusaders when the rule of law was being murdered all these years?
Where were they when court orders were ridiculously dished out? Where were they when a court ordered the EFCC never to arrest or investigate former Rivers State governor who was standing trial for embezzlement? The list is so long.
The attitude of these ‘rule of law’ crusaders reminds one of the stories of some blind men who went to see an elephant. One touched the body of the elephant and declared that the animal was like a wall contrary to the views of the one that touched the ear and said that the elephant was like a piece of cloth. Yet, another touched the tail and was convinced that the animal was like a snake.  Though these blind men touched different parts of the same elephant, they could not put their findings together to give a correct picture of the animal. But they are all correct because the parts they touched belong to the elephant.  The elephant here represents the constitution of the country and the blind men are everybody trying to interpret it. But unlike the blind men in the story, who highlighted different parts of the elephant, our ‘rule of law’ exponents only touch the tail and want everybody to believe that the elephant is not just like a snake but that the animal is a snake.
For them, obeying court order especially bail orders represents rule of law and nothing else. For them too, anyone who flaunts this order is a dictator.  The constitution, like the elephant in the story is made up of different parts that are mutually exclusive but form one body of laws. Therefore, highlighting only the obedience to court order as the ‘be all and end all’ of the constitution or the rule of law, is like making the tail of the elephant the only important part of the animal.
By keeping quiet when all other aspects of the constitution or the rule of law are being trampled upon is like saying that all other aspects of the constitution can be treated anyhow, but not court orders, especially granting bail to alleged wrongdoers.