OPINION: Cobbing Impunity in Nigeria Society and Within LawmakersArticles/Opinion, Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Saturday, March 18th, 2017
By Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – By impunity we refer to exemption from punishment that would otherwise have been awarded a lawbreaker or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action. This is different from immunity. In many societies impunity is only enjoyed by military officers implicated in civilian killings whereas immunity is for selected political officials for their protection or exemption from something, especially an obligation or penalty. Immunity law officially grants beneficiary exemption from legal proceedings or liability. To our understanding the spirit of immunity law is to prevent the possibility of grounding a government by a court of law, not necessarily to produce impunity in governments.
Any society where impunity is thriving such a society risks threatening it’s nation’s democracy and weakening it’s other institutions. There has to be obedience to the rule of law otherwise we lay a foundation for impunity and a multiple-talk lawless society. Impunity not only undermines existing authority but also it is capable of derailing any administration and creating an adhoc or arbitrary society. The first set of disciples and servants of the rule of law ought to be the lawmakers themselves, the police, and those in high places. They should lead by example.
The current episode Nigeria is passing through may be the direct result of the emergence of conflicting leadership styles. The leadership in the presidency is seemingly different from the one leading the Senate, though from same APC party. Unless the situation is optimally managed their differences will only add to the high level of impunity in Nigeria Society. Impunity starts from the street hustlers and beggers, the drivers, the police, the school teachers, pastors, etc. The Nigerian politicians, notorious for living in total impunity and alacrity, therefore have no schools to learn from. When they are supposed to face the consequences of their ill actions the community covers them up. To a large proportion of them, just to be declared a winner is all they need, whether by rigging, stealing, buying votes, bribing the electorates or politicking. This act also is totally impunity because it works against normal order and rule of law. They get away with the act every time because of the prevalence of same impunity everywhere in the system. It’s all cash and carry, and do it as dictated or you die. The situation is confounded by intra-party struggling for leadership resulting in further indiscipline and breakingdown of law and order . No one in the leadership chain has the extra attention for the bigger picture concerning the entire system or the society. Impunity denies Nigeria from having its “brightest and best candidates” as lawmakers, governors, ministers, presidents. Meanwhile the national development hinges on the composition of its leadership. Even when leaders are not the best students in the class, but they are law abiding, a great development can occur with their little collaborative effort. Whereas when leaders fight against each other all their lives their focus will remain on how to win the internal wars they bring on themselves, not the direction where development ought to go. This is the picture we seem to have in Nigeria, where in addition, leaders steal money to fight personal battles and self interest with total impunity and alacrity.
Why should genuine politicians lose focus so suddenly on what they publicly and privately profess? They do so because of intrigues and deceptions in their desperate political ambition. Any existing value system becomes an obstacle or obsolescence to them. For example you ask for tax receipts for only the last three consecutive years, but which they don’t have. Their aides are ready to bring “original tax receipts” for their principals. Declaration of personal asset forms would be completely by their private consultants and lawyers, not the real list of asserts. Nothing they bring up in their files is true, even their age, height, etc. We need to start and be truthful at this point.
Why does the Senate need any caution at this time? They need our support and advice in a multi – dimensional way. They are representing their different constituencies and not independent on their own, if they know this. They have lost touch with the community at large and losing political focus in particular. For example, we expect the incumbent president to be served a query about his health in accordance. But such a query will be looking like the ongoing intra-party fighting or fighting between two arms of government. Hence the Senate House has lost its own battle and can’t fight legitimate wars except to refuse the confirmation of Magu or inviting custom officials to dress up before them, less important issues that are not strategic or political. They act to give the presidency room to manoeuvre and plan. Knocking off President Buhari (truly my own preference up till date) at this stage would have made the legislative arm of governance relevant rather than dressing up appointees; people that can be replaced overnight, resign on their own to further under estimate Senate, the power it really doesn’t have. The Senate seems only playing to the gallery by pursuing secondary issues and not how to impact the society and the system dramatically and positively.
In a game strategy you attempt to minimize your losses (or maximise your gains if an optimist), but you can’t avoid losing some in order to winning others. What does the Nigeria Senate stand to gain by refusing to clear a candidate before it, on the basis that seems not of national interest? We imagine that a number of Senators are nursing 2019 presidential ambition but refusing to understand that their brilliant performance now will earn them public support at the end. In my own community, if a driver runs down a goat carelessly, that episode is enough to seal his ambition to becoming our village head in the future. They call him, “that careless driver killing people every day he comes home”.
We need an improved system that is beyond personal ambition and regional anticipation. Therefore the major task before the Nigeria Senate House, especially led by Saraki-Ekweremadu, is possessing the ability to win public acceptance by their performance. The public is perceiving the house as corrupt, selective, vengeful, lawless and selfish in their decisions. This is when the Senate should convince the electorates otherwise. We daily need to turn our enemies to our friends, our attackers to our supporters, our competitors to our collaborators, and so on, through persuasion and perseverance in law abiding. The Nigeria Senate House should be a public place that serves the people they represent and be able to run ahead the other arms of government.
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