Emmanuel Onwubiko: Nigeria: Democracy or Medieval laws

Emmanuel Onwubiko: Nigeria: Democracy or Medieval laws

Madeline Bridge wrote thus: “There are loyal heads, there are spirits brave, there are souls that are pure and true; they give the world the best you have, and the best will come back for you.”

The above is a guide to this brief reflection on how political office holders in Nigeria actively undermine and sabotage the Nigerian constitution through their words, actions and public policies whilst they are in elected offices. These negative actions impact negatively on Nigeria and these are the fundamental causes of the State of dysfunction and instability that Nigeria has found itself and are the reasons for the growing agitation for self determination and restructuring of Nigeria given that these SABOTEURS in political offices have collectively wounded Nigeria to such an extent that most people are now asking question why certain persons commit treasonable offences against the Nigerian Constitution but are generally overlooked and treated as sacred cows because of their Ethno-religious affiliations. Does Nigeria truly operate a constitutional democracy?

Interestingly, Clarence Day wrote:“The word of book is the most remarkable creation of man; nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilization grows old and dies out. After an era of darkness, new races build others; but in the world of books are volumes that live on still as young and fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.”

Then William Ellery Channing Wrote also that: “It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books are true levellers. They give to all who will faithfully use them, the society, and the spiritual presence, of the best and greatest of our race.”

The duo through their quick quotes have told us the real import of the written constitution in book form that Nigeria has had since evolving into a Republic and Constitutional democracy in the 60’s.

However, some political office holders have chosen to elevate their personal religious persuasions as key state policies. They defecate on top of the Nigerian constitution.

Kano state exemplifies how not to claim to have a functional constitutional democracy because in Kano, the state governor operates in gross breach of section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution by declaring one resign as the officially sanctioned religion.

Just as the criminal code of the shariah law are in application.

Kano operates as if it is Afghanistan whereby certain medieval times’ practices such as stoning and amputation which violates chapter four of the Nigeria Constitution and the relevant international laws against the enforcement of cruel and dehumanizing punishments are prohibited.

Specifically, the Nigerian Constitution which is Nigeria’s supreme law book in Section 10 says: “the government of the federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as a state religion.

Section 38 (1) states; “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

Section 39(1) says: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without inference. Section 34(1) says; “every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly; (a.) no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; (b.) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and (c.) No person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

The universal declarations of Human Rights (UDHR) in its Article 15 specifies freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman a degrading treatment states thus: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjectvto medical experiment in that his or her free consent to medical or scientific experimentation is not obtained”.

So, the question to be asked is why Kano State Government and the governor, who swore by the constitution through an oath of office to respect the constitution, becomes the active agent of unconstitutional conducts by allowing the elevation of one religion as state religion?

Do we really want to continue as one nation under single constitution or do we wish to go our separate ways so societies can be permitted to either adopt modernism and democracy or return to the primitive laws of the medieval periods?

Let us read a little from the classic “The doctrine of the separation of power and the purposive approach to the interpretation of legislation”, introduced by the Nigerian institute of Advanced legal studies in the year 2,000.

In this booklet we are told the essence, philosophy and import of a constitution and legislation and the imperative of complying with the tenets of the constitution.

The author of the afore mentioned booklet states thus;

“History teaches us that human beings always live in communities. They have always accepted a diminution of their abilities to do what they like, in favour of the common good of all their neighbours. We have never lived alone-except briefly in the Garden of Eden when Adam, the representative of the male species. Human beings have always agreed to a compromise, call it custom, call it law, by which they and their neighbours have sought to live in order and avoid chaos.”

“That compromise, today, we call them laws. The sign-posts we establish to guard and guide us we call legislation- the one compelling and authoritative machinery for ordering social relations.”

“The development of law in a society is a reflection of the need for certain standards of conduct intended to safeguard the general welfare of the society as a whole. Society thus demands, “a certain average of conduct, a sacrifice of individual peculiarities,” whether a government will implement a piece of legislation is a matter for political consideration. The process of law-making is pre-eminently a political process. Cultural, economic, political and social considerations are the stimuli that generate legislation. They are the forces that determine the nature and content of legislation. But the promoters of legislation are, in the main, the government of the day. and there is always the pressure for more legislation.”

Where is it in the Constitution to support the absurdity that a Nigerian singer was sentenced to death for blasphemy in Kano state? Why is the Kano state government turning the machinery of governance into the Army of God?

Recall that a musician in Nigeria’s northern state of Kano has been sentenced to death by hanging for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad.

An upper Sharia court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of the state said Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, 22, was guilty of committing blasphemy for a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March.

Mr Sharif-Aminu did not deny the charges.

Judge Khadi Aliyu Muhammad Kani said he could appeal against the verdict.

BBC recalled that States across Muslim-majority northern Nigeria use both secular law and Sharia law, which does not apply to non-Muslims. So I ask, is Nigeria still a United entity governed by the Constitution or are we sick and tired of living under the imposition of a sovereignty carried out by Lord Lugard of the then British colonizers in 1914 without our collective votes and endorsement? Is this the time to come together and debate the necessity of remaining together and if we decide to remain together, do we accept to work under one Constitution that promotes modern democratic credentials?

BBC even reported that a Northern state had violated the Constitution by executing a sentence that is offensive to section 10 of the constitution and there is no where that the Shariah code extends to criminsl penslties. The BBC confirmed this by reporting that only one of the death sentences passed by Nigeria’s Sharia courts has been carried out since they were reintroduced in 1999.

BBC then asked what is Sharia? And recalled that the singer who is currently in detention, had gone into hiding after he composed the song.

Protesters had burnt down his family home and gathered outside the headquarters of the Islamic police, known as the Hisbah, demanding action against him.

The Islamic police had appealed for people not to take the law into their own hands after the song was released. Now the Constitution is also breached because it is clearly stated that Nigeria shall have only the NIGERIAN POLICE FORCE. But Kano has an Islamic police. If Christian dominated states should set up CHRISTIAN POLICE, will Nigeria be better or worst?

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www.huriwanigeria.com, www.huriwa@blogspot.com.

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