Elder statesmen across the country have described the statement by President Muhammadu Buhari on the rule of law as treasonable.
While opening the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference in Abuja on Sunday, Buhari had said the rule of law would now be subservient to national interest and national security.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere leader, insisted that the President must withdraw the statement.
He stated this at the Second Summit of Nigerian Elders and Leaders on the State of Democracy, the Economy and National Security, held on Thursday at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja.
According to Adebanjo, the statement by Buhari was an attempt to rewrite the constitution by “word of mouth”.
His words: "It is time to tell Mr. President that the statement he made that Sunday is treasonable — for you to rewrite the constitution that the rule of law is under the state security.
“The rule of law you are talking that is subject to national security and security of the state, who decides that? It will not work.
"We are going to demand from this meeting that he should withdraw that statement. That statement is very inappropriate and also amounts to treason; to change the constitution of the whole country by word of mouth. It is not right.”
Adebanjo said that he would not be surprised if his words are summed up as hate speech under the guise that they were uttered against national security. He also stated that he was not afraid of being jailed.
Recalling that Buhari locked him up when he was 58 years old, and handed him over to Abacha, he restated his determination to continue to speak up until the President leaves power.
He said: "When the leader of the nation now tells you openly, before lawyers and judges, that he is rewriting the constitution of Nigeria; that the rule of law is subject to the security of the state and nation, the question is who decides the security of the state and nation?
“We need to remind our President that he has not staged a coup to become president. This is not 1983 when he constituted both the parliament and executive by himself and the word was the law. Even at that time, the judiciary was safe. Now he is telling us boldly and that is the danger I feel we have to consider very seriously.
"We must send serious warning from this meeting to Mr. President, that those of us who are alive when this country became independent, that the terms and conditions on which we became independent, we are very aware of them. Nobody at this stage will come and estrange us and use religion, ethnicity and nepotism to separate us.
"The man whom we are opposing, the man who we are criticising, is not taking it easy and is taking steps each day to silence the opposition. If you don't know, let us call our attention to it. If he takes Ayo Adebanjo today, Junaid you are not safe; Ango, you are not safe the moment you criticise him. Junaid, in particular, you have to be careful, because you are the one exposing his nepotism and that nepotism is against state security.”