“I believe that any law whether local or international as well as Treaties and Conventions should be instruments for the resolution of human problems not to compound them.”
-President Goodluck Jonathan
The day I first heard of this new policy statement, I was so totally shocked and flabbergasted, that I could also imagine the state of turmoil, which Nigeria’s presidential speech writers would have felt, when a president pointedly initiates a new foreign policy turn, via statements made off the curve, and in blatant disregard to his prepared presidential speech at a foreign parliamentary appearance.
The context of this blow out performance was President Jonathan’s last week state visit, and address to the Kenyan Parliament, where he highlighted the bonds of friendship existing between the two African countries, exploring the historical ties binding them, and sharing their similar challenges with governance. The president, as much as traced these challenges from independence, indicating how the challenges obfuscated their march to greatness, concluding with a promise and an acclaim; to build a society where justice reign supreme, granting fairness and equality to all before the law.
Most surprisingly, the now often quoted statement of the presidential appearance, was not even part of the prepared text of the speech, nor did it require an intensive proof reading, to discover that the statement did not emanate from published text of the speech.
Simply put, the Nigerian president evidently conjured the statement outside the prepared text, most probably, as an inadvertent feeling of filial bonds of affinity, with a fellow Head of State, who is under tremendous pressure from the International Criminal Court, to honor an appearance in the international court trying persons suspected of criminal activities.
It is noteworthy, and as was affirmed by even the august speaker, Kenya and Nigeria share a lot of similarities, though rather than for the good, ours is more of a behavioral trait and conspiracy to engage in corruption, ethnic conflicts, election rigging and having a national parliament which earns stupendous amount of allowances.
The main focus of the speech was about the historical journey of the two fraternal African countries that have embraced the mantra of democracy and the rule of law, not due to any external prodding or pressure, but because of internal realization that good governance is the best way to dream of an economically viable Africa.
Thus, the confusion of many who came across the statement urging Kenya to ignore and disobey the appearance call of the International Criminal Court, after signing into the Treaty and Convention establishing the special tribunal, was beyond belief.
Pray what does commitment to treaty means in this specific case? Simple, one would assume: that, by appending a signature to honor an appearance in the court, by any of the parties indicted by the chief prosecutor of the international court, is not a confirmation of guilt or innocence but to affirm confidence in a judicial process that a suspect is not simply comdemned, rather, that this is a fair and just opportunity to have evidence of his or her culpability diligently examined before the pronouncement of judgment.
In the specific Kenyan indictment therefore, it means not to malign, belittle or humiliate a representative sovereign in the person of a Kenyan president and vice president, but to deliver justice on personal actions taken before attaining the eminent status of such a sitting head of state.
To be sure there is the case and the impression here of a high-wired jurisprudential politics of international law at play. Thus, on face value, it all appears to be a conspiracy of the global powers to create a dangerous precedent, which tries and convicts an African sovereign, thereby creating the possibility of putting such nations into disrepute, by criminalizing a whole country due to the past activity of its leadership, when their domestics laws have not seen them through such disapproving eyes.
However, despite what anybody might think, the domestic implication and connotation also is disturbing, to say the least, when an executive president urges another country’s parliament to disobey the courts and cause the refusal of anyone honoring the summon of the temple of justice. What is at stake here is the blatant contempt for te rule of law, and someone who plays on this track cannot come behind, sounding proper and self-righteous by preaching practices they don’t truthfully believe in.
Part of the confusion that this triggers on a social, national, level is that citizens simply get mystified, confused on which court to obey, what law is just, and the preference of subjecting oneself to the dictates of a disagreeable judicial process, especially for people who consider they can dictate their appearance procedures of the courts of law based on personal choice and desire. This, to put it mildly, creates an abominable precedent of lawlessness, rascality and clear disrespect to the institutions dispensing justice to all and sundry.
While times without number, judicial courts have shown themselves to be prisoners to facts, evidences and penal statutes, in most political cases of this nature, which is largely evident in this instance, the general interest of maintaining the stability of a nation state, requires that justice is done to the victims of criminal actions of individuals,. Sadly this penal sanction never really takes effect, until and unless the convicted offender loses the status of a representative sovereign piloting the ship of state.
Mr. Suwaid, an attorney and community activist in Kano writes a regular legal opinion for Premium Times.
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