President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as Democraciy Day is seen as a mere jamboree because it is not yet entrenched in the nation’s Public Holidays Act.
Wednesday last week, Buhari issued a press release declaring June 12 as Democracy Day to replace the known May 29 usually set aside for the swearing in of the country’s President, vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors and conferment of post-humous award of GCON on M.K.O. Abiola, the presumed winner.
However, the President issued another press release Friday last week that June 12, 2018 would not be marked as public holiday, though some states in the South-West region of the country have declared the day as public holiday.
Speaking on one of the privately owned radio stations in Nigeria, Franklyn Isong observed “My opinion is that, Mr President was in a rush to take all the glory himself. There is what is known as Public Holidays Act that lists out all of these holidays that we have in Nigeria.
“Now, in the schedule to the Act, simply says that, “the holidays that we have in Nigeria are, New Year day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Workers day- May 1, Democracy Day- May 29, Independence Day- October 1, Christmas Day- December 25, and then such days may be declared to be a public holiday in celebration of the Muslims’ festivals.”
Isong, a Nigerian journalist and human rights activist who featured on the Planet 101.1 FM, Uyo, under “The People’s Parliament” programme declared “Now, for Mr. President to pronounce June 12 as Democracy Day, he ought to have made a bill to amend the Act, which is a legislation- an act of the parliament that has listed out all these days as public holidays. Now, not- withstanding the fact that, the Act also states here, I think in Section two of the Act, it says “Power to appoint special days to be public holidays.”
According to him, “Section 1 of the Act says that in addition to the days mentioned in the schedule, which I had just listed, the President may by public notice appoint a special day to be kept as public holiday, either throughout Nigeria or in any part thereof, and any day so appointed shall be kept as public holiday.
“Now, this particular section cannot be interpreted without bringing in the schedules. You can declare a public holiday, but if it is only that it becomes an annual event, you must amend the schedule Act to make it become part of our law, but you can declare any day public holiday, and it is just for that day.
“But before it becomes a special day that will be marked annually, as the case may be, as Mr. President intends for June 12, he needs to amend the Public Holiday Act to conform with the pronouncement. That is the position of the law.”
He noted “So, to me, declaring June 12 as Democracy Day is political. He wants to gain the support of the Yoruba and the South-West. I had just told you that it is a mere pronouncement- that has no force of the law and cannot hold water.
“If Mr. President goes ahead as he is planning to host any event on June 12, he can go ahead and do it, but that event can be nullified if challenged in court, because you must have the backing of a court to be able to do it. The Democracy Day that is known is May 29, which we just celebrated. Money had been spent. If you now spend another money on June 12 which is few days from today, under which subject will you put it when there is no law backing your actions, so it is illegal.
To re-invalidate the June 12 mandate, the journalist-cum human rights activist said, “Buhari is acting based on sentiments and people’s reactions. If he didn’t want to take the glory all alone, he would have followed the normal procedure. INEC would have been asked to declare the result first of all- let us even know what this man won with and with which percentage did he win?
“Declare him (Abiola) the winner first, then put his portrait in Aso rock Villa, as ex-president, pay all his entitlements under the period of time that he would have served, as at the time he was elected as the president of the country, then now amend the democracy day.
“That is when you can now say the title GCFR, would have had meaning to people like me. So, when you now give the title GCFR, to M.K. O. Abiola, and it ends only on the name, you don’t put his portrait in the Office of the President, you don’t pay his entitlements to his family, you don’t even amend the Public Order Act to effect the June 12, it means that what he has just done is jamboree.”
Commenting on adopting some salient aspects of June 12 into the nation’s body politics, Isong observed “When we had June 12, what was known as option A4, which is the cardinal ingredient for free and fair and transparent election, which we are leaving pout in our democracy today. If, we are to re-validate, the June 12 mandate, which also adopts the Option A4.
“Option A4 means that all delegates, all voters would queue behind whoever they want as their leader. By so doing, it will eliminate thuggery, assassination, to eliminate malpractice in the polls- that to me would bring sanity in the democratic state. So, we should adopt Option A4, which was used by the former INEC officers.
On the frequent rifts between the executive and the legislative arms of government, Isong said “The president seeks to take the glory alone, because recently, the executive and legislature arms of government have been at loggerheads. We have the issue of Senator Dino Melaye being arrested and the Senate came up and defended him, and it became a public issue.
“We have had the issue of the Deputy Senate President coming up to raise alarm that he will be arrested and prosecuted. We have had issue of Senator Shehu Sani coming to also speak that they have plot to arrest him for always speaking against the policies of the executive. There is also an alert that we got from the Senate President that he will be arrested- that some people have been arrested. He actually used the word ‘cultists’, were arrested, that they have been moved to Abuja, that there is a plot to link these cultists to him.
“All of a sudden, we now heard that the robbery incident that those people who were arrested, that the suspected armed robbers have made confessional statement linking the Senate President to the robbery incident. That has perched the parliament against the executive.
“Before this time, the Parliament has invited the Inspector-General of Police to explain the security issues in the country. He did not honour it. We saw what happened between the Parliament and the IGP. So, all these issues, even the Customs Director-General was invited, but he did not appear; he didn’t honour it.
“There are several issues that have perched the executive arm against the Parliament. If Mr. President is truly a democrat, as he now pretends to be, he ought to allow the Parliament which is the symbol of democracy to operate independently. He ought to also obey laws, injunctions and court orders. How many court orders has Mr. President obeyed? I can name so many court orders that we have had and the case of the former National Security Adviser, Dasuiki who is still being detained.
“Till today, we have had several court orders that have said ‘release this man’. What about El-zakyy, who has even gone to the point of ECOWAS court for freedom, and yet, he is still being held in the custody of security operatives. So if Mr. President is a democrat, he will allow the legislature to operate independently; allow the Judiciary to operate independently which are the symbols of democracy.
He rejected the idea that Nigeria is practising democracy, saying “What we have today is Civil Rule, I can explain that. If you check all the people that have invested in this country, they have been found former military head of states.
“Apart from Mr Goodluck Jonathan who was a true civilian, who actually came into office and was being teleguided by the military, by former president who tried to monitor his activities. So, he was having free hand. His godfathers were the military, the ex-military generals, so what we have today is civil rule. Civil rule because you have military men, who are coming in civilian uniform. That is just the point, so we don’t have democracy, what we have is civil rule.”