Senate mandates INEC to declare MKO Abiola president

Chidi Samuel|

The Senate on Thursday took President Buhari’s pronouncement on the undeclared June 12, 1993, presidential election presumably won by late Chief MKO Abiola a notch higher by asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to announce the results of the annulled election.

The upper lawmakers also resolved that all entitlements of Moshood Abiola, presumed winner of the election and his deputy, Babagana Kingibe should be paid.

The issue was first raised Lanre Tejuosho (Ogun-APC) who commended President Buhari for the announcements while urging him to also reconcile with the Legislature.

Having come under order 43 of the Senate standing order, the matter was not open for discussion.

Coming under order 42 and 52, Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti-PDP), re-opened the issue to allow contributions.

While moving the motion, Olujimi said Abiola should be declared president of the country.

She said, “For once, I want to thank the president of Nigeria. I want to say he has done well. This is one time that the president has given a thought to what Abiola and his family went through to fight for this democracy that we enjoy today.”

“Going further, there are issues to be addressed so that we can be confident that this is not a Greek gift. This is the time for the result to be properly announced by INEC because government is a continuum and declare Abiola as a president. Entitlements should be granted to the winners.

“Baba Gana kingibe should be recognised as vice-president June 12 should be declared a public holiday. All recommendations must be brought to parliament for legislative action.”

Dino Melaye (Kogi-APC), in his contribution, said that  Abiola is not a Nigerian and cannot be granted such honour.

He said, “I am a democrat, I believe very sincerely that Chief M.K.O Abiola deserve even more than the President have pronounced because he is a true patriot, philanthropist and should be solely decorated. But Mr. President, 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.”

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He went further to read a section of chapter 43 of the National Honours Act which he believed buttresses his point.

“Subsection 2 of the act says a person shall be eligible for appointment to any rank or holder unless he is a citizen of Nigeria. A dead man is not a citizen of the federal republic of Nigeria. We should not be emotional about this. The law remains the law.”

On his part, Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, said it is not legally possible to extend the date a president would take oath of office until the constitution is amended.

“There are two legal issues. I want to raise the second one. Section 135 (2) on the tenure of president. They are now saying June 12 is now Democracy proposing that in 2019, the president will now be sworn in on the 12th of June,” he said.

“This is illegally impossible. A president shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years he took the oath of office. The implication is that 29th of May remains the date the president will be inaugurated and take oath of office. If they are moving from May 29 to June 12, it means we have to amend this constitution.

“Otherwise, we will be extending tenure of a president beyond what the constitution contemplates. We have to advise the president properly. We cannot extend it to June 12 without extending the constitution.”

Ahmed Lawan, senate leader, said parliament should continue to support the government.

“Buhari has shown clearly what a democracy is. The parliament should continue to support the government to further entrench democracy,” Lawan said.

“For the first time, Nigerians elected candidates based on their credibility. Somebody from Kano who contested against Abiola was defeated in Kano. That is the kind of sentiment Nigerians should always have.”

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The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his contribution urged his colleagues to look away from the imperfections and first commend Mr Buhari for the decision.

He said, “We need to be guided. I think the whole essence of this discussion was to recognise the fact that Chief MKO Abiola, his contributions, what he had been through, his tribulations.

“For many years, it was long overdue. The good intention is what we should recognise. There might be imperfectons in how it was implemented but let us for today take the good intention.

“The other issues, I’m not saying they are wrong or right. Whether the award is right, the process, constitutional amendment to recognition of Babagana Kingibe’ position as Vice President, the process of making June 12 a public holiday.

“In the spirit of all those imperfections, we should not allow that to cloud what Chief M.K.O Abiola is.”

The upper chamber adopted five prayers including that the result of the June 12, 1993 election must be announced, all allowances and entitlement be paid to Mr Abiola as a former president and Mr Kingibe as a former vice president, Mr Kingibe be recognised as former vice president and that June 12 be declared public holiday.

The lawmakers also resolved that May 29 remains the day for inauguration of presidents of Nigeria as June 12 date will mean tenure elongation which is against the constitution.