On Buhari, National Awards and Democracy day declaration
By Trevor Oluwole
Following President Mohammadu Buhari’s June 12 Democracy day declaration, and the conferment of ‘Grand Commander of the Federal Republic’ GCFR on the acclaimed winner of the June 12,1993 poll, Chief Moshood Kasimaawo Abiola, and Grand Commander of Nigeria GCON on His running mate, and Lagos Lawyer, Baba Gana Kingibe and Gani Fawehinmi respectively.
There’s a lot of accolades and less criticism trailing the declaration from all quota since the day it was made. Looking at the declaration from one angle, it is a declaration long overdue for such attention. The June 12, 1993, Presidential election that paraded the Ogun State born Businessman cum Philanthropist, Chief MKO Abiola of the then Social Democratic Party (SDP) with his running mate, Kingibe against NRC’s Bashir Tofa was in the record of the nation’s electoral system as the freest and fairest of elections.
MKO was declared the winner and New Democratically elected President of the nation, before swearing in, the Unexpected happened. The then Military Head of State Gen. Sanni Abacha annulled the whole electoral process and cornered the then National Electoral Commission (NEC) with a Court order not to announce the result. An action that led to public outcries from all citizens, Several protests were staged on major streets and Human Right activist like the late Lagos based Lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi and Beko Ransome Kuti took up the case legally. Arrests were made on Military orders, prisons were flooded with Political elites who are on their feet demanding Justice for Democracy. One of MKO’s wives Kudirat was shot dead in a broad day assassination while some other notables escaped Bullets narrowly. At the height of the Democratic sacrifices, the acclaimed presidential winner of the June 12, 1993, poll, died of alleged food poisoning barely a month after the death of his captor.
There has been agitation from different bodies within and outside the country over the years asking the Federal Government to recognize the victory of MKO by immortalizing him, and also to pronounce the June 12 date as the Nation’s Democracy day instead of the May 29 that has been celebrated yearly taking to consideration the Victory, Denial on the side of the winning team and the sacrifices of diverse measure that was made by those that were directly involved in the Humiliation and detention by Military action.
Unfortunately, all Head of States turned their deaf ear to the agitations. Earlier this week Nigerian President, Mohammodu Buhari made one of the rare decisions that met the People’s demand by declaring June 12 of every year the nation’s Democracy day and conferring on the the 1993 poll’s winner Late MKO Abiola the highest national award GCFR, (thereby consenting him an ex-President, as that is the only base on which he could be eligible for the award). Likewise, He conferred on both Baba Gana Kingibe who was Abiola’s running mate during the election and the Lagos based lawyer Gani Fawehinmi the second highest award of the land GCON.
A close look at the fashion and timing of the Presidential announcement, it is obviously suspicious that the Buhari’s APC led Government has an ulterior motive to have made the declaration seeing that the 2019 general election is fast approaching. From a layman perspective, it is a plausible decision considering the fact that it is generally believed that Abiola and the struggle that followed the ’93 poll deserved the accolade, and it is a pointer that though all former Head of States turned deaf ears to the people’s request, they knew what was right but decided to do otherwise for reasons best known to them. That aside!
Though not a lawyer, the little knowledge I have about law of the land, I know it will only take a higher court order to overturn a previous Court Restriction order on a case as this, it required more than just declaration. The cumulative result of the 1993 election was in the first place not publicly made known, its just deductions from all pointers that strongly suggested Abiola as the winner, If the President wants to go about this legitimately in a way that will portray the interest of the masses, why not obtain a Higher court order and mandate the electoral body to publicly announce the winner of the ’93 poll, thereby making a qualified INEC officer announce Abiola the winner and also a legitimate Democratically elected President of the Nation, being a President, vice President, or former President or its Vice goes far beyond a Presidential declaration, what if Some people later come up with a court case challenging Abiola’s carrying an award title he was not legally declared fit to carry as His Presidential victory is still being barred by a potent Court order.
Also providing the fact that the provision made by the National Honour guide Act that sees how National honours are being conferred on the citizens has it that Only a Living, Serving or Past President of the country should be awarded, and as of record MKO was never declared, sworn or served as Nigerian President, only the legal declaration of being one of the past President can legally and unquestionably qualify him for the award.
Lastly, President Buhari has been on the helm of affair at the National level twice as a Head of State during the military regime and also a Democratically elected President, He is no doubt aware that being a President is beyond pronouncement and attaching an award title to name, there are also financial entitlement in the form of Salary and Allowances. To make genuine his declaration claim, let Buhari order the payment of Abiola and Kingibe’s entitlements as President and Vice President respectively to their family and pay up their entitlements as past Democratic administrators till 1997, providing that they served one term in office. also, Reparational compensations should be paid to their family members for the losses of their loved ones, By so doing the President may prove the genuineness of His motives and convince.
Nigerians that are speculating that His declarations coupled with the recently signed Not too Young to Run into Law is in their interests and not a Political gimmick pointing at wanting to receive favour towards the forthcoming 2019 poll.