10 December 2019
“He who becomes a Prince through the favor of the people should always keep on good terms with them; which it is easy for him to do, since all they ask is not to be oppressed.” The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)
1. The 'Cobra effect' refers to a situation in which the solution to a problem makes the problem much worse than it was originally. Its historical origin is traceable to a policy incentive given by the British colonial government in India at a time. Worried about the growing population of venomous cobras in Delhi – India the Colonial Government promised cash rewards for dead cobras.
2. To cheat the system and get more cash, most citizens resorted to breeding, killing and turning in more cobras for greater cash rewards. When the government decided to end the incentive programme the population of cobras in Delhi skyrocketed because the breeders simply let the poisonous snakes free as they were no more of value to them.
3. The morale of the story of the cobra effect is that the DSS in supposedly trying to maintain national security has by their inglorious action against a Court in-sitting inadvertently released more poisonous cobras of impunity, lawlessness, institutional breakdown, dictatorship, distrust and disunity into our polity and country.
4. It is the case that when we begin to undermine and politicize institutions we destroy them. In about 2014 or so Governor Seriake Dickson led an army of thugs to disrupt a Court in-sitting and ruffled the Sitting Judge. Nothing happened. The system gradually breaks down. The Department of State Services (DSS) has now acquired a self-destructive proclivity towards impunity and lawlessness.
5. The once extremely professional and highly respected secret police is fast losing its esteem in the eyes of right thinking citizens for always being in the news for the wrong reasons over the past few years. The rapid descent began especially from the last democratic administration when DSS became partisan in haranguing political opponents of the then government in power in the build up to the 2015 Elections. Yesterday was a crescendo.
6. From refusing to obey Court Orders, the DSS yesterday finally acted with the most shameful and contemptible indiscretion in storming a Court in-silting to arrest Mr. Showore. This was a brazen act of impunity in violation of our laws and a rape on our constitutional democracy.
7. Section 43(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) says that: "A warrant of arrest may be executed by any police officer at any time and in any place in any State OTHER THAN WITHIN THE ACTUAL COURT ROOM IN WHICH A COURT IS SITTING." So, if the man cunningly took refuge in a Court in-sitting as is being alleged in some quarters then the DSS ought to have also cunningly and vigilantly waited for him just outside the Court Premises for as long as it would have taken to effect the arrest instead of the show of shame in that Court Room.
8. The DSS ought to also know better that certain institutions and professionals enjoy certain immunity in certain places. For instance, a university lecturer enjoys immunity in class and can say almost anything while teaching and gets away with it. This is why no university lecturer was ever arrested directly in the Classroom or even inside the University precincts throughout Military Rule in Nigeria despite their acerbic attacks on the Military Governments. Similarly, Legislators enjoy immunity from arrest in their Chambers as lawyers enjoy immunity inside the Courts. Also, all and sundry present in a Sitting Court enjoy some immunity from arrest while the Court is in Session.
9. If the brazen indiscretion and misplaced zeal was intended to impress and prove loyalty to Mr. President then I can say unequivocally that the action has tended to ruin their desired results. They have rather unknowingly injured the very reputation and democratic credentials of Mr. President fatally. Not that alone but they have as well unwittingly set the country under the threat of internal disharmony and possible civil unrest thus violating their most poignant constitutional role of safeguarding the internal security of the country. The action has equally opened our country to greater shame, opprobrium and possible isolation in the international community. Their supposed solution to the problem has made the situation much in like manner as the 'cobra effect'.
10. We must not forget that lawlessness mostly results in a society to the extent where the legitimacy and credibility of institutions and processes become undermined and entrapped in impunity. For obedience to law appears to be acknowledged as a duty only by those who recognize the authority of the law or the right of the lawmaker to command. Such authority or right once derived or conferred through a legitimate and credible process compels obedience at all times.
11. We cannot therefore be acting legitimately if we carry out actions that would tend to undermine and destroy the very institutions and laws of the country that conferred or confirmed the authority that put us in a position to be able to take any action at all. Meaning the rule of law and due process is and must be held sacrosanct at all times especially in democratic governance.
12. Generally, a majority of people would be willing to obey the law even if no external sanctions could be enforced against them by a superior power if the law binds them in conscience rather than by its coercive force. They will obey the law because they believe it is morally right to do so. The sense of the law's moral authority is for them the sense of duty from which the dictates of conscience flow. And the law can only bind them in conscience as to evoke the zeal of duty of obedience if they believe the law to be just, fair, equitable, inclusive and capable of bringing about greater good to society.
May Nigeria evolve into the loftiest country on earth and live forevermore. So mote it be!
7th December 2019