On Wednesday June 6th 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria released a press Statement that supposedly repealed the May 29th Democracy Day celebration commemorating the second republic (a transition from military interregnum to civilian rule), the first being 1st of October 1979- replacing it with June 12th.
No doubt since the annulment of June 12 mandate of (the murdered) Chief MKO Abiola in 1993, many politicians especially those from the South Western part of Nigeria have been clamoring for this symbolic day to be recognized as the actual democracy day far above all days including October 1st Independence Day.
It was argued that June 12, 1993 was the day when Nigerians trooped in their millions to express their democratic will at the poll in what was described undisputedly as the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since the country’s independence. Though the election was annulled by the then military head of state General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
This declaration also awarded posthumously the highest honor of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993 cancelled election and his running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe who was also honored with GCON in a political maneuver most saw as a desperate “Greek Gift” to win the heart of the Yorubas in the south western region of Nigeria.
It has been publicly autopsied that from the moment Abiola won that election he was a marked man and was eventually killed, after which his wife was also murdered. In a similar pattern and trajectory, from the moment His Excellency, Olubukola Saraki won the vote as Senate President in an unprecedented twist against the run of play on June 9th 2015, he too has been a marked man, surviving many historical plots and political attacks in succession.
So which day in particular should Democracy be defended?
29th May? June 12th? October 1st Independence Day? Or June 9th when the most controversial 8th Assembly was inaugurated?
It is worthy of note that in the history of the military interregnum in Nigeria it has always been the legislative arm (Parliament) of Government that gets truncated while the Executive and Judiciary are consolidated in despotic rule. Is it then safe to assert that only the presidential position is representative of commemorating democracy symbolically?
To further exfoliate the rationale behind this twist, one can not deny the fact that the embattled administration of General Muhammadu Buhari is starved of accolades, and riddled in bungled policies that have destroyed all the gains of democracy since 1999, thus the need to find something symbolically substantial as political collateral in achievement, that borders around the sentiment of the deal breakers in the south west. Something worthy of praise that could pass as an outlier’s decision on sensitive matters of state.
The first Paragraph of the Presidential Statement reads:
— “For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th as Democracy Day. That was the date when for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government. The first time this happened was on October 21st, 1979.”
It is troubling that with the village of aides and press secretaries, the simplest of historical account in our democracy common to first graders can be bungled by the Presidency. The opening paragraph is unfortunate and fatally misleading. Nothing significant happened on the 21st of October but the 1st October 1979 when power changed hands from military to civilian rule.
— “But in the view of Nigerians, as shared by this Administration, June 12th, 1993, was far more symbolic of Democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29th or even the October 1st.”
The records reflect on the contrary that President Mohammadu Buhari has never shared his views on a June 12 on any of the speeches, be it the three (3) Independence Day speeches since assumption of office in 2015, his four (4) democracy day speeches cum his inauguration speech of 2015. So the question of motive is critical on how June 12 suddenly become symbolically significant to him months before a Critical election in 2019.
— ”June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in Millions expressed their Democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our independence. The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military government does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process.”
June 12 is pretty much symbolic in a deeper sense than the selective approach as deployed in the carefully and mischievously worded statement of desire. It was a day that commemorates a period where despotism was fought to a stand still. One that has re-emerged hideously within our pseudo democracy of now. Millions are expressing their democratic will against Police brutality and impunity today, which has proven to be a potent treat to our democracy and civilization at large but our assumed converted democrat of a President has turned deaf ears to these calls coupled with his serial disobedience of court orders on sensitive matters of State.
Our law enforcement institutions have been balkanized and bigoted/partisan police structure now attack principal officers of our National Assembly (parliament) without any consequence thus signifying that no one is safe from injustice and oppression.
Was this considered when this statement was hatched? Is the national security threat to the nation as whole part of the said democratic credentials of an administration that epitomize regime security over national security?
— “Accordingly, after due consultations, the Federal Government has decided that henceforth, June 12th will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore, Government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993, cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded posthumously a GCON.”
Many would argue that this wasn’t thought through beyond the cursory political gains and the bid to sow an apple of discord within sensible quarters but human nature is perplexed in its complexity and one often need the right tools to plumb its depth;
- “After due consultations”- in a democracy there are due process to follow on issues bordering on National Honors. It is however clear as day that the president is yet to constitute a board or committee on this since his swearing in to power in 2015? So who are the consultants deliberating on national awards outside the National Assembly?
2. In the history of the highest national awards in Nigeria (GCFR), this has always featured Presidents, Premiers Of Regions, Queen Of England, Emperors, African Presidents etc. examples of which are Akihito (Emperor of Japan), Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Muammar Gaddafi, Halle Selassie, Nelson Mandela, Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari, Queen Elizabeth II and of late Moshood Abiola.
3. The question remains what Abiola is being awarded for especially given the paradoxical expression that he was a “presumed winner in a cancelled election” Is this following a principle of natural justice? Can the victims of June 12 proceed to court and claim damages? The President’s statement to anyone with a pulse capable of independent thoughts is engagement in moral convulsion.
4. The only beneficiary in this pronouncement if passed will be Babagana Kingibe being laundered as a friend of the masses despite his absquatulation from the mandate to align with the government of the day as a Minister of Interior (under whom Chief Abiola was actually arrested) but has now been bundled with Chief MKO Abiola and the indefatigable late Chief Gani Fawehinmi as a tireless human rights advocate in a dubious attempt at Revisionism (rewriting history via systemic negative gentrification).
5. Was Chief Abiola sworn in as President, Premier, Emperor or King? Did he swear an oath? Are we laying a dangerous precedence here? Will this pass under partisan political procedural niceties at the expense of the Republic? Has anyone in our history of conferment of GCFR received this national honors posthumously?
Last Paragraph 5:
— “The Commemoration and Investiture will take place on Tuesday June 12th, 2018, a date which in future years will replace May 29th as a National Public Holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day.”
Considering the last paragraph of the President’s press statement which substantively proves that it is merely a weak supposition. He was just thinking aloud with no specificity. This is mendacious and clear gimmickry. This is a President that is yet to constitute a national honors award board in three years of this administration, yet has hurriedly consulted outside National Assembly with a set date for investiture and commemoration without parliamentary approval?
Without an iota of a doubt, this was an expression of a wish more akin to thinking out loudly.We MUST however eschew indolent pronouncements that scores a political point but has no basis at law that is actionable.
The same political hypnosis deployed by the President when the Nigeria Police was drafted under the Ministry Of Interior, without any position of law through necessary amendment of the Police Act, that gives control to the Minister to either promote, chastise, discipline, train or intervene in matters regarding policing the police itself. By law he wasn’t even a member of the Police Service Commission until after the groundswell of dissent from advocates of law and order pushing for Universal Institutional Reforms with focus on the criminal justice system in Nigeria. Today we have seen how derelict the Police have become with metastasized cancerous nodes (SARS) bourgeoning into a full fledged state backed Organized Crime Syndicate.
The same insensitivity was deployed by Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration on the pronouncement of re-naming University of Lagos(UNILAG) to Moshood Abiola University (MAULAG) which was kicked against on the premise of its contravention to set laws by the governing board.
Many would argue that the conferment Of GCFR to the late Chief MKO is deserving without considering other factors selectively kept constant. Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (2006–2007), Alfa Belgore was quoted as saying “It’s not done, this is for the living.” Posthumous National honor of this nature is only reserved for troops who paid an ultimate price in battle. People who died in a coup in cases of Military heads of state. Suffice to say it is reserved for service men/soldiers in form of medals of honor for bravery as captured in the 1964 National honors Act though silent on whether it can be awarded posthumously. Several arguments since erupted on divergent views by legal practitioners in the country.
Chief Abiola’s case is no doubt complex and controversial at the same time. Was he a President? Though he presumably won the annulled election and technically committed treason by declaring and parading himself as the President which got him arrested under the Military administration of General Sani Abacha.
Many questions were raised about the lawfulness of this declaration even if it is the right call. Would there still be a country called Nigeria were this have been a case under President Goodluck Jonathan? How far is this from validating criminality? Can Babagana Kingibe benefit from a mandate he absquatulated from? The timing also is generally perceived as ill-conceived given that the President recently praised the Abacha regime under which he served while celebrating Chief MKO now, a man who was a victim of that administration then.
But these are unpopular opinions as against the political correctness that history has been made and the wrongs are being set right with this cum the expectation of a possible trigger of the healing process of the land.
At the green chamber of the parliament (The Nigerian House Of Representatives under the Rt Honorable Speaker Yakubu Dogara, sitting on Thursday the 7th of June 2018, Hon. Wale Raji Moved the Motion on the declaration of June 12 as the National Democracy Day by President Muhammed Buhari. He expressed sadness that successive Governments since 1999 refused to acknowledge June 12 as Democracy day.
He commended President Buhari for the action and urged I.N.E.C to release the remaining results of the June 12, 1993 General Elections and publicly declare the winner. Hon. Kayode Oladele stated that June 12 1993 is a watershed in the Nigeria’s history as it was the success of cumulative efforts at trying to return the Nation to democracy. He Expressed regret that the success however was not let to see the light of day.
Hon. Chris Azubogu stated that the name of Prof. Humphrey Nwosu who chaired the Electoral Umpire at the time and against threat to his life tried to show the way the election went was conspicuously absent on the list of Honorary Award beneficiaries. He expressed the hope to see his name on the list of Honorary Award beneficiaries.
Hon. Edward Pwajok stated that the Public Holiday Acts will need to be Amended to change the date from May 29th to June 12. He stated however that Chief M.K.O Abiola cannot be declared a President of Nigeria as he was never declared by the then N.E.C, nor was he ever sworn in as President. The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara sought clarification on the Court Order restraining the then N.E.C from releasing the remainder of the election process. And also to find out if Chief M.K.O Abiola can be declared former President by Presidential Decree?
Hon. Ossai Nicholas spoke against the Motion that the Powers of the Legislature was circumvented by the Presidency. He pointed to the Exclusive Legislative List in creating Public Holidays Act, which he stated is in the purview of the National Assembly and not the Executive, the Speaker however clarified that the National Assembly had Amended the Act and given the President leave to set aside a date for celebrating Public Holiday, but a schedule in the Act makes the declaration be in contradiction to Section 2.
Hon. Ahman-Pategi Aliyu in speaking against the Motion stated that the President can only Amend the Public Holiday Act by a Bill and not by declaration. The Speaker referred the Motion to the House Committees on Justice and Rules and Business to explain to the House.
Based on the above is the action of the President in accordance to our law as enshrined in the constitution? What exactly is the essence of a Democracy Day when we have been celebrating our National independence for over 50years? Suffice to say that the issue has been subject to debates based on its complexity as the dilemma of the defence of a symbolic democracy day remains a puzzle.
Segun Awosanya is a futuristic Brand, Media, Tech, Research, Business & Strategic Consultant, who is also deeply involved in social engineering and Nation building via his numerous advocacies that has helped Nigerians find succor. He enlightens young Nigerians daily from his @segalink Twitter handle towards political awareness, socio-economic development, political participation and National integration.