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:
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!!!