Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, yesterday came down heavily on ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight-year rule, describing the administration as the worst defaulter of the principles of the rule of law.
He gave the indictment at the 30th Mallam Aminu Kano Memorial Lecture, which took place at the Sa’Adu Zungur Auditorium, Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Mambayya House, Kano.
The lecture was chaired by Abubakar B Mahmood (SAN). It was attended by some serving lawmakers, politicians as well as academics including Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Alhaji Magaji Dambatta, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed and the Chairman of the Implementation Committee, North-West University, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar. In his paper titled: “The rule of law as fundamental condition for democracy and good governance,” the Speaker observed that the Obasanjo administration, “ contrived the political space and usurped the powers of both the legislature and the judiciary, posing a grave danger to the democratic content of democracy.”
Tambuwal said the overall score card of the administration in the first four years was, “spotted with executive arbitrariness,” although the administration set up some institutional and administrative agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), it adopted the principle of due process and persistently proclaimed the independence of the judiciary. He said that “most of the claims of the government on the gains in the rule of law turned out to be mere political gimmicks as they were clearly unfounded and merely designed to create the impression that it was no longer business as usual in Nigeria after the prolonged military rule.”
He cited cases of the abuse of the rule of law to include the Zaki Biam and Odi massacres, the failure to respect the Supreme Court’s judgment asking the administration to remit N10.8 billion to the Lagos State Government, among others. He said that during “the Obasanjo administration, and to a lesser extent Yar’Adua/Jonathan’s, the constitutional provisions regarding the power of the purse and appropriation are overlooked in contravention of the principle of the separation of powers as well as checks and balances. “This was the case in the controversies over the implementation of the 2005, 2011 and 2012 Appropriation Acts,” he noted. According to Tambuwal, the disrespect for the rule of law has opened up another debate on the legitimacy of public officers at the national, state and local government levels.
He listed the challenges to the application of the rule of law to include five key areas. Among them is the executive over-bearance, which impacts negatively on the other arms and have further weakened non -state actors such as civil society organizations and the media; the lack of judicial independence; corruption; the scope of the doctrine of immunity as it relates to the principles of equality before the law; and the challenges of free and fair elections, which have since become a means of disenfranchising a large segment of the electorate.
The Speaker singled out the legislature and regretted that the legitimate performance of its constitutional duties tend to be perceived in the executive circles and even in some sections of the public, as legislative meddlesomeness in governance. According to him, “the legislature is the most misunderstood because of the obscurity thrust upon it by the several years of military regimes, “ pointing out that while the society will accept as justice the passing of a death sentence by a court of competent jurisdiction, the same society will react with hostility to a mere impeachment proposal by the legislative arm of government. Tambuwal was, however, confident that the country was passing through a learning process, noting that, “what is required is for public officers to develop the political mindset to change their obnoxious political culture, of absolutism in the struggles for the acquisition or retention of power.”