By Taiwo Odukoya
In about 380BC, the Greek philosopher Plato penned his now popular treatise called The Republic. In it, Plato argued that the ideal society was one that was subjected to the rule of the best men, idealized philosopher kings who possessed the wisdom to lead, had absolute power, and lived above the law. But in seeking to apply his theory, Plato happened upon an experience that shifted his thinking.
In 367-366 B.C.E., Plato was invited by his friend Dion to visit Sicily and advise Dion’s uncle, Dionysius, a wise ruler who had suddenly become the tyrant of Syracuse. Dionysius, as it turned out, was more comfortable acting despotically than adhering to Plato’s advice and the experiment turned out disastrous. Plato was subsequently arrested and Dion assassinated. In a letter to the friends of Dion, a sober Plato concluded, “Do not subject Sicily, or any other state to the despotism of men, but to the rule of law.”
Laws are systems of agreeable terms that instill discipline and regulate the behavior of everyone within a given community or system. In defining leadership within the system therefore, leaders must come from the ranks of those who demonstrate and model these things. Discipline therefore becomes a primary criterion for leadership. And ensuring adherence to the collective values of the people, which the law espouses, becomes the mandate and responsibility of all, particularly the leaders.
Let us not forget that the position of leadership comes with a lot of privileges and sometimes, the tendency is for leaders to push these privileges too far that it begins to border on abuse. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authority,” the Bible says. What this also means is that the Bible expects those in leadership to be custodians of the system of laws that sustain the society. But when those designated to uphold and promote the laws begin to abuse it, it degenerates into a free fall. It was the notable Ameican lawyer and journalist, Glen Grenenwald that said, “An elite class that is free to operate without limits – whether limits imposed by the rule of law or fear of the responses from those harmed by their behavior – is an elite class that will plunder, degrade, and cheat at will, and act endlessly to fortify its own power.”
We see a good example of this in the case of Rehoboam. The young king who had taken over from his father Solomon did not only put himself above the law, he allowed his friends and cronies run amok, and this led to a schism that spilt the kingdom of Israel. The truth is, if the people get any hint that the law does not apply in certain quarters, what is likely to follow is a gradual descent into irredeemable chaos.
It will be good reminder at this point for all who aspire for a greater Nigeria to demonstrate and model the discipline required to sustain the shared and codified values of the system, by keeping the rule of law and defending the constitution, and to bear this in mind when choosing and endorsing a candidate in the forthcoming election. Our long term survival depends on us going one step further to ensure the preservation of rules and laws that allow for orderly conduct and create a level playing field for all, even as we march toward another election cycle. The long standing tradition of Impunity must be put behind us. We would do well to hold the words of Dwight Eisenhower to heart: “The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there was no rule of law.” Nigeria has a great future!
Taiwo Odukoya wrote in from Lagos