The President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, recently said he would be considering the establishment of special courts to take care of corruption cases in order to give the issue of corruption the deserved attention and urgency after he is sworn in. We share in the concern of the president-elect given the grave implication of corruption in Nigeria and also support him in the determination to fight it vigorously in order to free the country from its shackles and enthrone development. We agree with him that it is impossible to have real development in the country without confronting and overcoming the cankerworm of corruption. Yet, we want to believe that the desire to have special courts to deal with corruption could be the beginning of a resort to unusual and unacceptable ways in governance.
Given the background of the president-elect in the military, there would be the obvious interest on his part to get things done as quickly as possible. Also, given the tardiness that has attended many of the corruption cases in various courts under past and present governments in Nigeria, we understand why the president-elect would want to consider another way to tackle corruption by establishing special courts. But democracy does not permit the imposition of a person’s position, not even when that person is the president, on the rest of the country outside of what the constitution permits.
True, the president-elect’s desire is to see to the prompt treatment of corruption cases as part of the comprehensive fight against corruption through the establishment of the special courts, but the constitution does not permit the existence of such courts for corruption alone, as if that is the only crime known to law in the country. We must all remember that the country has chosen to run and govern itself on the basis of democracy and this means that it would submit itself only to the dictates and norms of a democratic system of government and not the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned such an individual is. The point needs to be emphasised that some people had misgivings about whether the president-elect would be able to submit himself to the dictates and the rather long and sometimes tiring processes of democracy prior to his election victory, because of his strict conduct when he was a military ruler. Those misgivings should not be given vent through the application of special courts that are not provided for by the constitution. The only way some people would not complain about persecution would be for all to be subjected to the normal courts and their processes and not be dragged before special courts.
We are convinced that with proper fundamental restructuring of the system and the full mobilisation of the anti-corruption agencies, there should not be any doubt about a vigorous and effective fight against corruption. The problem with the fight hitherto in Nigeria is the perception that those in high places do not really want the fight, given the obvious and open display of the proceeds of corruption in the flamboyant lifestyles of many in government and high positions in the country.
Nigerians would definitely assist the government to wage the war against corruption when they see those in leadership positions taking the lead and showing by personal examples that they abhor it and are willing to operate outside of its influence.
The pact of Nigerians with the president-elect through the democratic votes which made him the president is to work within the confines of the constitution and democratic norms to tackle corruption and other ills in the country effectively in order to deliver a more robust and developed society.
It is not a pact about side-stepping the constitution in order to wage a war against the constitution. Nigerians have confidence that Buhari could deliver effective governance through the force of his personal example and the strict implementation of rules and regulations and not by circumventing the rules or invoking special powers and courts. We expect the president-elect to submit himself to the demands and dictates of democracy and democratic governance no matter the personal discomfiture about the slow and incongruous ways of democracy.
Democracy is all about working within the laws and that would be the expectation of Nigerians about the Buhari government when it eventually assumes power and not the pursuit of special courts outside of the orbit of the constitution.