Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said legal and electoral processes must enhance democracy.
He said this at the 53rd conference of the National Association of Law Teachers held at Bayero University, Kano, on Tuesday.
He said the theme of the conference, “Law, Democracy and the Electoral Process”, is appropriate, especially ahead of the forthcoming elections.
“Let me begin by thanking the Executive of our Association for the kind invitation to join you at this 53rd law teachers conference. A Law Teachers’ Conference is always a homecoming for me. I started teaching at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos in November 1981, and for many years attending the Law Teachers’ Conference was always special.”
“First, because it was the only Conference our university agreed to pay for us to attend, and that was a big deal since my salary was N620 a month. So, I am pleased to be here.
“I am not here alone; I have here with me two law lecturers who now work with me: Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business who used to teach Law of Contract, Commercial Law and International Economic Law at the University of Lagos and Dr. Balkisu Saidu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legal, Research & Compliance Matters, who was Associate Professor of Law at Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto where she taught Jurisprudence, Nigerian Legal System and Islamic Family Law. Though not here with me today, my Chief of Staff, who is the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Rahman Ade Ipaye, is also a former law teacher.
“Your Excellencies, friends and colleagues, the place of the Law Teachers’ Conference is crucial, let me paraphrase parts of my comments at the 50th Anniversary Law Teachers’ Conference in 2018 : “because we, law teachers are the purveyors, custodians and creators of the underlying concepts and foundational premises of legal thought, and the thinkers for our system of law and justice and the profession, our conference has always been our forum for the free and yet deep interrogation of the fundamental ideas and principles that hold society together, the trajectory of the rule of law, law and order, democratic practice, and their current interpretations and efficacy. So, our conference is a time to step back and reflect, in order to come back to the problems with boldness and innovation.
” As you would have noticed, democracy has come under attack in our subregion and on our continent in recent times.
“Since 2017, there have been 12 military coups in Africa and half of them have occurred since 2020. Last month, the democratically elected government of Burkina Faso was overthrown, earlier Mali and Guinea, while only last week, there was an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau, that was thankfully repelled.
“The recent spate of extra-constitutional disruptions of democratic governance in our region lends an added poignancy and urgency to our reflection on law, democracy and the electoral process. It is now 22 years since we put away the yoke of dictatorship and took up the reins of democracy. A generation of Nigerians have come of age that have known only civil rule and assume as of right, the power to choose their leaders. This is also the longest stretch of democratic governance in our history.
“We have witnessed a series of peaceful transitions of power. This is a huge credit to the democratic sensibilities of our people. Along the way, we are learning valuable lessons that can only make us better practitioners of liberty. We may be in the 22nd unbroken year as a democracy but in the grand scheme of things, our country is still a young democracy. Many of our institutions are still in their infancy and we must carefully guide them into maturity. We recognize that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
“As one of the oldest democracies in a region that has long been plagued by autocratic and extraconstitutional regimes, democracy itself has now become part of our national exceptionalism. Our gallant armed forces are totally subordinated to civilian command authority and are fully committed to defending our constitutional order against internal and external threats. We have a relatively strong civil society that continues to push for greater accountability and the deepening of democratic practices.
“In keeping with our foreign policy tradition, ours has been a clear and strident voice for the promotion of democracy on the continent and have been resolute in condemning extraconstitutional seizures of power.”