By Abba Auwalu Issa
The law is indispensable for the stability and continuity of a nation. But laws are not always the final tool to maintain discipline in a country. Sometimes people showed lack of regard for anything called law in their countries.
What happened in Rwanda, in the last two decades and two years ago, which claimed the lives of several thousand Rwandans was not showing absence of law in Rwanda; but lack of respect for the law. The Sierra-Leone Civil War which reigned for eleven years did not mean that the country had no established law. Rather, it meant that some people in the country at that time had no respect for the country’s law. The Liberian Civil War is a similar example.
What started in Nigeria, sixteen years ago, under the guise of democracy and turned out to be inhumane exploitation of the country’s treasury by those ‘polio-ticians’ indicates total lack of respect for the Nigerian law by those people.
Before we say something, we must try to understand who is to blame for the people’s lack of respect for law. Is it the government? Is it the people themselves? Or is it related to other external forces?
I bet you, it has nothing to do with any external force. It all depends on the government. The government is responsible for law making and making the people to obey the law.
In Nigeria, the law is there: and there are sanctions against violations. However, it appears as if the law and the sanctions do not exist. And as if some ‘polio-ticians’ are more powerful than the law. It baffles me to see the court trials of the alleged looters running out of one year without any tangible effect. It is right for judges to claim the grant of fair hearing to the accused. But, is it ethically right for lawyers to device means of prolonging the trials in favour of such clients? No.
If the law cannot provide limit to trial periods of such cases, if the law cannot put limit to the actions of lawyers handling such cases, if the law seems unwilling to convict looters of national treasury; the law proves insufficient. And such law needs urgent redress.
While no one can emphasise the negativity of the law, Nigerian government need to consider other way of instilling discipline in the citizens. Morality.
Law and morality are two guiding principles that shape human conduct. The law alone, cannot play the role of morality. If our government discards moral enforcement, I am afraid, public conduct may not be well channeled. The law has minimum effect on our feeling. This function, however, may be well played by our moral conduct. Steven Shavell of Harvard Law School wrote: ‘morality too involves incentives: bad acts may result in guilt and disapprobation, and good acts may result in virtuous feelings and praise’. Our government needs to work hard to make people have zeal for virtue and contentment. Let the people be made to detest illegal ways of making money.
It is difficult to get rid of corruption without changing people’s way of thinking about wealth, dignity and honour. To be honest, we should never expect Nigerian people to be right-thinking about fraud, looting, cheating and corruption if the current will continue. Aniebo Nwamu wrote in his Sunday column of 22nd May, 2016, that: ‘each year plagues of honour are awarded to thieves and charlatans, while hardworking, honest but poor Nigerians are not noticed. Nigeria will not recover until moral values are re-instilled in Nigerians’. But the government looks indifferent to the statement of this sage.
Today, a detained suspect, accused of stealing from the national treasury is living more comfortable life than an innocent average Nigerian. The law makes it easy to elect politicians into power but difficult to bring down thieves among them. I wonder the source of law that shields and gives privilege to a criminal. Whatever the basis of such law, it is not sufficient.
If the government must end corruption in Nigeria, it must first make adjustment to the law; andcreate a medium of re-establishing moral values in the people.
Looking back at the history of precolonial Nigerian societies, today, we are no longer ourselves. Our virtuous identity; our morality, is lost. In the North, for example, a typical Hausa man would hate his death not more than he would hate to be called a thief. Today, I see youth who long to attain the positions of power in order to steal from the government accounts. In order to be called thieves. Compare the two and you will see lack of morality in the latter. In those days, there were no law in form of what we have today. But, morality was their guiding principle in attitude and behavior.
It is time for the government of Nigeria to make move and revive the morals; the lost symbol of our people. It is time for the religions to do the same.
‘War against indiscipline’? No. it sounds so military and we are political people. The government may have a subtle slogan for its campaign of moral restoration, because it is a moral virtue to treat people with lenience. And this will tell us that our government is morally good.
By Abba Auwalu Issa is of the department of Mass Communication of Bayero University, Kano.