Gandollar strife: Buhari, politics and rule of law, by Mustapha Kangiwa

In the broadest terms, as according to Michel Rosenfeld (1994), the rule of law requires that the state only subject the citizenry to publicly promulgated laws, that the state’s legislative function be separate from the adjudicative function, and that no one within the polity be above the law. The three essential features of constitutional democracy are limiting the powers of government, adherence to the rule of law, and protection of fundamental rights. 

Thus without the rule of law, contemporary constitutional democracy would be impossible.

Nevertheless, there are so many controversies around the interplay between law and politics, but there is a consensus between the state theorists that law was the creation of politics. This implies that no matter how powerful and independent law seems to be, it will always be influenced by politics. And more often than not, politicians manipulate their ways against the law even when it appears to us they are protecting the law. Contextually, the Gandollar strife may give us another clue on how politics manipulate the law.

Since when the video goes viral in which the incumbent governor of Kano state was shown allegedly pocketing dollars as kickbacks from contractors, many questions were raised on what will be the reaction of the ruling party (APC). To many of us the allegation is too salient for the party to ignore and politically risky to manipulate.

Other questions were also raised on the sincerity of the federal government’s anti-corruption campaign as well as the contentious integrity of the party’s leadership headed by the incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari.

The APC’s apologist and the PMB’s defenders were in rush to remind us about the rule of law and the nature of our federal system but forgot to tell us about the political and moral implication of the PMB’s stand. Their argument was premised on the legal jurisdiction of Mr. President and the immunity admittedly granted to the incumbent governor by our constitution. They rightly argued that, Kano state Assembly is the only body with constitutional responsibility to take action on the alleged gross misconduct committed by the governor. But our inquisitiveness and curiosity will suggest the need of a more critical scrutiny of the whole scenario.

Although the President lack the legal jurisdiction to interfere with the process but what is also obvious is his political power and charismatic influence to deal with the situation. Thus the president has a moral burden to ensure justice done and safeguard the integrity of his government. Where is the public interest theory proposed by the president in defense of his government’s failure to obey the court order and release Sambo Dasuki and El-zakzaky? That theory I believe, is more appropriately applicable in Gandollar strife since the political machineries can be used covertly without the risk of being disorderly. With all the political powers and his party’s manipulative tools at his disposal, the president need to only give a simple verbal instruction and get things done in a desired way.

At the initial stage when the Kano Assembly set up a committee to investigate the allegation people were skeptical about the sincerity and the political-will of the house to ensure justice done. Subsequently things start to look differently perhaps as a result of some political intrigues within the party ranks in the state. 

More crucially is the recent court order to stop the house from performing their constitutional responsibility to investigate the alleged misconduct against the governor. Albeit their decision to continue with the process in disregard to the court order, the interplay between the law and politics at this juncture may compound the problem and create complexities that will at one point useless the whole process.

Nevertheless, the court can stop the investigation, the house may eventually willingly or unwillingly comply, and the incumbent governor may at worst get away with it but the court of public opinion might have made a judgment. Guilty or not guilty the Gandollar battlewagon is potentially a crushed one, but whether it will be crushed with the APC or not remains the discretion as well the prerogative of Mr President.

The Gandollar strife has been catastrophic for ruling party (APC)- and if there is anything that will strengthen the opposition it will be an attempt silence it all up. The rule of law theory doesn’t sound convincing to the public. APC and the President need to be rational not legal because the public are not necessarily interested about the law but rather the natural justice.