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Beyond Due Process

Theo Adebowale
Institutions have evolved in human communities to carry out functions which individuals, of their own, cannot perform.  Members of the community out of patriotism build myths around their institutions for self preservation and corporate dignity.  In stateless societies, cult groups were concocted to compel submission in order to produce corporate sanctions on erring individuals.  In the absence of a state, a mysterious ‘character’ from the land of the spirits appeared from nowhere to whisk away a homicide suspect to the evil forest where his guilt would be confirmed and appropriate judgement pronounced and executed.  Everybody agreed that the gods would not miscarry justice.  Sympathizers and their hangers-on, and other criminals were made to keep off the path of the cults for fear of instant punishment.  Sango would strike with thunder.  The thief would be struck, the stolen article, the exhibit, would be placed by his side.

In the Christian world, the office is too much for a mere mortal, so the occupier requires the Holy Spirit, because of his own, he can do but nothing. Priesthood is an institution, an individual is inaugurated into it, so that the faithful would be in no doubt that power dwells in him.  The contemporary society operates on rationality.  Science and technology have come to play a significant role in the affairs of society, defining authority, its forms and operations.  The state has machinery for caring out her functions.  Government is that machinery the state employs and asserts on her population and territory to imprint its presence.  In the realm of government, specialization is employed to make for efficiency through separation of powers.  The Parliament specialises in rule making with input from the community, its environment.  The Executive implements rules and become more visible than the two other branches somewhat overshadowing the two other branches.  The Judicature adjudicates by interpreting the rules.  Most countries of the world have codified rules regulating relationships, stipulating procedures and processes.  A written constitution is so essential for the smooth running of the business of the state.  It is rigid because its provisions cannot be varied to accommodate unforeseen circumstances.

It is common knowledge that circumstances that were unforeseen often arise demanding immediate attention.  Because citizens are faithful, loyal and honest, they rise to defend unity, uphold honour and glory of their community by avoiding unnecessary crisis, they subjugate personal interest to public good. Jacob  Zuma, immediate past president of South Africa was alleged of corrupt practices.  The Parliament exposed him, he was overstretching his luck, but the African National Congress, his political party compelled him to resign.  In Europe and America, public office holders run into barbed wire, even Catholic priests.  Their institutions as primary as the family, informal like the trade unions, professional groups are conscious of their image, they whip members to order.  They prevail on their members to do the needful.  Or what is the pride of an Association which member is fingered in corrupt practices?  What is the honour of a political party which members are notorious for fraudulent practices including treasury looting?

The essence of due process in civilized societies is not to prolong the tenure of an erring official, or to make criminals escape punishment.  Rather, due process is a devise to protect the innocent from victimization and ensure there is no miscarriage of justice.  If a man who ministers in the temple of justice admits as much as violating statutory rules and regulations, it behooves on him to tread the path of honour, to spare his family members, professional colleagues, and his religion and denomination attendant embarrassment.  To depend on politicians and political jobbers, professional miscreants and discredited statesmen for salvation is wishful thinking.  The shamelessness of the shameless cannot obliterate the desecration of the hallowed temple.

Thank God for Bank Verification Number, it exposes financial transactions beyond rumour mongering.  Whereas budget padding may be shrouded in secrecy in the absence of forensic auditing, biometrics is the revealer of lodgments, transfers and sundry deployment of funds.

In all these, what is the relevance of institutions? If our institutions must stand the test of time, they must be alive to their responsibility, and stop allowing certain unfortunate individuals to use them for personal aggrandisement.  For example, the Nigerian Bar Association should understand the letter and the spirit of the constitution and stop laying ambush for the state.  It must be prepared to pursue the interest of its members without holding the state to ransom.  More than any other group, the Nigerian Bar Association must guide citizens to develop attitudes that promote obedience to the law and cultivate civilized behavior.  Families should get to know that in the course of procuring daily bread, attorneys would not compromise honour and integrity of Nigeria.

Bogging down the judicial process through frivolous motions and counter-motions, adjournments and ‘locus standi’ may bring immediate relief to litigants; they pile up to undermine the confidence of the people in the judicature.  Assassinations and acts of violence generally may aggravate if justice continues to be delayed or denied.  In the present circumstance of crisis arising from suspension of Justice Walter Samuel Onnaghen from the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria, it is wisdom to protect the office, and in the long run the institution of justice.  Those unfortunate Nigerians that think institutions of the state should be rubbished for their sake, must be taken for what they are.  Many of them have betrayed public offices entrusted unto them by corrupt practices.  They prefer to plunge Nigeria into perpetual chaos to escape scrutiny.  They have a tendency to convert likely crises to profit making.

What does it profit a politician to plunge the system into a state of anarchy? A candidate that suspends electioneering to participate in undermining the office of President which he covets so much must be either naïve, or ignorant or has accepted defeat.  Public offices must be filled with men and women who subscribe to noble conduct, patriotic sentiments and loyalty to the motherland.  Of course, anyone whose parental source is shrouded in some mystery, may not place premium on such attributes.  Is it for nothing that the Yoruba believe that a home enjoys peace only until illegitimate children attain adulthood?  Generally, the socialization process deserves greater attention from home, school and religious organsations.  Citizenship must be enriched with cultural ingredients that make members seek to participate in nation building, and association are conscious of responsibility towards stability and development of the polity, economy and the social system.

Nigeria deserves a better treatment from her citizens.

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