Immediately after the speech, all hell broke loose. Lawyers all over Nigeria cried foul. Where, they asked one and all, did Mr. President get this settled “matter of judicial recognition” from? Even the president’s host, the Nigerian Bar Association, quickly put out a statement saying emphatically that the President’s statement went over the bar.It said: “The NBA completely rejects the presidential statement subordinating the Rule of Law to National Security. The NBA restates that the Rule of Law is central to a democracy and any National Security concerns by the government must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the Rule of Law. As a corollary, (the NBA) frowns at the present growing trend whereby government decides on which court orders to obey. The court has exclusive duty under a democratic dispensation to interpret the Constitution and other laws, and government and the citizenry must comply with court orders at all times until set aside”.No one, not even Mr. President, should be surprised at this reaction. Surely the President must have known that Nigerian lawyers would not take kindly to being lectured about the law by a president with a military, as opposed to a legal, pedigree. Military generals can also be expected to be offended if they were to be lectured on the art of war by a lawyer. Which raises the question of why President Buhari decided to stir up this hornet’s nest?
In every situation, the national interest is not defined by the government; it is defined by the courts. Otherwise, the national interest would easily become the government’s interest. But the government interest cannot be the national interest, otherwise all opposition to the government would be deemed contrary to the national interest.