By Olu Akanmu
“To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have no place. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body or mind “
Elected representatives of the people are climbing high fences in agbada and three piece suits with their shoes falling off behind them. The hallowed chamber of the people’s representative is tear-gassed. Elected representatives of the people struggle with handkerchiefs to clean their red and peppered eyes from police tear-gas inside their hallowed chambers. A judge is slapped by an elected governor with the police as spectators. Thugs invade a court and its judges take to their heels with their robes flying behind them like parachutes. Seven or is it nine legislators impeach a speaker of a twenty-six member parliament. The Speaker and the legislators go into hiding. Journalists supposedly representing the free press, covering an event which the President would have attended in the Delta are kidnapped under broad daylight by war lords with the official security of the state as on-lookers and later negotiators. In the basins of the Benue river, armed bandits invade farming communities, slaughter the men and destroy farmlands. No-one knows the armed bandits. They come, they go as they wish, marauding Nigeria’s north central region. Close to the Chad, armed bandits invade a town, behead the men, capture the women as objects of war and shoot the Emir. The animal state is here.
The animal state is where the rule of law is suspended or no longer holds, where might is right. Anyone who controls the means of coercion whether legitimately or illegitimately can break the law, use the means of coercion as he or she wishes without recourse to the rule of law. It is the state of war of all against all. The self-interest of the controller of means of coercion is what matters. In non-animal states, where the control and the deployment means of coercion is legitimately delegated to managers of a state as a government, by the people as sovereign, the managers of the state must act not in their self interest but within rule of engagement or the law given by the people sovereign. It implies that the right to control the means of coercion and security forces can be abused by managers of the state if they act in their self interest outside the rule of engagement of the law.
In non animal societies, where there is law and order, no-one else controls the means of coercion, which is largely arms or an armed body of men, except the government. A legitimate armed body of men and the state are so organically linked that Vladimir Lenin was famously quoted to have said that the state in the last analysis consist of armed bodies of men. Essentially, on the long run, state power is wielded by absolute use of force. It must however be done within the rule of law. The tragedy is that in Nigeria today, we have several armed bodies of men with means of coercion existing independently of the state such as the Boko Haram, and the diverse ethnic and riverine militia operating across the country. These private armies enforce justice according to their own rule and interest making the state look increasingly like a jungle where anything goes like an animal state.
While it was not palatable, we seemed over the last few years to have reconciled ourselves as a people to these illegitimate private armies and private police operating outside the control of the state. We tacitly accepted that ours in Nigeria is a state with failing security, law enforcement and judicial institutions where people largely have to resort to self-help in pursuit of their self-interests. Essentially, we tacitly accepted those who have invoked the law of the jungle on our collective psyche, that you can take the law into your own hands especially if you can build your own private means of coercion, your own private army and enforce your self-appointed rule on the larger society. That is why until Chibok woke us up, we seem as a nation to no longer blink at news of kidnappings and the criminal mass murder of young children. We just move on especially if it did not happen near us.
If we tacitly accepted the marauding illegitimate private armies and private police, coercing us as they wish as in the jungle, the last we should accept is the capture of the legitimate security institution of the state by a narrow political elite using it to enforce its wish and will on society. This will be tantamount to a double jungle, a double jeopardy. If Boko Haram, the ethnic and riverine militias are operating with laws of the jungle, we cannot afford our official security forces to act and operate the same way outside the rule of law. If they do, the double jungle situation akin to an animal state will quickly tear down our fragile social cohesion along the visibly open sectional, religious and demographic cracks. It is therefore critical that the managers of the state act within the law and the rules of engagement in the deployment of the police and the army. While the executive arm of government has a legitimate obligation to control and deploy the security forces, it must recognize that this obligation comes with a sacred moral responsibility to rise above politics and self-interest in the deployment of the official security apparatus of the state. If not so, it will breach social trust as a government of all.
Our political experience is showing that we need to strengthen the rule of engagement of our security forces, especially the police to prevent them from being abused by executive arm of government. The office of Inspector General of Police needs to be made more independent of the executive. The National Judicial Council should nominate the Inspector General of Police and his or her appointment ratified by the Senate for a fixed constitutional term. He or she should only be removed from office by a two-third majority of the national assembly just as it applies to the office of the Chief Justice. As it has been canvassed severally, the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation should be separated. Prosecutorial powers of the state should be taken from politicians and given to an Attorney General appointed for a fixed term who cannot be fired by the President except if he is so recommends to parliament and parliament accedes.
The legislative arm of government at federal and state levels also need to become more independent of the executive for check and balance and moderation of executive powers. Our executive-legislative relationship at several levels of government has been rather too incestuous. It is an open secret that because the legislative arm of government tends to be financially compromised or settled by the executive, it tends not to command executive respect. The tear –gassing of the hallowed chamber of the House of Representatives of the people show how low, how un-hallowed the executive and its organs takes the legislative arm of government. Whatever crises are in the national assembly, the executive and its organs should leave the national assembly to resolve it within themselves or with the courts as a de-facto independent arm of government. The national assembly especially the Senate must take all necessary actions to reclaim its respect and independence after the recent national assembly events. If not, some day, in the future, an overbearing executive, using the precedent of recent events, will sack the national assembly akin to a constitutional coup, just because the national assembly refuses to kow-tow to it.
Olu Akanmu publishes a blog on Strategy and Public Policy on http://olusfile.blogspot.com