Our national legislators have lately been sending mixed signals as to the level of their seriousness and depth of appreciation of the socio- political challenges of Nigeria.
Last year, on the release of a special vote for both the senators and members of the House of Representatives to go home and consult with their constituents, many of them actually visited their constituencies. They said they were requested to sound out those who elected them on sections that needed to be amended in the 1999 constitution, an exercise which the National Assembly members think they can successfully accomplish.
One of the highly contentious issues that were discussed across the country was whether the immunity clause that shields the president and Governors from criminal charges while they are in office ought to be removed or retained. The House of Representatives reported that Nigerians they met at their town hall discussions wanted the immunity protection removed. They advanced no cogent reason for agreeing that it should be removed. One would have liked to hear brilliant declamations from the law makers on the pros and cons of the issue at state. But there was none.
Nobody has bothered to ask why the immunity clause found its way into the constitution in the first place. Mind you, the 1999 constitution is a carry over of the 1979 opus that was put together as a draft by Nigeria’s “50 wise men”, even though one man pulled out, our great sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, for personal reasons. If we have not been told why the immunity is there, why should we then worry over its retention or otherwise? Is there any Nigerian that had been denied of his right to fight a perceived injury brought about by any of the officials enjoying immunity? Only recently so much noise was made over “Freedom of Information FOI “ Bill that one would expect our civil rights activists and some crusading media houses to have by now been relishing in hitherto unavailable information on government policies and actions since the Bill became law. No one hears of freedom of information bill any more.
The new fad now is the immunity for only four categories of Nigerians, the president, the vice president the state Governors and the Deputy Governors. The constitution protects them form criminal litigations while in office.
Our country men still have a very thin skin for real democracy. See what is happening in political parties and how often party members take their leaders to court for very flimsy reasons.
With the removal of immunity, state Governors or even the president would be sleeping in the courts as they are summoned or arrested for one phoney, charge or the other.
There is no lack of fellow compatriots who would collect bribe and swear to being present when a Governor committed a heinous offence that merits instant prosecution. State Governors would be unnecessarily harassed, hassled and so distracted that they would have little peace and time to govern.
Anybody who thinks frivolous issues would not be brought up to trouble the governors or the president is not living with us in the country.
Unless mischief is intended, immunity for the President and Governors should stay.