“Dickson you brought the people from Abuja to present flag, the only thing I want to do is to tell you that sometimes ago I was here in Bayelsa and the people stoned the governor. I was here and you must work hard for Bayelsa not to stone you. The day they stone you, I will join to stone you.”
-President Goodluck Jonathan
Ancient theologians of the two or rather three distinctive monolithic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, right from the Biblical times , have always being fascinated and mystified by the concept of stoning as an atonement from the evils ails of Satanic forces. The process of the pelting as some sort of exorcism for a wrong done to the society, is largely acceptable and recognized by both the holy scriptures of the eastern monolithic wisdoms, enjoying massive appeal, patronage and strict adherence within the Nigerian belief system, which have integrated stoning as a valid form of punishment, for individuals and groups that have strayed from the path of truth, probably at the instance of a devilish interloper in the distinctive mould of the Satan. In those instances, tiny pebbles and large moulds of rocks are cast as a corrective enterprise, to seek for a change of character for persons who have probably deviated from dictates of faith and accepted societal norm, the sheer and atrocious crudity of the act, serving as a valid deterrence to any eligible would be offender.
Religion, being the institutionalized tool upon which the society started to form the context of civil administration and organized communal existence, provided an avenue for the fundamental origin of the rule of law and greater system of administrative governance. However, the development of civilization and increasing sophistication of the society resulted in the formulation of the people-oriented concept of democracy, which sought to depart from the medieval concept of governance, as enshrined in the holy scriptures of the old Judaic periods. Thus, an eye for an eye as the basic law, which is primarily based on the fundamental trite law of revenge, became generally substituted with justice as a core reformative tool. As such, an active exercise in search for just recompense before the law also includes and inculcate protecting the extent rights of the defendant, while ensuring the greater community gets satisfied that not only is justice done, but that it is seen to have been done.
It is also part of the inventions of the period the discovery of electoral democracy as a necessary avenue for accountable governance, which is clearly distinct from the primal instinct of physical violence as a means of extracting responsibility from the leadership. Thus, periodic renewal of political mandate through elections, impeachments of leadership proven to have committed gross misconduct and the employment of the concept of separation of power between the three branches of government, namely the executive, legislature and the judiciary became the new and modern system of holding leadership to account. As such, in a properly constituted democracy, a leader lives in an eternal fear of re-election, thus guiding and guarding every act he or she does at the peril of the ballot box. Although, even before that periodic date with every politician’s destiny, the distinct functions of the three arms of government are clearly demarcated. For, while the executive branch implements the government policies, the legislature through the medium of oversight oversees the executive and passes laws for effective governance while the judiciary interpret the law and adjudicates between public and private components of the state.
It was in this passing weekend in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state. While the president was formally introducing the Peoples Democratic Party’s flag bearer in the state Mr. Seriake Dickson, he unveiled a new social contract for accountable governance, when he enjoined and advocated the use of stones and stoning as a means of extracting accountability from any erring government official. In fact, he promised to join in the stoning process should his anointed candidate fail the people in giving them dividends of democracy. On face value, the presidential proclamation looks like a desperate bid by a leader seeking to enforce performance on his subordinate elected officials. The history of the Nigerian democratic process has seen the leadership betraying the people, siphoning the people’s resources from development of infrastructure into private enterprise of theft, corruption and criminal waste. In fact, one of the honoured guest at that ceremony was Mr. Diepreye Alamieseigha, a former governor of the state, who was impeached over allegations of monumental corruption.
However, in as much as the president might have made the declaration with good intent, the simple truth is that the way of the stones is not a legal neither a reasonable means of enforcing accountability in governance. Resorting to self help through the instrumentality of attacking leadership is patently illegal and a criminal activity. Indeed, one of the primary functions of the Nigerian president as the head of the executive branch of government is ensuring the diligent implementation of the law. As such, by the import of the presidential statement, he is not only encouraging infraction of the law, but even promising to partake in the commission of the illegal act. This, evidently, is a sad commentary on the fundamental ethos of our democracy.
But, our democracy should never be about casting the devilish official with stones from the state house, rather, it should be about exploring the extent of existent provisions of the law, to seek leadership redemption in the instance when officials of government betray the people.