By Umar Ardo, Ph.D
The desperation of President Buhari to retain power at all costs has again manifested itself in his illegal act of both changing the National Democracy Day and the investiture of National Honours of GCFR posthumously to late MKO Abiola and GCON to Amb. Babagana Kingibe. Having realized that he has lost public support across the country as a result of his dismal performance in office, and poor handling of issues affecting his Political Party, the NASS, the Judiciary and key stakeholders of the country, particularly the Senate President, the Speaker, Presidents Obasanjo and Babangida, the president ill-advisedly came up with the so-called idea of making June 12 as Nigeria’s ?? Democracy Day and giving National Honours to Abiola and Kingibe.
There’re two issues wrong with this move – i.e. legal and moral. Legally, the president has no powers to confer National Honours on anyone without the deliberation and advice of the National Council of States. The Third Schedule of the Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) at Section 6(a)iii confers on the NCS the powers to advise the president on the award of national honours. The fact is that the NCS didn’t meet to deliberate and advise on this so-called investiture.
Secondly, the National Public Holidays Act has listed 29 May as a National Holiday being the country’s Democracy Day. This means that the president can only change the Democracy Day if the Act is duly amended. And to the best of my knowledge this Act has not been amended. Therefore the president’s pronouncement is unlawful and of no moment. The only thing is that his action has but further affirmed the president as a no-respecter of due process of law and constitutionalism.
On the moral side, the president cannot honour Babagana Kingibe on the basis of June 12 because Kingibe had abandoned Chief Abiola and the June 12 mandate when he joined his kinsman, General Abacha, and took a ministerial appointment in that regime. It’s morally repugnant to now honour him for such an unsalutary act.
Besides, June 12 had never featured in Buhari’s politics. He worked with Abacha who incarcerated Abiola and denied the actualization of the mandate and he never raised the issue of June 12. In his electioneering campaigns in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, June 12 was never in Buhari’s political lexicon. For 3yrs as president he never uttered the phrase June 12. Even last week when he addressed the nation on May 29, June 12 was not mentioned. So how come all of a sudden, like a bolt out of the blue, June 12 became the new political darling of the president? There’re three answers to it that I can harzard:-
1. President Buhari has realized that he has lost the support of the Nigerian people, particularly in the Southwest, and so he was tricked into making this palliative in the vein hope of reganering support to his fledging presidency;
2. That he is now at opened war with IBB who annulled the June 12 election and OBJ who is the main beneficiary of the resolution of the June 12 imbroglio, he is made to believe that with this move he would regain his support in the Southwest at the same time rubbish the two former presidents; and
3. Unknown to him, he’s playing the political script of Babagana Kingibe and his kinsman, the COS to the president. To all intents and purposes, the two are scheming a succession move to Buhari himself where, in the event of Buhari’s leaving office, Kingibe would’ve been well positioned to succeed him as president. Clearly, in the Northeast, no politician has Kingibe’s profile. He was a Permanent Secretary, Ambassador, National Chairman of the SDP, Abiola’s Running mate, Minister of Internal and External Affairs and Secretary to the Federal Government. Already, through their scheming, Kingibe has taken over the DNI, SSS and the villa. All they need is to resuscitate the spirit of June 12 to which Kingibe would be the major beneficiary. With the GCON conferred on him, the benefits have started dropping. This is a highly sophisticated political scheming that President Buhari wouldn’t perceive.
Nevertheless, the president is so engrossed with the trapping of power and its retention that he could fall for anything. And how big has he fallen! What a great pity for Nigeria ??!! What a great pity!!!
Dr. Ardo Umar is of the University of Maiduguri.