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National Security/Public Safety Imperatives Vs Civil Rights of Citizens

--Cutting-Edge Analytics--


By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published July 10h, 2011

In contradistinction to authoritarian regimes that thrive and sustain themselves in power by trampling on citizens’ civil rights of which the military dictatorships respectively of the threesome; namely, Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and late Sanni Abacha would seem to represent the worst specimens in Nigerian history, democracy prides itself as the guarantor of citizens’ civil rights as enshrined in the constitutions of particular states in question. That is not to say however, that dictatorships cannot flourish in a democracy because to so hold would turn history and current realities on their heads. Germany under Adolf Hitler, for instance, was a democracy in which dictatorship of the worst possible kind flourished unchecked in the previous 20th century. And even in this 21st century, Venezuela is a democracy, yet dictatorship holds sway under the rule of its socialist diehard, President, Hugo Chavez, who by the way, just returned from Cuba, another tired and ageing dictatorship on the throes of reforms and self-regeneration, where he had gone for medical treatment in the kingdom of Fidel Castro at whose shrine Chavez devotedly worships. Dictatorship is not at all far away from democracy as people might think. All that it takes for dictatorship to flourish in a democracy is for one political party to dominate the political landscape as Nigeria is currently headed, and pronto, dictatorship is born walking right from its mother’s womb! Needless to add that constitutions mean nothing in dictatorships and not worth the paper in which they are written in the sense that they could be capriciously amended at will like a badly written verbiage just like ordinary laws.

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Nevertheless it is fair to state that civil liberties are best secured under democratic rule preferably in robust multi-party configurations as opposed to the anemic party field that is Nigeria’s current multi-party system. To this end, therefore, several democracies the world over have taken the pain to codify these rights in order to properly and explicitly delineate their boundaries for the purpose not only of public understanding but for both administrative and judicial enforcements. In Britain, for instance, these rights are contained in the Magna Carta, which is truly the foundation of modern civil rights infrastructures augmented of course by common law diktats. In the United States, these rights are contained in the Bill of Rights introduced through constitutional amendments as the rights were not available in the original constitution in 1787, again augmented by judicial diktats particularly those of the US Supreme Court. And in Nigeria, those rights are contained in Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution as they indeed were in the 1979 presidential constitution, which is the forerunner of the 1999 constitution. As in the two previous examples cited above, these rights are augmented, i.e., amplified or contracted as the case may be, by the judicial diktats of the Nigerian Supreme Court.

What is a judicial diktat? It is an authoritative and final pronouncement by the court as to the nature and scope of a particular right and who might exercise it. When, for instance, the US Supreme Court made a definitive pronouncement in the seminal case of Brown Vs Board of Education it opened the floodgate of desegregation in US schools allowing blacks to attend the same quality schools as whites and thereby dealing a mortal blow to segregation in the United States. In other words, it granted equal rights to blacks to attend hitherto whites-only schools. But for that decision blacks might have been attending all-black schools under trees and cow sheds in the United States till date which would have forever condemned them to perpetual servitude and inferior race status, and all those Africans who now troop to Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and other Ivy League universities in the US to acquire degrees would have had to look elsewhere to do so and there would have been no President Barack Obama either. Gracious! We have indeed come a long way though blacks still have a long way to go still in the United States because racism die hard. Again when in 2003 the Nigerian Supreme Court ruled that then Vice President Abubakar Atiku was within his constitution right to decamp or cross carpet from his PDP party under which he was elected VP to another party while still in office as VP without losing his office, it amplified the boundary of freedom of association without which Atiku might have been summarily removed from office and possibly prosecuted on corruption charges by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. But the SC stepped in and imposed a decision which put finality to the issue. That is what judicial diktats do. They are like military decrees that are quickly deployed to put out a fire that could consume an entire nation by deciding who is entitled to what at any given time. And that’s by the way, why judges need to be paid the highest salaries possible, even more than presidents, governors, senators and professors, because of their critical roles in holding the nation together and preventing it from being rented apart by political desperadoes and ethno-racial gladiators whether in the United States, Nigeria, or elsewhere.

I must hasten to state here, however, that state recognition and codification of these rights are in addition to the 1948 Universal Declarations of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UN and all the protocols deriving from it. Therefore, the observance and enforcement of civil rights have by both municipal and global adoption become an integral part of state legal jurisdictions for the benefit of their citizens. But why do citizens need these rights in the first place? Could the citizens of a state properly function without these rights? The answer to the first lies in the enormous powers of the state in relation to the individual citizen. The state is so powerful that citizens could be reduced to nothing but ordinary statistical numbers without rights as human beings, particularly in medieval times. These rights came to represent a check on the powers of the state in dealing with its citizens and other nationals alike. And flowing from this is the answer to the second, which is that citizens cannot function properly in the absence of these rights and civilization as we know it today would have been practically impossible. For example, without the right to private property, which of course, includes intellectual property, few people would have bothered to invent anything which would not belong to them and the huge scientific and technological advancements together with the great artistic works of our times would have been near impossible or completely non-existent. Giant multi-national corporations advancing the frontiers of research and development (R&D) and continually churning out new and better products to enrich our lives would not be present today or at least not to the extent we have them today because the lure of private property is the driving force behind these corporate behemoths. Without freedom of religion, we would all belong to one faith and ruled from Rome, India, or Saudi Arabia. Without freedom of speech dictatorships would become the order of the day leading to inevitable decay, inertia, tyranny and corruption in all societies. And so on and so forth. Therefore, the progress of any nation is, to a very large extent, a function of the presence, observance and enforcement of civil liberties. So the next time you hear a scientist or technologist crowing about their achievement gently remind him or her that they owe their achievements to law, which is the grantor of civil rights by which those achievements were made possible. Yes, no progress is possible without an enabling law and that is why everyone waits on the National Assembly and the courts to get their acts together before moving forward with anything. Law is truly the grandfather of all progress in modern societies, seriously. It is both at the front and at the back ends to tie it all together for both individual and societal progress and advancements. One only need to download a piece of computer app from the internet or install it from a CD to find out that the law is the first thing he must comply with or agree to before proceeding any further, otherwise no deal. That program or app will not be installed if an agreement to the terms of use is not forthcoming. Those rather lengthy agreements you never bother to read before checking the little boxes and installing applications are at the heart of technology without which those companies would not exist in the first place. And that tells you the extent to which law infuses everything including, of course, intellectual property, which is but a species of private property as indicated earlier.

However, it must be remembered, and this is critically important, that before the civil rights of the citizens came to be recognized and codified, the rights of the state were absolute and all-encompassing, the abuse of which led to the articulation and recognition of citizens' rights. Even so, at no time did the rights of citizens derogate or supersede the rights of the state, which remain paramount and therefore have priority over individual citizens’ rights at all times, for the rights of the state suffer no diminution.
An example of such constitution derogation from these rights is contained in section 45 of the 1999 constitution as amended, which states inter alia:
45. (1) Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society
(a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or
(b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons.
(2) An act of the National Assembly shall not be invalidated by reason only that it provides for the taking, during periods of emergency, of measures that derogate from the provisions of section 33 or 35 of this Constitution; but no such measures shall be taken in pursuance of any such act during any period of emergency save to the extent that those measures are reasonably justifiable for the purpose of dealing with the situation that exists during that period of emergency:

It is crystal clear, therefore, from the above provisions, that the civil liberties of the citizens as provided for in the constitution are not even guaranteed in the first place let alone being sacrosanct and the state has the authority to derogate from them “in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.” And that is why, for example, the US government could wiretap the telephone conversations of US citizens under the Wire Tapping Act, which ordinarily would be a violation of the citizen's right to privacy. And that is why even US citizens could be detained indefinitely under certain conditions, for example under conditions of war or anti-terrorist operations. It is why there were Abu-Ghraib, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison scandals. That is why Japanese-Americans were rounded up and detained for no reasons other than they were Japanese-Americans during World War II on mere possibility that they could aid the enemy, Japan. It is why the CIA could run a program called “Rendition” by which terrorist suspects were farmed out to brutal dictatorial regimes such as that of Egypt under Hosni Mubarak to torture and extract vital information from them; why CIA agents would go a democratic state like Italy and pluck a terror suspect right from the street literarily in a Rambo-like raid without the knowledge of the Italian authorities. Yes, that’s why US Special Forces could breach the airspace of Pakistan to pluck out, kill, execution-style and dumb the body of terror suspect, Osama Bin Laden into the Arabian Sea without the knowledge of the Pakistani government and without affording him due process of law any kind whatsoever as provided by either the Pakistani or the US constitution and the relevant laws. Was suspect Osama Bin Laden, who was captured alive, video tapped, with President Obama and his war chiefs watching the entire operation from the White House through a video feed, charged, tried and convicted in the court of law or even military tribunal before he was executed by the US Special Forces? Put another way, was his guilt proven in court before he was summarily executed? Who convicted him and sentenced him to death? Who ordered the manner of his execution? The answer is nobody but the President of the United States, Barak Hussein Obama, acting as the accuser, prosecutor, judge and executioner, all rolled into one. Was that not derogation from his right to fair trial in a criminal indictment? Yes it was because he was denied due process of law by the US government.

But the matter does not end there. Take a look again at what derogation entails: At the risk of repetition, it could be done “in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.” Therefore, the United States was right in killing Osama Bin Laden without affording him due process of law under either of the two heads, i.e., “defence” or “public safety.” And it is not just the US only, any state can do it under any of the above heads and it will be well with such a state legally and constitutionally. And that explains why mum is the word regarding the manner of the capture and killing of terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden by the US Special Forces even from the UN Human Rights Commission and Civil rights groups. And rather than getting condemnations world leaders were falling over themselves to commend the United States for doing a darn good job.

I could go on and on ad infinitum. But the point has been sufficiently made that civil liberties are a bunch of crap when national security or public safety is at stake in any nation, and Nigeria is by no means an exception, and should not allow itself the luxury of being an exception. Therefore, no one should expect any less from the Jonathan administration in the face of demonstrated assault on national security and public safety. This is not some theoretical or hypothetical proposition but a bloody reality we are dealing with in Nigeria today and should therefore not be treated with kid gloves. It’s about innocents citizens going out in pursuit of their legitimate activities in their own country, not in a foreign one, coming back home in shredded body parts destined for the morgues. These were fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, uncles, and what have you, whose lives have been brutally terminated in gruesome manners through mindless acts of terrorism.

Call it hawkish if you like and it will sit well with me. Terrorism must not be cuddled but extirpated. It must not be negotiated with but annihilated. It must not be patted on the back but stabbed in the heart. It must not be settled but unsettled and perpetually put on the run until it trips and tips over into the precipice. Am I watering the seeds of a budding dictatorship in Nigeria with these words? Am I providing intellectual nourishment for the flowering of tyranny in Nigeria? I would be the last in line to do that because tyranny is not a friend of anybody not even of its most avid devotees. But if advocating getting tough with terrorism can somehow be equated with advocating tyranny I am all for it and I don’t know of anyone who is against it except terrorists, would-be terrorists, and their sponsors and sympathizers in high places. They are those who seek to explain away, rationalize, or outright justify the murderous escapades of a band of blood hounds feeding on the blood of their fellow citizens while the Nigerian government watches with amusement from the sidelines not knowing whether to confer on the killers national honors or wait for them to kill some more before doing so giving them presidential handshakes in Aso Rock.

Sadly enough Nigeria is today faced with unremitting terrorism just like the US, Britain, India, Saudi Arabia and others have faced in the past. However, while these countries aggressively moved to arrest the culprits and bring them to book by any means necessary with or without due process, Nigeria has, at best, been timidly playing it safe in other not to step on toes. But I have to say to the Nigerian government that a leader has only one chance in life to write his name in the history books and the presidency is the best known avenue for a leader to write his name in gold. History is kind only to those leaders who rise to face the challenges of their times not those who shrank from them. And so, history wrote the names of statesmen such as Generals George Washington, Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and others in gold, but not that of then British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, for example, who cowered before Herr Hitler before and during the WWII.

Now why in the world would the Jonathan administration even think about prosecuting the police officer who killed the leader of the Boko Haram sect as reported, even if he was shot at point blank range? Is his life more important to Jonathan than the life of the thousands of innocent souls he murdered in cold blood including those of policemen serving their country? I just hope that newspaper report is not true. It’s like President Obama prosecuting the US Special Force operative who shot and killed Osama Bill Laden, for crying out loud. Who is President Jonathan trying to please—the terrorists and their sponsors or the families of those murdered by them? This is utterly insane and it amounts to placating and doing business with terrorists and cold blooded murderers. It is indeed a betrayal and second death for those who were killed by them and their families that are still writhing in pain. There is only one place for President Goodluck Jonathan to go if he cannot handle the terrorists with the heavy hand they deserve—Otuoke village in Bayelsa state! The Nigerian state as the guarantor of public safety should brutally hunt them down, they and their supporters, without even thinking about political repercussions from them.

I am of the opinion shared by generality of Nigerians that the Nigerian government has not even woken up like its US and British counterparts to deal with terrorism frontally, and it is still playing the game of Russian roulette with terrorism. Perhaps it does not even know how to handle the problem not having any experience whatsoever in fighting terrorism. Perhaps our intelligence agencies are still engaged in pedestrian, peacetime intelligence in a different age which requires new thinking and new strategies. Perhaps they had been thinking that suicide bombing is alien to Nigeria and therefore did not even bother to prepare against it, even when a Nigerian, AbdulMutallab, was caught trying to blow up his own balls in an American Airline on December 25, 2009. Perhaps they thought it was a one-off incident that would not repeat itself. Such wishful thinking might have helped to prevent them from being proactive and continued business as usual. When the national headquarters of a national police department is suicide-bombed by a ragtag terrorist, not even of Al-Qeda caliber, it is only an indication that nobody is taking security and public safety seriously or if there is somebody doing so he or she does not know how to go about it. If, with all these terrorist bombings going on in Nigeria a stranger could drive his car into the headquarters of national police department without being stopped at the gate and have his car checked out with sophisticated bomb detecting equipment which ordinary security firms have in abundance and cleared before being allowed to park his car, then something is seriously wrong somewhere. Do I have all the facts? No, but I don’t need to. There are too many gaping holes in our security arrangements as if they were put in place by complete amateurs rather than professionals. This is not strictly Jonathan’s fault but the fault of security agencies concerned but the bulk stops at his desk because he is responsible for the nation’s security and public safety. If need be he should get thoroughbred security professionals from abroad to do the job on the ground and have Nigerians understudy them to take over. Is it risky to do so, yes, but there are friendly countries and retired security experts abroad that can help infuse the required professionalism in the nation’s security apparatuses because it appears the I don’t care civil service mentality is still bedeviling the effectiveness and operational efficiency of our security agencies. It’s a cultural thing and no amount of funding or personnel changes can change the ingrained habits of business as usual pervading the entire Nigerian public service.

In that case then, they should learn, and fast, too, from those countries that have dealt with the problem and have succeeded in bringing it to a halt—Britain, US and India, to mention but a few. Parading military tanks in the street of Abuja is in fact a primitive approach. Other than striking fear in the minds of innocent citizens terrorist DO NOT fear military tanks. They don’t need them, they don’t use them and they don’t fear them. Even at the height of the terrorist attack in the US during 9/11 attacks in 2001, not a single military tank was seen on the street, not even the military itself whose Pentagon headquarters was bombed in Washington, DC, were deployed to the streets. Deplored to do what in the streets? What has the parade of military hardware in the streets got to do with the war on terrorism? It is utterly nonsensical childish. It’s like scarecrow for terrorists as if they don’t know how utterly useless military tanks are to their modus operandi. Well, maybe our background of military dictatorships predisposes us to relying on the military and its hardware. Sure enough the military can help with intelligence gathering and stuff like that, but not parading them in the street each time a bomb goes off.

Now, am I criticizing the government of the day in saying this? You bet I am. Am I exercising my freedom of speech in doing so in a democratic society? You bet I am, too. But am I exercising that freedom with a view to destroying the government of the day or strengthening it? You bet I am not, but with a view of strengthening it. Is that the duty of a patriotic citizen? You bet it is. But do I need to run around the world to offer my critique of the government of the day in order for me to be noticed and recognized as government critic? No, I don’t need to do so and it is indeed unpatriotic for me to do so, because my criticisms ought to be constructive and not destructive as my contribution to the growth and development of my country rather than to score cheap political points. Is the motive behind my criticisms important? Absolutely, because the motive colors everything I say and affects how people view my criticisms of the government of the day. Where my motive is viewed as being personal and less than altruistic by reasonable men, whatever I say carries the taint of ill-motivation even if I am making totally valid criticisms. What could transform me from a constructive to a destructive critic? If, and when I have an axe to grind with the government of the day, as for example, when I am being prosecuted by the government which I could easily pass off as “persecution” to gullible and unsuspecting fellow citizens. Then I could cease to be a constructive critic and become utterly destructive in my criticisms. Are there some critics out there who are doing just that today in Nigeria? You bet there are millions of them out there.

But what happens where criticisms verge on public incitement or treason or where there are in fact concrete acts that furnish evidence of treasonable felonies served up as criticisms in the exercise of freedom of speech? Whenever and wherever there is actionable evidence in that direction the government of the day is duty bound to move against such individuals and partisan political opposition has no place in that and therefore provides no cover for treasonable felonies. What exactly am I saying here? I am saying that there is a place for robust and constructive criticism of the government but there is no place for public incitement and treasonable acts served up as government criticism otherwise even treasonable felonies become wholly excusable and the security and stability of the nation are thereby imperiled. No democracy tolerates that anywhere in the world for obvious reasons and people should be made to understand where fair criticisms end and sedition begins. It is interesting to note in this connection, that democratic states have proven themselves to be the biggest enforcers of the laws, and citizens’ civil liberties are totally circumscribed and encumbered by legal strictures as to render them altogether almost useless or nonexistent. Go to a mosque in any western country today, for instance, and you will be sure to find agents of the state planted in them to monitor and report on the sermons delivered by Imams. Yes, the states are now monitoring religious sermons delivered in the houses of worship and clerics dare not use certain words in total disregard of their freedoms of worship and speech in the name of war against terror. So religions sermons are thoroughly scrubbed and sanitized first before they are publicly delivered in order to avoid the wrath of the state. And you begin to wonder: where is the freedom of worship and freedom of speech? They are still there in the books alright but the state has the unfettered right to derogate from them either generally or specifically. Therefore, it is utterly misleading to represent or otherwise hold up citizens civil rights as absolute rights because as indicated earlier not even the constitution that grants them intended them to be so or in fact made them absolute. Anyone who relies on or hides under the recognition and existence of these rights to test the will of the state by deliberately engaging in acts that derogate from or otherwise undermine the security of the state and public safety does so at his/her own risk because those civil liberties will not avail him/her when the state comes calling to demand responsibility and accountability from such individuals. It is easy to cry of persecution but let the independent courts determine that not the individual, hack writers, or paid agents.

Now, the question is what are these rights of the state that supersede the rights of the individual citizens that comprise the state in question? It must be made clear here that the state has no inherent rights that are different from those of the citizens themselves. The rights that are attributable to the state are in reality the corporate rights of the citizens in their collectivity and the state is, therefore, only an agent of and acting on behalf of the collectivity itself. Therefore on behalf of the generality of the citizens, the state has the unfettered right to defend and protect the territorial integrity of the nation/state. On behalf of the generality of the citizens, the state has the unfettered right to secure the lives and properties of the citizens. On the behalf of the citizens the state has the unfettered right to ensure that the citizens enjoy all the rights granted by the constitution without let or hindrance. This state right is captured in Section 45 1(b) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution cited above, which states that the state could make laws derogating from those rights “for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons.” Notice here that the state is acting on behalf not of itself but of the citizens to protect their rights and freedoms, which they cannot do on their own without resorting to self-help and consequential breakdown of law and order in the society. When Boko sect strikes in broad daylight or at night, it is depriving and denying others the exercise of their rights and it is the duty of the state to prevent that from happening by all means necessary. While the state has other rights, these three are perhaps the most prominent and overarching rights of the state. Therefore, these rights cannot be abridged by any law or even by the constitution of a state because they are immanent and in the very condition statehood.

Now the big question: Are these rights not subject to abuse like any other rights by the state? Of course yes, just like citizens' civil rights are equally subject to abuse by individual citizens themselves. An overzealous state official could hunt down perceived enemies in the guise of enforcing the right of the state. By the same token an overzealous citizen who has an axe to grind with a particular government in power could abuse his/her right to free speech by inciting the public against the government or engage in treasonable acts. And this is particular so in Nigeria with a rather weak and unfocused law enforcement culture and traditions. The Nigerian press is bristling with inciting and treasonable materials to the extent that a visitor to the country might wonder if there is a government at all in that country. Only in Nigeria would a politician publicly threaten mayhem and making the nation ungovernable for whatever reasons without paying a price for it. Only in Nigeria would a politician actually threaten violent break-up of the country without paying a price for it. Yes, only in Nigeria. It all goes to show that Nigeria has a weak government in a weak state. Treason has absolutely no meaning in Nigeria. The Nigerian government simply laughs it off as no big deal when a disaffected individual threatens the break-up of the nation. And is why totally irresponsible and unguarded outbursts are daily staples in the Nigerian media.

It is all part of freedom of speech, uh! “Dividend of democracy,” the call it in Nigeria! Many erroneously see democracy and politics as license for libelous and treasonable vituperations and a weak government has helped to foster that culture to the extent now that Nigerians see treasonable felonies, libel and defamation as parts of their civil rights supposedly enshrined in the constitution. In other words, they view their civil liberties as superseding the right of the state when the reverse is the case. Unless and until our politicians are educated to understand the boundaries of civil liberties versus their obligations to the state and other citizens, the nation will continue to witness these sporadic clashes between some vocal but misguided segment of the population and the state as each tries to press its rights rightly or wrongly. And that naturally begs the question: Who determines whether or not a right has been abused by the citizen or the state as the case may be? Simple. No other authority but the courts. When, therefore, a citizen is arrested, as for instance, Mallam el-Rufai as was recently the case in Nigeria, allegedly for acts detrimental to the security of the nation, no one but the courts are in a position to determine if the state has acted maliciously, inappropriately or outside due process of law. I have read some submissions tending to suggest that his arrest at the airport by agents of the State Security Service (SSS) was somehow out of order because it was done at the airport rather than allowing him to get home first, relax, have lunch or dinner with his family, receive visitors, use his private library to prepare another written attack against the state or the government as alleged, et al, before picking him up. With due respect, that is not a realistic proposition and there is no authority anywhere to back up such position. No one dictates to law enforcement agents when and where to effect particular arrests. It is all good and dandy to play nice and wait for the suspect to slip out of hand as former Speaker Bankole was alleged to have plotted to do after handing over when EFCC suddenly swooped on him in his home thereby saving the nation millions if naira that would have gone for extradition processes as it indeed was in ex-governor Onanefe Ibori’s case. If not for the British that matter would have been lost in extradition tango long ago. Bottom line: Law enforcement agents have the unfettered freedom and discretion to effect arrest of suspects anywhere at anytime except as provided for under any existing law, as for instance, legislative privileges of lawmakers on the floor of the House or Senate, or inside a court room in session in the face of a judge, or as diplomat under international law, none of which is applicable to el-Rufai. Why would anyone suggest then that the place of his arrest was inappropriate? I don't get it and that I thought that was a rather strange and untenable proposition.

The real question, therefore, is not whether he was arrested or the place of his arrest, but whether the government has any case against him to warrant his arrest to begin with. If that question can be answered in the affirmative it is immaterial as to the time or place of his arrest. And as indicated earlier, only the courts are in a position to determine if there was a “probable cause” for his arrest not necessarily an iron-clad case against him at this stage. It suffices that the government has reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect is engaged in the conduct complained about to warrant his arrest and/or questioning. I cannot second-guess the government in this matter and it will be premature, irresponsible and even dangerous to second-guess the government and rush to conclusions as to the propriety or legality of the arrest. If we continue to go down that slope we will be shooting ourselves in the foot and compromising the anti-terrorism war, thereby weakening national security unwittingly for which we all will pay the price down the road. We may not have personally suffered a loss in the spate of terrorist acts going on in parts of Nigeria particularly in the north with thousands of human casualties. We may not have lost a Youth Corp member or loved one; in Gombe, Jos, Kaduna, Abuja, Bauchi, Adamawa, etc, for which the government has been portrayed as being weak on terrorism by the same forces attacking the Jonathan administration, but we must understand the fight against terrorism goes beyond responding with military tanks and bazookas to intelligence gathering to identify both the culprits and their sponsors. No one is calling el-Rufai a terrorist. I personally do not think he is capable of doing that given his former positions and service to the country in the capacities as chairman of Bureau of Privatization of Public Enterprises, and as FCT minister. With that said, if the government has somehow linked him with acts capable of compromising national security, it is not in the interest of anyone to dismiss such allegations off hand even before the government has a chance to concretize its case and present it before the court of law, because in the immortal words of William Shakespeare, there is no art to find the mind's construction in the face. Even so el-Rufai is entitled to the benefit of the doubt and must be treated with respect and dignity befitting his person. Merely speaking against the government is not and cannot be a crime in and of itself and that should be elementary enough for the officials of the SSS. Coupled with other pieces of evidence within its knowledge, which may not be available to members of the public at this stage, however, it becomes something else than mere criticism of the government. The line between public incitement and sedition on the one hand, and mere criticism of government is very thin indeed. What then is my position? Simple: Let the law take its course because there is no viable alternative to the rule of law in a democracy.

And that is another way of saying let the security agencies be allowed to their job for which they draw their salaries from us. If they err in the process the courts are there to call them to order because President Goodluck Jonathan is not a dictator. I don't know of anyone who has been hounded into exile under his administration. But I am acutely aware of the fact that Mallams el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu were hounded into exile under late President Musa Yar'Adua administration within months of his assuming power with Ribadu even alleging that he was shot at while in his car and that his life was in danger, hence he fled the country. Is el-Rufai's life in danger? I don’t think so. At least he has not said so as of yet. Oh, an invitation by SSS! What is the big deal if there is nothing to it? That is some food for thought. And if Rufai’s reaction is anything to go by as reported by the press, he is enjoying the limelight, for he vowed to continue criticizing the government even more so than before claiming that the arrest is an indication that his criticism of government is working. Well, he has just got himself a good job as government critic, and in the manner of Big Mac’s advert, he seems to be “lovin’ it!” And please don’t ask me what is the salary attached to this newfound job and who pays for it. Such questions might not be necessary at this time and quite frankly are beyond me for answers. I guess you could supply the answers yourselves.

But when you see folks like IBB, the self-confessed "evil genius" jumping into the fray to "warn" or "caution" Jonathan over el-Rufai's arrest, you want to stop, take a deep breath, exhale, and then ask: "Wait a minute; what the heck is going on here?" That’s right, folks—no kidding. When an ex-military dictator who, after annulling the freest and fairest election in Nigeria history issued a stern warning to pro-democracy protesters protesting against the annulment to hold their peace because they are dealing with the military that “are masters and practitioners of violence” is lecturing a democrat like Jonathan about the beauty of democracy and free speech, then you know instantly that something evil is afoot. It’s got to be evil coming from an evil genius, himself. And what is more, when individuals who had been in government all their lives and had never raised their voices against any government in the past in the era of the Wole Soyinkas, late Tai Solarins, Fela Anikupapo Kutis, Gani Fawehimnis and the Femi Falanas, etc, suddenly become trenchant and acidic government critics overnight, there’s got to be something going on somewhere far from the prying eyes of the public. What could that be? I don’t know except to advise Nigerians to just keep their eyes and ears open and their other senses, too. Yes folks, when an IBB turns civil rights crusader overnight then you've got to look really close to see what could be lurking beneath the grass you are treading on.

Bottom line: President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is a marked man and he can count on more Boko Harams emerging from the woodworks to malign, distract, destabilize, demonize, unsettle and utterly rubbish his government if it cannot otherwise be overthrown by force. And I would like to use this opportunity to advise Jonathan to cut back on his foreign trips and face the arduous tasks in front of him with razor sharp focus except when such trips are absolutely unavoidable because his absence could create opportunities for mischief makers to undo him and his government. Does he need a political soothsayer to tell him this? No, because he had been told just that even before he mounted the throne and the implementation of that agenda has been swift, deadly, unremitting, determined and implacable. Why has suicide bombings suddenly emerged as a security issue in Nigeria? Why has Boko Haram suddenly emerged overnight from nowhere as a major threat to national security at a time the lingering Niger crisis has abated? These are pertinent questions that should engage the minds of not just the security agents but Nigerians in general. He owes a duty to himself, his administration, to the millions who voted for and believe in him, and to posterity to dexterously navigate the political minefield because the traps are there and only too obvious even for the political naive before he steps on the serpent's fangs and get fatally bitten. The election may be over for him as he tackles the issues of governance and development but he would be naive to think that the elections are over for all peoples in all places. No, they are not and the political battles have moved on to dangerous phase of bombs and orchestrated attacks on all fronts. In all these, however, he owes the nation and Nigerian one thing and only one thing: Security without compromise, otherwise he might as well take his bow and leave for his village in Bayelsa state. Yes, security without compromise without allowing himself to be distracted by a bunch of paid civil rights crusaders howling from the rooftops. President GW Bush did not allow himself to be distracted by them in the United States, the bastion of democracy neither is President Barack Obama who has stuck with Bush's policies on national security with detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba still languishing in jail without trial under Obama. We cannot forget so soon how Obama had railed against that during the campaign but has now been forced to deal with the challenges as realism trumps idealism of civil rights. Of the hundreds of documented egregious civil rights abuses in both Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Abu-Ghraib prisons in Iraq, how many of the indicted security operatives were prosecuted by the Bush administration? Not one of importance, to my knowledge. And how many of them were prosecuted under the Obama administration? As Spanish people would put it: “Nada!” meaning, none! That is the reality of the war against on terrorism which has since berthed in Nigeria.

Jonathan must, therefore, demonstrate toughness in the face of a determined enemy and do that which must be done. He must rise up to the occasion just like his American, British, Indian, and French counterparts in fighting homegrown terrorism. And Nigerians must give him their unflinching support and quit whining about civil rights enforcement that must perforce take a back seat in this war. That is the position of the United States’ government without saying it in so many words. One only needs to listen to government officials particularly Republican lawmakers to know the position of the US when it comes to the imperatives of national security. No one promotes civil rights in the world better than the US government yet it bears a heavy hand when its national security is threatened. Civil rights take the back seat as a matter of policy. It shouldn’t be any less so for Nigeria and her leaders. That is job Number One for President Jonathan— National Security without compromise. This should and must not be seen as encouraging arbitrary arrests of innocent citizens, which would indeed be regrettable disservice to the war on terrorism itself. One can only hope that is not the case with Jonathan because he has admirably demonstrated self-restraints in the face of provocations even to a fault to the extent that he is being called a weak leader. That is the price of being a democrat, but not to the extent of compromising on national security and public safety, for doing so would be an abdication of presidential responsibilities and betrayal of trust. Are there any guarantees that Jonathan will remain a democratic, non-dictatorial leader he has been so far up to this point? No, for only time will tell. But this much I could guarantee: He will not send people to jail under a Decree Number 4 for saying unpleasant things against government officials, whether true or false, which in the opinion of the officials are capable of putting them in a bad light and public ridicule as did el-Rufai's current mentor, Muhammadu Buhari, in 1984. Jonathan is a world apart from el-Rufai's CPC party leader. And that is a guarantee, or I should say, a “warranty” you can take to the bank.

Thanks so much for coming this far on this treatise on National Security/Public Safety Without Compromise……

From the stable of –Cutting-Edge Analytics—

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst

Contact: mudiagaone@yahoo.com




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