Lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Thursday were divided over the declaration of June 12 as National Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The division followed a motion by Rep. Wale Raji (APC-Lagos) brought under “Urgent Matter of National Importance” on the need to commend Buhari for the June 12 democracy day initiative, at the plenary.

Buhari had, on Wednesday, declared June 12 as National Democracy Day with effect from 2019.

Buhari also said that the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Chief Moshood Abiola, would posthumously be awarded the highest award of the land, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

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He had added that Abiola’s running mate in the election, Amb. Baba Kingibe, and late human rights lawyer, Gani Fayehinmi (SAN) would be vested with Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).

But some lawmakers have highlighted what they consider to be wrong about the move, regardless of how good the intention is.

1. How did we forget the 'Jega' of June 12, 1993 election?

After the 2015 election, and Nigeria achieved what was considered a great feat, the then chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega became the star.

Infact, he seemed more popular than the man who won the election itself, gracing big stages across the world.

Now that President Buhari is honoring those who presumably won and fought for the June 12 1993 election, how about the man that conducted that election considered to be the freest and fairest in our history?

Rep. Chris Azubogu (PDP-Anambra) drew the attention of the House to the exclusion of the electoral umpire, Mr Humphrey Nwosu, who conducted the election, from the list of those honoured.

Azubogu said that Nwosu was a key actor in the June 12 election and risked his life to conduct a free and fair election.

He said that Nwosu should be given due recognition for the role he played in the election as it would encourage future umpires of the electoral process to be free and fair.


2. Presidential declarations do not change public holidays

In his contribution, Rep. Edward Pwajok (APC-Plateau) drew the attention of the house to the Public Holidays Act which stated that May 29 should be recognised as National Democracy Day.

Pwajok said that for the declaration of the president to take effect, the Public Holidays Act had to be amended.

A rowdy session erupted in the chamber when Rep. Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta) also challenged the legality of the presidential declaration.

He said that the usurpation of the powers of the Legislature by the Executive was becoming too rampant.

Ossai argued that an Act of Parliament could not be changed by a presidential declaration and that if June 12 must stand, it should follow due process of amendment of the Public Holidays Act.

Members roared in loud voices apparently trying to shut him up while others waved at him to sit down.

3. MKO must be declared winner first

Perhaps this should have been the first step by the president, but he appears to have put the cart ahead of the horse.

According to the law, for a contestant to be referred to as President-elect, he had to be declared winner of the election by the National Returning Officer.

MKO Abiola has neither been declared winner of the June 12 1993 election, neither has the result of the election been released.

Rep. Edward Pwajok, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said that there was a court order prohibiting INEC from releasing the result.

He explained that until the court’s decision was stepped down by the same court or a higher court, the decision remained.

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