It is comical. You find, for instance, the FRSC, on bad portions of roads, where of course, the state of the road naturally snares potential offenders (because only the caught are offenders). And you ask, which is the greater offence – forgetting your licence at home (or even driving without a licence) or allowing roads to go bad? Not that I hold the FRSC responsible per se for bad roads.
The relationship most private citizens have with the state is an interesting one. We don’t swear any oaths to uphold any set of laws or fulfil a set of obligations. We say the pledge, if we’re privileged to attend school, but pfft, it’s not like we swear on or to anything. That we must abide by the state’s laws is taken for granted, whatever those laws might be. We cannot even plead ignorance, because, as we hear, ignorance is no defence, even if there have been clear acts of fostering ignorance, like deliberately ensuring that great swathes of the population are not equipped in the slightest to understand the language the laws exist in. We don’t stand one hand in the hair before any justices of the law, with the comical resplendence of their costumes, to mouth any words or sign any documents specifically binding us to a set of objectives and expectations. Ok, maybe we eventually do submit ourselves to certain physical contracts in getting a drivers’ licence, getting a bank account and other stuff like that. But wait for me.
As you may have already guessed, I am up to no good. The state reserves itself the right to punish flouters of the law. The FRSC will issue you fines for failing to fulfil certain obligations related to driving a car. The VIO fine you heavily for failing to have all manner of licences. Lagos’ LASTMA is brutally effective in meting out punishments, many time undeserved, to “erring” motorists. Only recently, outside the Etisalat service centre on Allen Avenue, unreasonable LASTMA officials ensured that a woman’s car was towed away. What was her offence? The Etisalat centre is hard up for parking space and the guards directed that she park beside the road. If there was an offender there, it was that Etisalat outlet, and not the woman. But don’t tell it to the LASTMA hounds who I hear were rendered conspicuously tame in the lead-up to the elections. Worse, folks like us who were hurrying were prevented from driving out of the centre because the hounds wouldn’t let the car move to make an exit for us.
But who punishes the state (or the government and its leaders) for being in breach of its contractual obligations? Bad roads, physically and spiritually dilapidated schools, the absence of constant electricity, sky-high inflation, governmental wastefulness all impact more negatively on the nation than one driver running a red light that switched directly from green to red (because of the failure of government!). Is there a citizen vigilante empowered to flag down leaders and demand the payment of penalties for these infractions on the public psyche, even when they arise from public oversight? You say we do via elections and I say rubbish. Voting out someone in four years is not punishment in the same way as paying a fine (with the myriad difficulties the process entails) for an infraction is. To vote someone into office is to accord him (or her) a privilege.
[Just in case we have any agenda-driven discourse analysts in the house, parenthesizing “or her” (or, “or she” below) does not represent the discursive and the attendant extra-discursive confinement of the woman into spaces of subservience, at least not here.]
The easiest way to identify anyone who has only just begun to take courses in law is their trumpeting of “he (or she) who comes to equity must come with clean hands.” Which isn’t entirely accurate because the hands don’t actually have to be clean. It just has to be demonstrated to the arbiters of the law that the hands are clean, even if they are dirty. But let’s leave hermeneutics alone. The point is this: if the state must punish citizens for infractions against social contracts, however coerced, it must also be punished in much the same manner for infractions against the social contract it swears to uphold with much fanfare. It must be held to the same standards common folk are held to. And what’s the state, you ask? Government. What’s government? The leaders of government. Don’t be so naive to think that you constitute the state. You don’t.
What I am saying is this. You should resist with all your might any attempts by any agencies of the state to exact punishments upon you for offences. The state, through its actions and inactions, has no moral, and I dare to say, legal, right to exact such punishments on you. If the state cannot be held to its obligations to the people as enshrined in constitutions and various other such documents, what right does it have to hold you to account for not living up to your obligations to it? After all, don’t we all try, to the best of our abilities, to fulfil these obligations, so help us God?
Long live anarchy!