If the law is an ass, then it must be the most powerful beast in the animal kingdom. The law rules us. We live and act by what the law says. The law regulates our social and business relationships; it prescribes the nature of our government and the processes the people must go through to elect their representatives in the executive and legislative branches of government to institute governments of their choice.
Laws are social contracts written by the people’s representatives in a democracy. In effect, the people write the laws that guide their common relationship and determine how far each man can swing his arm without injuring another’s nose. If you ball your fist and break your neighbour’s nose, the law will do more than frown at your action. It says, thou shalt do no violence to thy neighbour.
This beast of burden actually cages us. We are happy to live within that cage because but for that cage, civilisation would be impossible. Imagine the strong pulverising the weak; imagine the rich crushing the poor; imagine a world without laws. It would be worse than mere “anarchy loosed on the world.” Law is the most powerful instrument in checking the animalistic instincts in all societies, primitive or advanced. A nation is judged by what it does with or how treats its laws. All our presidents and state governors make a show of their sworn commitment to the observance of the rule of law but words and actions run along parallel lines.
All governments are instituted as government of laws, not of men; that men take over government and relegate the law is one of the critical challenges of modern democracy. Democracy rings hallow when the rule of law is observed in the breach and government of laws is turned on its head as government of men serving the rich and the powerful.
If the rich and the powerful have their way, we will have two sets of laws in every country: one law for the weak and the poor and the other is no law for the rich and the powerful. Unfortunately for them, the law insists that rich or poor; strong or weak, we are all equal before it. There must be one law for everyone; and everyone is required to live by and relate with his fellow men and women on the basis of its prescriptions.
Stability in a society is threatened when men and women ignore the laws and decide to act and put their own selfish interests above those of the society. The good news is that the law always fights back to claim its lost grounds. I invite you to come with me to God’s own country to witness the immense powers of the law and the rule of law in action. A former president, Donald Trump, with 18 men and women who ran what the Georgian district attorney, Fani Hill, described as a criminal enterprise in attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Trump’s favour are required to tell the law why did what they allegedly did and why.
Trump and the members of his criminal enterprise are fighting the fight of their lives with the law to save themselves from what all American men and women dread: the orange jump suit. Trump has so far notched four indictments against himself. Each of them could put the padlock on his personal freedom. The law, this beast of burden, never forgets to exact revenge from those who crossed its path or tried to step on its neck. It moves slowly but it moves to save nations, peoples, and civilisations. But for the law, men would be gods worshipped by God.
It is unprecedented for a former president to find himself reduced to a common criminal. But the law never tires of trumpeting the assurance that it is no respecter of persons. Everything about Trump in American politics is unprecedented. It was unprecedented for the least prepared man for leadership of his country and the free world to be awarded the trophy the electoral college; it was unprecedented for a man with a personal criminal baggage to have been allowed to sit in the Oval Office for four years during which he held his country in thrall to his bare-faced lies – and this in God’s own country which should biblically abhor lies.
But above all, it was a shock to the rest of the world that verily believed that the United States is too big, too committed to the law and the rule of law and too stable and therefore absent of third world characters who are willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of their narrow personal interests for power. Thanks to Trump, we now know that no nation is safe from ambitious men who do not feel bound by the traditions of common decency without which a society is a jungle. But for the law….
Trump’s travails should be more than a laughing matter to the third world. We see here the law and the rule of law in action. If Trump were a third world president, none of these would have happened to him. He would have changed his defeat to victory. He would be the law, and no one could question whatever he chose to do with the laws of the land. But not in America. The Americans need no to tell them that holding their public officers accountable for their legal transgressions makes for a better country and the protection of individual and collective rights to ensure that “the government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the face of the earth.” Where the law and the rule of law matter, poor criminals must wear the handcuffs and high-profile criminals must be laid up by the heels.
Third world leaders are obviously watching what is happening to Trump. I am sure they have problems appreciating why the former president is not above being held accountable for his alleged crimes against the constitution and his country. How can a president allow himself to be so badly treated? None of them believes this is about how not to use power. Let us not be naïve enough to expect third world leaders to feel bound by the current American example in public accountability.
Our own constitution imposes on the news media the responsibility of holding governments accountable to the people for what they do, what they fail to do and why. It points our country in the right direction, but it was merely the expression of a pious hope by those who drafted the constitution that accountability should be integral to good governance. The bad news is that they imposed the responsibility on an institution without the capacity to discharge the duty. It is the country, not the media, that can make accountability a cardinal principle of our governance and ask the media to watch out for transgressions punishable by extant laws. With our public officers with the baggage of theft of our common wealth in permanent transition from one public office to another, accountability makes for intellectual discussion, nothing more.