Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, says contempt of law as witnessed in Nigeria is worst under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Soyinka was reacting to the refusal of the Department of State Services (DSS) to obey court orders and release Omoyele Sowore, convener of the #RevolutionNow Movement, who has been granted bail twice.
The DSS arrested Sowore on August 3 and he is standing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and “insulting the president”.
In a statement likening thuggery to state disobedience, the literary icon said Nigerian judiciary, since his youthful days to the present, is not “a model of perfection”.
Soyinka said since 1999, there seems to be a competition among succeeding governments as to which is “the most notorious Scofflaw in the field of democratic pretensions”.
“I have no hesitation in admitting that I have a personal, formative interest in the health of the Nigerian judiciary, deeper perhaps than the average Nigerian,” Soyinka said.
“It would be most surprising if my own brush with the law has not crossed my mind since the predicament of Omoyele Sowole, journalist and former presidential candidate began. The Nigerian judiciary was not thereby, nor is today a model of perfection.
“One of the most effective, increasingly optimized in Nigeria, is simply by not only ignoring, but treating its orders with disdain, encouraging its agencies to trot out cynical excuses for disobedience while laughing all the way to the citadel of power. In that regard, there does appear to be an undeclared contest among succeeding governments, intensified since the return of the nation to civilian government in 1999 for placement in the Guinness Book of Records as the most notorious Scofflaw in the field of democratic pretensions.
“Perhaps we have finally attained maximum saturation, and there is no need for any further record keeping. It is extremely difficult to imagine a further lowering of the bar of disdain for law than we have witnessed under the present regime. The degree of cynicism in the conduct of State Security agencies has attained a level of consistency that is surpassed by only one other previous government – but it is a close call.”
Soyinka further said that the legal arm of government in Nigeria, like other African countries, is under siege.
He added that however, the judiciary has also not done enough to defend itself from “illegal power”.
According to him, if security agencies were to detain those referred to as revolutionists, half of Nigeria’s population would be in detention.
“Much of the judiciary across the continent remains constantly under siege – Nigeria is no exception. Needless to say, it often strikes me that the ‘learned brotherhood’ could do more to protect, and assert itself,” he said.
“Apart from the obvious and numerous scandals of moral deficit that require constant internal purgation, there are instances where it does fail to protect itself even from putative and/or illegal power.
“The nation continues to undergo the chagrin of having the rug pulled from under her feet while waiting on the long queue for judicial redress against the strong-arm culture of state, as well as unlisted power interests.
“So, finally, what do thuggery and court disobedience have in common? Everything! They are both Scofflaw manifestations. One is simply a more structured, more hypocritical version of the other. One knows itself for what it is, while the other tries to camouflage its abnormality under a higher purpose , the more elastic the better. Such is that often specious alibi labeled ‘national security’.
“As for those agencies that actually think to inhibit social revolution by fastening on the alarmist association of the word ‘revolution’, half the citizens of this nation should be in permanent detention. From pulpit to minaret, from clinic to fish market, from student club to motor park, the wish for drastic transformation of this nation is staple discourse.”