Rule of law and credibility of leadership


By Peter Obi

Still on the identity crisis and controversies that have continued to haunt the Nigerian citadel of power since the February 25, 2023 presidential elections. There is this saying that: “It is not titles that honour men, but men honour titles” 

The lofty titles that decorate people in power have little meaning if there is a hollowness and falsehood underneath them. Such titles as “President”, “Governor” etc…, which decorate those in public office mean nothing if they are not original and are fake if those who bear them have no honour to support the weight of the titles they carry.

In situations where there is public doubt as to the veracity and authenticity of these titles and the claims behind them, it is the role of the judiciary, when called upon, to uphold the honour of the titles through transparent rulings. It is only through such judicial interventions that the public can be protected from the tyranny of dubious and duplicitous characters and identity fraudsters. 

In such situations, the judiciary has a bounding duty in this regard to protect the value system of the society. This is one of the obligations of an impartial judiciary in a democracy. 

The rule of law remains the lifeblood of democracy in all societies and by whatever definition across time. It remains the foundation for all our basic rights as humans.

It is the rule of law that binds society together. The expectation by the high and the low alike that their rights will be protected and respected by fair judges in transparent courts is what keeps citizens' loyalty and belief in democracy. People, irrespective of their station in life, approach the courts whenever they feel their rights are assailed in the expectation that fair courts will serve them justice according to law. 

However, when the fairness of the judiciary is not assured and the transparency of judiciary operatives is uncertain, the rule of law will come under severe threat. Once ordinary people lose faith in the fairness of the judiciary, the rule of law is threatened. With it, faith in democracy comes under threat as well. 

A society is endangered when the rule of the powerful, when the rule of the rich and the mighty replaces the rule of law. When that obtains, justice becomes a commodity to be traded on between the rich and powerful on the one hand and a cult of corrupt judiciary operatives on the other.

When a democracy lives based on faulty justice, it opens society to obvious dangers. Governments become subject to impunity and casual violations of the rights of ordinary citizens. The rich and powerful can trample on the rights of the lowly as there are no consequences for infractions or lawless acts. This can be the groundwork for a democracy to graduate into an autocracy.

US President Joe Biden could not be more apt when he said “For any young democracy, the most difficult but important step is burying the legacy of tyranny and establishing an economy and a government and institutions that abide by the rule of law.
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