VINCENT BUNMI ADEYEMO
When Mahatma Gandhi said: “If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake” He may probably had envisioned a time in the history of the world where our actions as individuals and ordinary men of the society will no longer be conscientiously controlled by what we consider right or wrong nor by the rules or laws in place but by what three men at the centre, guided by their interest and intent, unanimously agree to be favourable to the rest of the people. Hence, the need to be particularly involved wherein even though not seen would be heard.
I will like to confine myself to regarding politics in this sense as the actions and activities involved in both obtaining and retaining power for the purpose of influencing the behaviour or actions of persons whether natural or artificial, through the institution of government. Law on the other hand although nebulous, remains a set of approved standard rules, in our case; codified, to control the behaviour of persons (again, whether natural or artificial) for the purpose of maintaining a sane society and/or attain certain goals. To simply differentiate between law and politics, it is opined that while the later is an activity aimed at achieving certain goals by the players involved, the former is a set of rules stipulated to control the aforementioned activity. Hence, there is no problem in playing politics but how it is played becomes the business of the law, there is no problem in contesting for political offices but who contests becomes the business of the law, there is no problem in demolishing structures but why it was demolished becomes the business of the law, there is no problem in spending government funds but what it was spent on becomes the business of the law and there is no problem in suing or being sued but where to institute the matter becomes the business of the law. However, when law meets bad politics in place, nothing except by chance can be done in favour of the populace, five becomes greater than six and seven lesser than two, every unfavourable results becomes inconclusive, twenty men gather in the name of the people to produce a document that reads “We the people…” with little or no regard for such document.
Our history as a country has not been without indelible events. Nigeria, since immediate post colonisation, has witness politics played at it very peak both in democracy and military rule. The place of law, although in existence either as Acts or Decrees was arguably properly operative. Still, as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation, we have survived the hurdles of breakage and wars wherein we are still surviving. Unfortunately, since the return to democracy in 1999, the country is yet to ascend a significant hope, expectations and aspirations of her citizens. Be it as it may, the notion that “we are not doing well as a country” is debatably wrong. Whereas, that “we are striving as a country” appears to be a more appropriate notion, after all, no great country on earth was ever without its hurdles. Howbeit, whether or not our society has been cleansed of its maladies and whether or not the governance of our country has attained an enviable height, the laws of the land should not, to a very large extent, be held responsible. The very concept that should be declared guilty or not guilty is politics. The consequence of playing politics whether good or bad by our political gladiators has led us to this present state and stage of governance. It is however noteworthy to state that there are laws enacted by the legislative arm many of which are not enforced or at best barely enforced. The business of politics is therefore ought to be channeled to put strategies in place for the enforcement of laws.
Many writers have opined that no matter how beautifully couched a law may appear or number of laws in place, its success and failure largely depends on the politics in play. For instance, a remedy is sought in a competent court of law but the activities of the political gladiators may make it practically impossible for the court to neither sit nor exercise its powers nor make the institution of Legal Aid operative to the benefit of common men.
Assuming without conceding that the immediate above statement is true, it is vehemently reiterated that the processes and governance of the land be according to the laws of the land thereby upholding the tenets of the Rule of Law. In other words, Law must be given preeminence over politics notwithstanding which is first in time if a sane society is to be achieved and maintained. It therefore suffices to regard Laws as the physical and moral conscience of the land that must guide the instinct of politics. Although we understand the fondly mentioned statement by Nigerians that “our government is playing politics with our lives” to mean; we are being deceived or not cared for, the phrase appears not to represent the true nature of politics seeing that politics in itself is not a bad concept but the intent with which it’s played, how it’s played and the result produced is what determines its status of good or bad politics. To prevent anarchy, mistrust and other social vices capable of smashing the very foundation upon which a nation is built, it is germane to harmonize the inherent relationship of law and politics in truth. Only then can justice be enthroned.
Adeyemo wrote in from Lagos.
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