By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday, said the country’s democracy will die if the National Assembly is turned to rubber stamp. He also noted that he was perturbed that the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has remained silent in the face of what he termed clear acts of aggression against the legislature and the judiciary in recent years.
He said the current state of the nation’s democracy would make heroes of the struggle like Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Chief MKO Abiola, Chuma Ubani, Bamidele Aturu, and Kudirat Abiola sad in their graves.
Ekweremadu who spoke at the 2018 Law Week of the NBA held in Abuja, maintained that the democracy in Nigeria would die a slow and painful death if the independence of the judiciary is destroyed or the National Assembly is turned to a rubber stamp.
According to him, “Our society is in despair today; democracy is receding; rule of law appears to be at the crossroads; and the killings across the land have become so massive, frequent, and mindless.
Politicians that were once friends have turned our politics into a war of attrition.
“Our elections, in many instances, have been highly militarised, with some security officers accused of physically assaulting the staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Nigerians have watched on live television, the raid of the hallowed chamber of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the carting away of its mace by thugs.
“As if emboldened by that, political thugs stormed the premises of the Rivers State High Court. The nation watched with great concern the heavy and prolonged gunfire by armed thugs, who, but for the resistance put up by the people of Rivers State, had virtually succeeded in preventing the court from carrying out its legitimate duties. Today, to hold a different political opinion appears tantamount to a political suicide.”
While urging the NBA to be more proactive, Ekweremandu said, “The Bar has not uttered any word of condemnation of these and other clear acts of aggression against the legislature or the judiciary in recent years.
“We must bear in mind that democracy does not die in a day. Democracy dies a slow and painful death. Democracy will die if the independence of the judiciary is destroyed, the National Assembly turned to a rubber stamp, the media gagged, the Civil Society Organisations sucked-in, and the electoral umpire annexed.
“But it is not in anybody’s interest, let alone the Bar, for our democracy to fail. However, we cannot fold our hands, keep sealed lips, and expect heavens to play our parts as lawyers. So, the Bar must rise in defense of democracy.
“There is no sitting on the fence. The poet, Dante Algheri, warns that the hottest parts of hell are reserved for those, who in the time of moral crisis preserved their neutrality. The Bar must speak up against impunity. The Bar must be heard loud and clear in condemnation of desecration and intimidation, and annexation of key institutions of democracy.
“The Bar must stand up in defense of the rule of law, separation of power, rights, liberties, and other laudable tenets without which democracy becomes an empty barrel, a civilianised dictatorship, and, above all, the Bar must continue to promote justice, equity and fairness to sustain our democracy.”