Mallam Nasir El Rufai on Monday complied with the warrant obtained by the SSS. Accompanied by his lawyer and some political associates, he arrived at the SSS HQ at about 8.57am. He left the SSS premises at 12.35am today.The principle at stake for him when he received the “invitation” last week was whether the SSS can compel a citizen to honour it without a valid warrant. As El Rufai said on Sunday night:
“All they needed to compel my attendance wasa warrant, not guns and invasions.
At issue has always been whethertheSSS has the power under its enabling law to compel any citizen to honour its ‘invitation’ without showing probable cause to a Judge and obtaining a warrant. Another issue is whether the constitutional right to free speech can be threatened or abridged without any basis in law. Can an organisation pursue a citizen because he sued them tochallenge an abridgement of his constitutional rights?
Under what authority can the SSS attempt entry into a citizen’s private property or threaten one’s liberty? These people are exercising coercive powers that they do not have, in violation of the constitution and our laws.
These are some of the issues; it isnot about ElRufai. It isaself-evident and historical fact that in 1964, 1983, 1993 and 2011, lives were lost and property destroyedinspontaneous responsesto rigged elections.Should we not all be anxious to ensure that this never happens again? Should free and fair elections not be the goal of all actors in the political process? Or is it because thecurrent government isbent on rigging the elections andistherefore determined tointimidateus into silence and acceptance of their plans?“
The positive linkage between credible elections and stable democracy is as clear as the tragic connection between rigged elections and violence. El Rufai would keep alerting and encouraging those responsible for delivering credible elections to do so, to ensure that election results reflect actual voter preferences and that the governments that emerge from them are invested with the legitimacy that enables them to govern well, in peace and for the whole country.
El Rufai has eloquently made the point that the SSS cannot continue to conflate invitations and arrests. Invitations may be declined, but arrests must follow due process; otherwise our country will be no different from a police state. That may be the desire of some forces apparently bent on twisting the institutions that ought to uphold and support freedom for their fascist fantasies. But that is not acceptable to the majority of Nigerians who cherish the hard-earned democracy they achieved even when many of today’s power mongers were cosseting and enabling tyranny.
Freedom of speech is guaranteed by our constitution as a universal right. It cannot be abridged or distorted into a privilege reserved for the sole enjoyment of those certified by or in the service of the rulers of the day.
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