The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has called for vigilance on the part of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, to arrest the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s democracy.
He spoke in Abuja at the 2018 Law Week of the NBA, Abuja Branch, on Tuesday.
Ekweremadu recalled the sacrifices of courageous lawyers and other pro-democracy activists in enthroning the current democratic dispensation.
He said the current state of the nation’s democracy would make heroes of the struggle like Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Chief MKO Abiola, Chuma Ubani, Bamidele Aturu, and Kudirat Abiola sad in their graves.
“Our society is in despair today; democracy is receding; rule of law appears to be at the crossroads; and the killings across the land have become so massive, frequent, and mindless. Politicians that were once friends have turned our politics into a war of attrition.
“Our elections, in many instances, have been highly militarised, with some security officers accused of physically assaulting the staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Nigerians have watched on live television the raid of the hallowed chamber of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the carting away of its mace by thugs.
“As if emboldened by that, political thugs stormed the premises of the Rivers State High Court. The nation watched with great concern the heavy and prolonged gunfire by armed thugs, who, but for the resistance put up by the people of Rivers State, had virtually succeeded in preventing the court from carrying out its legitimate duties. Today, to hold a different political opinion appears tantamount to a political suicide”, he stated.
The Senator, however, said that frightening as the emerging trend appeared, he was more troubled by the loud silence of the NBA.
“The Bar has not uttered any word of condemnation of these and other clear acts of aggression against the legislature or the judiciary in recent years.
“We must bear in mind that democracy does not die in a day. Democracy dies a slow and painful death. Democracy will die if the independence of the judiciary is destroyed, the National Assembly turned to a rubber stamp, the media gagged, the Civil Society Organisations sucked-in, and the electoral umpire annexed.
“But it is not in anybody’s interest, let alone the Bar, for our democracy to fail. However, we cannot fold our hands, keep sealed lips, and expect Heavens to play our parts as lawyers. So, the Bar must rise in defense of democracy.
“There is no sitting on the fence. The poet, Dante Algheri, warns that the hottest parts of hell are reserved for those, who in the time of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. The Bar must speak up against impunity. The Bar must be heard loud and clear in condemnation of desecration and intimidation, and annexation of key institutions of democracy.
“The Bar must stand up in defence of the rule of law, separation of power, rights, liberties, and other laudable tenets without which democracy becomes an empty barrel, a civilianised dictatorship, and, above all, the Bar must continue to promote justice, equity and fairness to sustain our democracy”, Ekweremadu emphasised.