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Democracy, Rule Of Law And Other Matters



In a democracy, all men are equal. All men have equal rights because the rights of all are an outcome of their humanity, not their size, not their pocket, not their office, but their humanity.

In a democracy, law is supreme and among laws, the most supreme of the laws is the constitution, which is the grundnorm of all other laws. It is from the constitution that ALL offices derive their power. That is the true meaning of Rule of Law!

Therefore, it is a paradox to speak of big men within a democracy. Indeed, no man in a democratic setting is legally big or big enough to be above the law. All men are equal before the constitution. In a Democratic dispensation, law is made by legislature, accented by Executive but MUST be interpreted by Judiciary.

Separation of Power is one of the foundational pillars of democracy. Without such separation, power concentrates and that is called dictatorship or tyranny.

We have a situation where some claim to be above the law while some are so small that they are deemed beneath the law. Yet, the ethics and spirit of democracy does not permit such.

A situation where some are so big that they are above police summons and some are so small that many of them routinely spend months in police cells and years awaiting trial is not democratic. Such an anomaly is not envisaged by either human rights or by the constitution.

The foundation of democracy is the equality of all the citizens that make up a state or nation. Their rights matter and such rights are protected by the constitution. The right of the smallest is as important as the rights of the highest. The freedom of the innocent child is as important as the freedom of the judge or the freedom of a governor.

When laws are called common law, it is so called because it applies commonly and equally to everyone. The common law is not meant for commoners, it is for everyone. The word common means “general” as well as encompassing. For instance, water is common to fish as law is common to all citizens of a nation.

A privileged class is anathema to democracy because by the very essence of suffrage, all men can only cast one vote each. That equality of say is what makes democracy the ideal form of government unlike aristocracy or fascism in which some men are deemed more important or more essential than others.

Indeed, allowing some individuals any privileges not enjoyed by everybody else is injurious to the orderly practice of democratic governance. Undue privileges often stunt democracy and reduce its benefits to society.

Justice suffers in a nation when those dispensing justice either in the judiciary or executive become above the law. Whenever the rule of law diminishes, the rule of whim becomes eminent. Rule of whim is injurious to the citizenry because people are then judged on no known parameters.

In a nation where policemen for instance are above the law then you have police excesses. When the judiciary is above the law, you have abuse and miscarriage of justice bordering on judicial tyranny.

A country suffers when some privileged office holders can avoid or delay justice. Such a situation will lead to anarchy and impunity. No judge should be above justice and they should be willing to be subject to the rules that they themselves adjudicate upon. It stands to reason that we should be suspicious of a food seller who neither eats the food she sells nor allows her children eat the food. It simply means that the food is substandard or possibly poisonous. People should not be scared of receiving what they mete out to others.

Everybody in a country of laws is subject to the laws. This is best exemplified in America where close aides of President Donald Trump are currently being tried for felony despite their bigness and closeness to President Trump.

Some suspicion should be reserved for any official of government who refuses to utilise or use the same services that his department or ministry doles out. This is why western countries insist that politicians use only the services available within their nation.

A minister of Education of a European country would not dare send his wards to America for education and vice versa. If anyone tries that, the scandal therefrom would not abate until the offending official resigns. Such is how high accountability is regarded in advanced and mature democracies.

But here, office holders award themselves privileges, which inure them from experiencing the true conditions in the country. We have no ambulance services for the citizenry, yet high office holders have paramedics and ambulances especially assigned to them. Such a privilege is clearly not in public interest since it is at the expense of the general public.

Whenever politicians award themselves privileges and opportunities not enjoyed by the general public that is apartheid. Of recent, there have been revelations of underhand hiring of wards and nominees of office holders in government agencies.

Such a privilege can be compared to the rich stealing from the poor. Such can only be called an abuse of power to the detriment of the general public. Nobody elects or appoints people to steal from him.

The concept of a privileged political class whether in the Judiciary or Executive is actually an abuse of office, which in itself is a negation of the tenet of equality of all in a democratic dispensation.

All are equal before the law and all are subject to the constitution. Failure to uphold the constitution results in anarchy and a general breakdown of law and order. It is in this context that Nigerians must see the calls for constitutionality and respect for the rule of law. Democracy grows only when laws are respected and obeyed by all.


– Aluta Continua