John Ameh, Olalekan Adetayo, Leke Baiyewu, Olaleye Aluko and Jesusegun Alagbe
The Senate has hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, and his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe.
While backing the declaration of June 12 as the new Democracy Day, the Senate resolved that the Independent National Electoral Commission (then the National Electoral Commission) should declare the results of the 1993 election.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly also resolved that Buhari should take a step further by declaring June 12 a national holiday.
In addition, the lawmakers resolved that Buhari should declare Abiola and Kingibe as ex-president and former vice-president and should approve the entitlements due them as former president and vice-president, respectively.
The Senate further resolved that May 29 should remain the date for the inauguration of elected public officials to prevent tenure elongation.
These were the prayers unanimously granted by the lawmakers following the adoption of a point of order raised by Senator Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun-Central) at the plenary on Thursday for the Senate to affirm the declarations made by Buhari.
Buhari had on Wednesday directed that the nation’s Democracy Day would henceforth hold on June 12 of every year as against the current arrangement where the ceremony holds on May 29.
The President also resolved to honour Abiola with the highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic.
Apart from Abiola, Buhari said he would also honour Kingibe and the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, with the second highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Niger, while their investiture would take place on June 12.
Raising the point of order, Tejuoso noted, “President MKO is my constituent and my constituency has given birth to at least three heads of state in the country – from President MKO Abiola to Chief Ernest Shonekan to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; it is the presidential constituency of Nigeria.”
He said, “I want to refer this Senate to an occurrence in Kenya about three weeks ago when they had a national day of prayer and fasting, and the president of that country in his wisdom and spirit of sportsmanship invited the opposition leader in a reconciliatory move to restore peace into the politics of Kenya.
“I believe that is a wind of reconciliation in Africa, which started in Kenya and blew into Nigeria yesterday (Wednesday). By President Muhammadu Buhari now declaring June 12 as Democracy Day instead of May 29 which is a child of June 12, I believe Mr. President needs further encouragement to continue this reconciliation that he has started.
“There are so many reconciliations that we need in Nigeria. We even need reconciliation between the executive and the legislature. We need to encourage Mr. President. What he has started took us 25 years to achieve. I believe that this Senate should acknowledge this major feat achieved by Mr. President and to ensure that the peace that we all need in Nigeria pre-2019 election will begin to develop from now.”
Honour long overdue, says Saraki
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, particularly stated that recognition of Abiola was long overdue.
He said, “I think we all agree as a country that the recognition has been long overdue for the contributions of Chief MKO Abiola and the events of the June 12 election. He has done that and we commend that act of recognition that is long overdue. As you (Tejuoso) rightly said, we hope that it will go a long way in the reconciliation and further unity of the country.”
The Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti-South), however, raised another point of order to open the matter to a debate by the lawmakers, a prayer that was unanimously granted.
Olujimi said, “For once, I want to thank the President. I want to say that he has done well especially for those of us from the South-West. This is one time that a president has given a thought to what Chief MKO Abiola and his family went through in fighting for this democracy that we today enjoy.
“However, going forward, there are issues to be addressed so that we can feel confident and comfortable that this is not a Greek gift. One of them is that the result of that election was never announced. This is the time for the result to be properly announced by INEC, because government is a continuum, and declare President MKO Abiola as a president. If and when that is done, then there has to be reparation of all his entitlements. He has a surviving family. Everything that he is entitled to must be put together and given to his family.”
Olujimi added that the same recognition and benefits should be extended to Kingibe.
“Because he is still alive, he must be recognised as vice-president of Nigeria formally and everything must be brought to the legislature so that we can right all the wrongs,” she stated.
The lawmaker stressed, “Since we are changing from May 29 to June 12, June 12 must be declared a public holiday for the whole of Nigeria to start celebrating it as Democracy Day.”
The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said Buhari had shown “what is true democracy.”
“There is not history that could link May 29 to the actual democratic evolution of Nigeria that is greater than June 12,” he stated.
It’s good day for democracy-Ekweremadu
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, described it as “a good day for Nigeria.”
While he lauded Buhari for the move, he said “finally we are beginning to address injustices in this country.”
“Let me also say that I support the proposal that the result of that election needs to be declared because it is the main perception that they (Abiola and Kingibe) won the election. INEC has to announce the result for us to know the figures and let it be on record that Abiola was president and that Kingibe was vice-president. It is good for us to have that record,” Ekweremadu added.
The Deputy Senate President, however, stated that there were two legal issues, one bordering on the provisions of Section 135(2b) on the tenure of the president. He said there might be a legal logjam on when Buhari’s tenure ends, either on May 29 or June 12, 2019. He however noted that June 12 would be “legally impossible.”
Also, Senator Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo-Central), said, “My angle to this is the honour that was also bestowed on the late Gani Fawehinmi who was from my state and also my constituent. Everybody knows how greatly this man fought for democracy in this country, and Mr. President recognised him along with the winner of that election and his rights. This made most of us who come from Ondo State very happy.”
In his submission, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said while he backed the calls by Olujimi and Ekweremadu, it would also be necessary for the executive to quickly bring an amendment to the National Honours Act, which states that there cannot be posthumous award, to the National Assembly.
“Now that they have jumped the gun to do posthumous award, it would be necessary for us to quickly amend that Act,” Abaribe stated.
Session turns rowdy as Abaribe call for Democracy Destruction Day
He however made a proposal that almost made the session rowdy.
Abaribe said, “Finally, I want to also propose another day, since we are now moving in the right direction, saying that democracy is needed. I want to propose that we also designate 31st of December as Democracy Destruction Day because that was the day that this same president did a coup that removed…”
Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano-North), however, raised a point of order to say that Abaribe had deviated from the subject matter, which Saraki upheld.
Buhari is right but action illegal – Melaye
But Senator Dino Melaye, however, stated that the process with which Abiola was honoured was flawed even though Buhari’s intention was laudable. According to him, the law demands that such award must be conferred on the recipient “in person.”
Citing Chapter 43(2) of the National Honours Act, he said, “I am a democrat. I believe very sincerely that Chief MKO Abiola deserves even more than the President has pronounced because he was a true patriot, philanthropist and should be so decorated. But, we are governed in the country by the constitution and extant laws. No matter how beautiful a situation is, the law of the land remains the law of the land.
“We should not be emotional about this. The law remains the law. They said ‘in person.’ For us to do what we are supposed to do, we would have to amend the provisions of this Act because anything we need to do, we have to do it in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
Saraki, put the prayers, which were made by Ekweremadu, Olujimi and Tejuoso, to voice vote and they were unanimously granted by the lawmakers.
Saraki urged the lawmakers to focus more on the intention of the honours than the flaws.
“I think we need to be guided on this discussion. I think the main point was to recognise the fact that Chief MKO Abiola, his contributions, what he went through, his tribulations, for many years, it (the honour) was long overdue. The good intention is what we should recognise. There might be imperfections in how it was implemented but let us today take the good intention,” he said.
Drama greets Buhari’s action in House of Reps
But contrary to what happened in the Senate, disagreement among lawmakers in the House of Representatives, forced the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to step down a motion seeking to commend the President for declaring June 12 as the new Democracy Day in Nigeria.
This happened after Dogara (APC, Bauchi State), struggled for nearly 20 minutes to contain a rowdy session from deteriorating into brawl among the lawmakers.
The disagreement ranged from the conflict in the President’s declaration and the Public Holidays Act, to calls by some lawmakers that Buhari should ask INEC to release the full results of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Some members of the House also demanded that INEC should declare the acclaimed winner of the election, the later Chief MKO Abiola, as “President-elect.”
Dogara came under pressure to suspend the debate and step down the motion so that all the differences could be reconciled.
The House referred the matter to the Committees of Justice and Rules/Business to look into it and report back within a reasonable time.
The Speaker stated, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is the beauty of democracy, which allows everyone to air their views.
“We must not be seen to be taking decisions that will be called to question later. The Public Holidays Act, in the 5th Schedule, lists May 29th as Democracy Day.
“We have to look at this vis-a-vis Section II of the Presidential Proclamation to be properly guided in passing a resolution on this matter.”
With the ruling, the debate was called off abruptly in a bid to restore order to the House proceedings.
Release June 12 election result, declare MKO president – Lagos Rep
Proceedings initially started smoothly when a member from Epe Federal Constituency in Lagos State, Mr. Wale Raji (APC), moved a motion urging the House to commend Buhari for declaring June 12 as the new Democracy Day.
Raji said of all the successive governments since 1999, it was only Buhari’s that acceded to Nigerians’ request to recognise June 12 and honour Abiola for his sacrifices.
“June 12 was adjudged generally to be the freest and fairest election held in Nigeria. However, it was annulled by the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. On June 6, 2018, Buhari finally answered the call of Nigerians. Let us commend him,” he added.
However, his last prayer asking INEC to release the results of the poll and declare Abiola as a President-elect, generated controversy.
No, it’s impracticable – Ado-Doguwa
For instance, the Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (APC, Kano State), said that much as it was commendable to recognise Abiola, declaring him President-elect was taking it too far.
He added, “I actually named my first daughter Kudirat in recognition of the struggles to recognise June 12. However, to say that we should declare the results at this point in our political history is impracticable.
“Going that way will not help this country and we should not discuss it on the floor of the National Assembly. I agree that we should honour Abiola. That is okay and it should end there.”
A member from Plateau State, Mr. Edward Pwajok (APC), SAN, drew the attention of the House to the Public Holidays Act, advising that it must be amended immediately to correct the conflict with May 29th, recognised by the law as the official Democracy Day.
Prof. Nwosu deserves honour too –Anambra Rep
Two other members, Mr. Chris Azubuogu (PDP, Anambra State) and Mr. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu State), observed that the President should have also honoured Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, who conducted the election.
“I am surprised that the man, who conducted the election and dared to announce the results in the face of grave danger to his life, has not been honoured. Let Prof. Nwosu be honoured as well,” Azubuogu told the House.
Kwara Rep, Pategi, faults Buhari
Another member from Kwara State (APC), Ahman Pategi, questioned why Buhari would ignore an existing law to make a declaration without first seeking to amend the Act.
“Buhari can’t amend the Public Holidays Act by a proclamation. The Act, in the 5th Schedule, provides that May 29th is Democracy Day in Nigeria. The President must bring a bill to amend the Act,” he said.
It smacks of desperation – PDP Reps
As he spoke, Pategi got support from Mr. Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta State), who said Buhari’s action was political and smacked of “desperation.”
He noted, “Only on May 29th, we celebrated Democracy Day. Why are we in a hurry to mark June 12 as another democracy day? This administration is desperate and it shows in all of its actions.”
At this point, the rowdiness started as members moved from seat to seat, disagreeing with one another.
A group led by an APC member from Oyo State, Mr. Sunday Adepoju, broke into a song, “MKO Abiola!’’, “MKO Abiola!”, “MKO Abiola!”
Dogara moved in to halt the debate by referring the motion to the two committees to review it and guide the House.
The matter was later suspended, awaiting the committees’ report.
Buhari directs AGF to gazette order on Abiola, others
But as this was going on in the National assembly, President Buhari on Thursday directed the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to immediately gazette his order conferring national honours onAbiola, and two others.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu explained that the President’s directive to the AGF was meant to ensure that awards investiture slated for June 12, 2018 could go on as planned.
The statement read, “Following his declaration yesterday (Wednesday) that henceforth, June 12 be observed as Democracy Day in Nigeria and that some heroes of democracy be given national honours, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Shehu Malami, to take immediate steps to publish the Presidential Order in the Federal Gazette as follows: Chief MKO Abiola – Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (Posthumous); Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe – Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger; and Chief Gani Fawehinmi – Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (posthumous).
“The President also directed that this should be done so that the awards slated for June 12, 2018 can go on as planned.”
CD, SERAP want those behind annulment prosecuted
Two civil society organisations, the Campaign for Democracy and the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, have lauded President Buhari over his declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, noting that his administration should go a step further by prosecuting those who were behind the annulment of the election.
The CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “The declaration is long overdue. We have expected previous governments for so long to declare June 12 as the authentic Democracy Day. But coming at this time that it came, we applaud the President for the declaration.
“But we are looking forth to the full immortalisation of Chief MKO Abiola and also that those who perpetrated this evil should be brought to book. Until President Buhari does that, then we will know that this action is not merely to score a political point.”
Also the SERAP Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “The declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day is fitting and appropriate. You know that the PDP ruled Nigeria for 16 years and never thought of that.
“I believe that we are in a democracy because of the June 12 episode. For any regime to come to power and not give recognition to June 12 is a disservice to democracy. The motives of President Buhari at this time are subject to different interpretations which we cannot substantiate yet.”
Also, a socio-political organisation, Omoluwabi Movement, has commended the President over the declaration, noting that Nigeria’s living heroes and heroines of the June 12 struggle would be gladdened by it.
The movement’s director, Tunde Oladunjoye, stated this in a release, adding that the declaration had honoured “all Nigerians of different ethnic origins who participated in the historic election, and all those who fought for its actualisation, especially those martyrs who died in the process.”
Wikipedia updates MKO’s profile after Buhari’s honour
Largest online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, has updated the profile of Abiola (August 24, 1937 – July 7, 1998).
The changes reflected President Buhari’s conferment of the highest national honour, GCFR, on the late politician and businessman.
A visit to MKO Abiola’s profile on Wikipedia by one of our correspondents showed that the encyclopaedia had taken note of these developments.
MKO Abiola’s brief biography now read, “ Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, GCFR (24 August 1937 – 7 July 1998) was a Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Yoruba Egba clan.
“MKO Abiola ran for the presidency in 1993, for which the election results were annulled by the preceding military president, Ibrahim Babangida, because of allegations that they were corrupt and unfair.
“He was awarded the GCFR posthumously on June 6, 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria’s Democracy Day was changed to June 12.”
Credit : PUNCH
Aproko Girl (INC)Lekki Phase 1 (Lagos State , Nigeria)