The London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society defines Civil Society as "The arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. According to Wikipedia, "Civil societies are often populated by organizations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organizations, community groups, women's organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups". The key word in the definition I want to highlight is UNCOERCED.
It is therefore apparent that once members of civil society become members of political parties who have the intention of forming governments when they win elections, they compromise their uncoerciveness whenever they fight against the state as their agenda is no longer voluntary but determined by their parties.
I saw the civil society protests aired on television. One could see that the frontline members are key functionaries of the opposition to the government in power. I therefore wonder how much uncoerced the rest of the members are.
It could be right to fight against state when actions and decisions which appear to go against public opinion and benefit are taken by the state. However, there is need for consistency among these so called civil society groups. Civil society members who belong to political parties should not use the platform of civil society protests to fight the state. Doing so is hiding the blatant conflict of interest. Many of us can see the man behind the glass.
It is apparent and common knowledge that corruption has eaten deep into the judiciary. Every well meaning Nigerian should be worried about the level of corruption in the judiciary as we have seen for the past ten years. Whether civil society, political party, individuals, or even the state; all should be concerned with the level of corruption and something needs to be done. I am therefore not against protests to make government rescind decisions that will be inimical to the general population. What I am against is masked protests to achieve individual gains.
The issue about Justices Salami and Katsina-Alu is an embarrassment to the judiciary and we all know it. We have read of many cases where it would appear justice has been for sale. What did the civil society do? What have they done? There have been perpetual injunctions granted by judges, sentences that appear as if they are jokes for crimes of serious corruption and embezzlements of public funds but what did the civil society do? Did we see any protests from these so called civil societies?
In any morally inclined society, the two justices should have resigned without any push. So what I expect civil society to do is to protest and ask both judges to resign their appointments and not protest when one of the warring judges is suspended. This was not done. Judging from the action of the civil society, it appears to me that Nigerian civil societies have become opportunists fighting only when it affects their pay masters. We saw it well before the just concluded elections that ushered in the new government. Civil societies should not see themselves as the opposition because they are not political parties. Indeed civil societies should be working with the state and the market to characterize our entire society. This is because it is the effective inter-relationship among these groups that will shape our country.
I read that lawyers at the NBA conference inPort Harcourtwere shouting that the President must allow justice to prevail. I askÔÇŽJustice for who? Some of these same lawyers defend corrupt politicians who have mortgaged the lives and future of the children ofNigeriacarting home millions as appearance fees in the name of their profession. Some of these same lawyers are the agents of the corrupt politicians who bribe judges and led the judiciary to this abysmal situation. So what is the justice they are shouting for? I thought these learned people say he who wants equity must come with clean hands!
Now come to think of it, though not a lawyer, I believe there is a simple difference between removal from office and suspension from office in the work place. The constitution talks about removal from office which to my mind appears to be permanent but is silent on suspension which denotes a temporary action. The same constitution allows the National Judicial Council to discipline her officers without recourse to another authority/person. Therefore suspending an officer pending full resolution of issues he is accused of could not be seen to be wrong. Asking the President to announce the suspension is akin to asking the President to announce the appointment of such officers.
In shouting and protesting about the suspension of Mr Salami I believe we are throwing away the morality of the argument about why we have come to this stage. Here we are with a very corrupt judiciary and those at the helm of this corrupt judiciary have been exposing themselves like "two foolish generals" as we have seen in recent times. Instead of shouting that the two suspected corrupt judiciary generalissimos should all leave we are concerned about what the President has done and how swiftly he has done it. If Mr President has waited and not acted he would have been accused of being Mr Go-slow or Mr Do-nothing.
It would appear that accusations of bribery in election cases are only important if they concern us or our candidates. I am sure that lawyers will argue that the NJC has no constitutional powers to recommend removal but can they also argue same for suspension as a form of disciplinary action? Can't the NJC discipline her officers?
I have heard and even read that the President actioned the suspension of Salami because of the pending presidential election petition. Well what else can one say? There appears to be no right time to do any thing inNigerianow except what Nigerians actually need.
I have come to realise that everything that is done is Nigeriahas an underlying conspiracy theory. All these are happening because Nigerians are frustrated by what they see and how they live and for how long they have waited and keep waiting to enjoy the basics they have seen and enjoyed whenever they travel out.
As Wole Soyinka said in his keynote address at the NBA conference in Port Harcourt, what Nigerians need now is good quality of life with the availability of basic amenities such as motorable roads, pipe-borne water and electricity to say the least and not forgetting security of lives.
So in as much as I disagree with the so called civil society in their protest against Justice Salami's suspension, I am inclined to believe and to remind our reform minded President that unless and until unless these basic amenities are addressed and provided as soon as possible we shall continue to have protests in the name of fighting for the people that do not mean anything. This should not distract you Mr President because you have a date with providence come 2015.