Digital Rights And Freedom Bill 2018: Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative Dragged President Buhari To Court

The Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative – a network of digital rights lawyers in Nigeria has filed an action at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja against the President for his refusal to either assent or withhold his assent on the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill which was transmitted to him by the National Assembly since 4th day of February 2019.

In Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/277/2019 filed on behalf of the group by their lawyers, the Plaintiffs prayed for:

1. A DECLARATION that, by virtue of section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Defendant lacks power to remain silent and/or inactive on the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill 2018 after 30 days of its transmission to the Defendant by the National Assembly.

2. A DECLARATION that, by the Defendant’s silence and/or inactivity on the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill 2018 after 30 days of its transmission to it by the National Assembly constitutes a violation of section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

3. A DECLARATION that, by the Defendant’s silence and/or inactivity on the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill 2018 after 30 days of its transmission to it by the National Assembly, the bill is deemed to have been assented to and thus become an Act of the National Assembly.

4. A PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Defendant from withholding its assent to the Digital Rights and Freedoms Bill same having been deemed assented to by the Defendant.

5. Other Consequential order(s) as this honourable court may deem fit to grant in the circumstance.

As at the time of this report, the matter has not been assigned.

 

By Jimanze Ego-Alowes

One is at a loss whether to blame the TV stations, their show hosts, or just the interloper professionals, especially the lawyers. Every now and again, one runs into a Nigerian TV show hosting a professional outside his or her area of competence. And that professional in grievous error is promoted as an expert in the said area.

For example, it was a worldwide scandal watching a Nigerian TV show with a professor of French language acting out as an elections expert analyst, just the other week. The matter, however, is that it is often lawyers who muscle in as universal experts for nearly all things. I have seen lawyers in all sorts of national TV shows, or is it dramas, purveying commonplace knowledge over matters that call for expert attention.

Of course, these professionals, and let’s for ease of reference characterise them as lawyers, get it all mixed up. And they mix it up in their wrong register, tiny frames of references, naïve analytic blunders and shallow, certainly non-expert grasp of subject matter. In other words, a show which should have left watchers more enlightened, seduces them with greater ignorance, even if of the popular kind.

For the unfortunate watcher, the pseudo-expertise of these lawyers in non-lawyerly matters is charmingly delivered with near magisterial certainty. Perhaps, it all comes with the job of being a lawyer. Somehow, they seem to confuse oratory, motivational speechifying, etc, as insights. But it gets worse when the lawyers, unguarded in enthusiasms, cross their jurisdictions. They begin to waddle into policy and politics, not as citizens, which is cool, but as experts, which is rigged. And from there, things begin to get disastrously wrong for humanity.

Let us give one illustration. On Monday, 04-03-2019, there was a TV appearance by a lawyer. He is pretty popular, SAN and human rights activist, etc. Apparently, he has a son who it appears is a lawyer and a musician, etc.

Asked whether President Buhari should run an all-inclusive government in his second coming, the lawyer veered off into irrelevances of inclusiveness being expressed in gender, youth/age, poor/rich, etc, terms.

On the face of things he is a concerned professional, bleeding his heart out for the specially excluded. But on closer examination, he is either ignorant of the matters as they are or he is befuddling the arguments for his clients’ purposes. However, we have watched the same lawyer repeat such canards in several other outings. So, apparently, he means it that there should be a gender, youth, age, poor, rich, etc, balance. On the face of it, he is got the bull’s eye on this. But has he? No, he hasn’t. He is only trading on his gifts for klieglight presentations, to wrack sense in a matter that requires expertise.

The details are largely as follows: The issue of political or sociological balances in a given polity is not a Nigerian-specific wahala. It is as ancient as Plato. How the hell does one include all parties to the game, or exclude some? How do you cut and share the fallen quarry?

For purposes of governance and public policies, the following are in issue.

1. There will always be a paucity of resources or game, as against the citizen numbers wanting to share in them. In fact, that is why politics was invented. Politics, besides whatever else it is, is the rite of compositing different population bulges, however defined.

2. There will always be a crisis of how to desegregate the composites that make up society. The example is: should it be by height, colour, tribes, regions, gender?

3. However, the problem is that no “de-segregational” module is without incapacities, is perfect.

4. The fact of 3 leads us to a problem. Which of the “segregational” modules is the most representative, most inclusive, and the least skewed, if one were to delineate society? In other words, that is a problem of sets.

5. Thus the question arises: which set is the universal Nigerian set? And the answer is the set of all Nigerians. But, alas, that is not useful in sharing out things in bulges. The next question follows. Which other set is the next nearest universal Nigerian, the least skewed set or category? Is it gender, height, colour, zone, wealth, etc?

6. The fact of it as is is that the zone or the state is the next nearest universal [Nigerian] political category or set. In other words, every Nigerian region or state as a category contains the other subsets and contains the least skew. So, in Southeastern Nigeria, as in North-Central Nigeria, in Lagos as in Kano, you have a bundle of similar ratios or the least skewed ratios to work with. In the politics of allocation of offices etc, finding the least skew and the most universal order or sets is the Holy Grail. It is not in including every imaginable set. If you tried to delineate every imaginable set and balance each in, that would make the state completely ungoverned and ungovernable.

7. So, it is apparent that the state or geopolitical zone, as a set or category, is the nearest to being a universal descriptive political [Nigerian] set outside Nigeria itself. That is the set you must work with.

8. Now, politics is the act of the possible, of sharing what cannot be shared mathematically. The way out is thus to categorise Nigeria/nations first along the most inclusive sets or least skewed categories. And these are the states or zones. We may all recall that residency and political rights etc., were created to adjust for the restrictiveness of origin and aboriginality. That is to say, the zones/states are further engineered to be the more universal and less skewed. It is important we state that no other sets or categories are amenable to this political engineering. For instance, the gender set is rigid and fixed, largely non-fungible.

9. So, the questions of inclusiveness for the poor, for gender, etc., categories, are non-issues. They may become issues only when and after the most next universal category, the zones, are in balance.

10. In other words, it is greater justice to have inclusiveness of zones – since these are also representative of other subsets, than to have inclusiveness of gender. To illustrate, if the law requires a Buhari to have a 50-50 gender balance, they can all come from the North etc. in all righteousness and justice. This is greater injustice than having a 50-50 regional balance without gender sensitivity. Why? Gender or any other subset balances are by logic incapable of being inclusive of other balances, being narrower categories. But regional categories are the broadest, non-universal categories and, therefore, include other or the most subset categories. Point of interest: the gender set of all Nigerians is different from the gender set of all Nigerians from all the zones. They may overlap but are not one set, if you get the drift.

11. And, by the way, since the lawyer is in for balances, why not ask for the correction of a certain imbalance in the professions of politics and prostitution. First, in Nigeria, lawyers supply the most politicians in contrast to other professions. And women the most prostitutes. The following states, and possibly more, are governed by lawyers: 1. Bauchi 2. Ondo 3. Plateau 4. Rivers 5. Sokoto. That is a whopping 13% plus of lawyerly dominance over politics. No other professions possesses this “lien” or cornering of the political market. The next challenger, finance, I am told, weights at about 0.05%.

12. It is also important to state that, politically, there is nothing sacrosanct in categories or sets, except as to skew and inclusiveness. That is, the set of women in politics is not more important than the set of lawyers or prostitutes in politics.

13. In summary, the whole point of this essay is to warn Nigerians that oratory and TV appearances are not evidence of expertise. Or in fact of anything, save entertainment.

14. Additionally, these oratorical and “commonsense” appearances are abuses and degradations of public commons. A public TV, by logic of modernity, becomes the agora, even if of the electronic kind. And as commons, they are, therefore, the most priceless of economic goods. Commons are so rare and precious, we all have to own it collectively. Thus it will only serve us best if they are allocated to experts or best-user hands as per issue. But to inflict a commonsensical opinionator on our universal time, on public commons, is the equivalent of NAFDAC approving toxic goods to be sold in Otu Onitsha.

15. Many may tag this as splitting hair. Good luck to such. Our point is that, if professionals restrain themselves to their areas of expertise, if any, they would have served themselves and the public a huge economic good. Every economy grows on the quality of ideas in its agora. So, by polluting that quality of the agora, the lawyers are degrading our economy and lowering our GDP, even if earning fatter briefs for themselves.

16. Finally, current research has cast a pall on gender seduction. The works of Professor Jordan Peterson, etc., have helped see through the lies of “genderism.” So, this gender hawking is a false or forged banner. It is now tattered. That is to say, the lawyers and other professionals who are still stuck to it are like truant youths who manufacture comments before bothering to read the minutes of the last meeting.

To end, let us all recall this: The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

 

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