The Presidency on Sunday said President Muhammadu Buhari had not been in the good reckoning of a vocal section of the country’s elite because of his performance in office.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who stated this in an opinion titled, “June 12 tsunami and the ones who won’t forgive Buhari,” also blamed elite conspiracy for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election widely believed to have been won by the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola.
Shehu claimed that in the history of Nigeria, hardly had the nation had the elite joining hands for the good of the nation.
He said an old Chinese proverb, “Do good, reap good; do evil, reap evil,” summed the intensity of attacks against Buhari, in the wake of the President’s decision to honour the heroes of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Shehu said those who would not be happy with Buhari for righting the wrong of the annulled election were not limited to the military.
He cited media practitioners and those in the judiciary as part of those who would be angry with the President on the matter.
The presidential spokesman added, “Even at that time, it was pretty obvious that the unjust annulment was a huge elite conspiracy, well beyond the schemes and machinations, for which the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, had established a formidable reputation.
“June 12 annulment was inspired and supported in spirit, cash and in kind by high-level citizens who saw an opportunity for themselves and cashed in upon it.
“Beyond the coterie of two dozen or so military officials whose names have been documented as literally having had a gun to the head of their Commander-in-Chief in trying to induce the annulment, there were tens, possibly hundreds of co-conspirators who either forced the annulment in one way or the other, or joined the sustenance of the injustice done to Abiola and the Nigerian voters which, from then evolved into an industry of a kind, supplying incomes and conferring privileges of state upon those in the plot.
“Many have forgotten by now that an interim government was contemplated at that time and a number of retired army generals were in the queue, having been invited to get ready to head it.
“There was the foremost social scientist of the Yoruba stock who prophesied to the then rulers, on the day the announcement of election results was suspended that ‘the Yoruba will not be angry with the Head of State if he will go ahead to annul the election.’ Then he did it.
“In the media, there were many who conspired against the June 12, including the publisher who told their editors not to ‘lose your heads over this June 12. After all, was it not Abiola who thwarted the ambitions of …?’
“In the Nigerian Guild of Editors, where I was one of the three vice-presidents at that time, rising to become the full occupant of the office a few years later, we had our own battles.
“For example, when the Vanguard Newspaper correctly quoted me as asking that Abiola be freed or, in the least, be tried in court because detention without trial, even under the military was wrong, newspapers, both of them now out of print circulation, the New Nigerian (which still maintains an online presence) and Today, lambasted me for expressing that view. Their editors, themselves members of the executive committee of the NGE said in a counter statement that those views were not of the Guild since, as they said, the organisation hadn’t met to take a position on the matter.
“If you are counting the large number of Nigerians united by that annulment, and who must now be very, very angry with President Buhari for righting that wrong which nourished them, one must not leave out the men and women in the temple of justice who used one subterfuge or the other to keep June 12 buried and its biggest symbol, MKO Abiola, in detention until his end came (or was induced). Naturally, there is also the fear of the unknown. What will come after this?”
The presidential spokesman recalled that since the annulment, no past administration in 25 years had asked why was the election annulled, who annulled it and what were the consequences?
He added that no government had ascertained the number of people the nation lost to the annulment beyond Abiola and his late wife, Kudirat, how much was lost in terms of economy and how much damage it caused the nation.
FG should name elites behind June 12 annulment – CDHR
However, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights has said the Federal Government must go beyond the claim that the elite were responsible for the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election.
The group said the government must unmask those personalities and investigate them as necessary.
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “The Federal Government has access to classified documents on the June 12 election. The government must tell us who these greedy self-serving elites are. The government must name them. We all know that some greedy elites and corrupt military men were responsible for the annulment.
“The government holds Nigerians the responsibility to set history straight and correct the ills of a misadventure which has spanned 25 years. We cannot afford to continue with speculations.”
Those who annulled election should be tried – CACOL
However, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership urged the Federal Government to go beyond naming those behind the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.
CACOL’s Director, Debo Adeniran, said they should be arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to other anti-democratic elements in future and to do justice to the victims of the action, particularly those who lost their lives in the struggles for the realisation of the pan-Nigeria mandate given to Abiola and Kingibe.
He said, “The Federal Government must carry out further investigations and apprehend anyone who had taken money to abort that election. They must be prosecuted accordingly. We have known from the outset that the annulment was a conspiracy by some elites. Basically, what the government should do is to move to the level of prosecution.”
Only Buhari will decide whether to probe annulment – Shehu
But Shehu said only Buhari could decide whether to probe the annulment or not.
“Now, would there be an inquisition into all of the things that happened? I have not been briefed if there is going to be any. Neither have I heard of any discussions on this. I cannot, therefore, speculate.
READ ALSO: ‘June 12, better than May 29 as Democracy Day’
“Should anyone be afraid? Our very erudite and sharp minister, Lai Mohammed, said no Nigerian should fear for their rights under President Buhari, unless they are guilty of wrongdoing.
“I haven’t still mastered the art of predicting army Generals, not even this one. On this question, only the President can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if there will be a probe as many have been clamouring for.
“Understandably, anger against the new Democracy Day and honour to Abiola in a few quarters, the intensity of attack on President’s person would mount as the momentum he gains becomes manifest, even as we recognise that the opposition has been gearing up for the offensive towards 2019 elections,” he said.
Shehu called the attention of those who annulled the election and all those that helped to sustain the injustice to another old Chinese proverb, “all relationships have happy endings; if not happy, then it is not the end.”
He described the resurrection of June 12 as the beginning of a new chapter in the annals of Nigerian history, adding that it was premature to say how it would end.
Shehu insisted that Buhari had not been in the good reckoning of a vocal section of the country’s elite because of his performance in office.
Although Shehu did not mention names, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been in the forefront of the anti-Buhari campaign, asking the President not to seek re-election over alleged non-performance and nepotism.
Shehu said the unnamed elite ganging up against Buhari knew that they would lose once corruption-free governance was put in place and economic growth was guaranteed as the President was doing.
Shehu said, “In normal times, even before the shocking masterstroke honouring Abiola, President Buhari is a leader who had not been in the good reckoning of a powerful, very vocal section of the country’s elite.”
Kogi gov hails Buhari on MKO’s honour
But the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has hailed President Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day.
He said the declaration was a “further demonstration of the President’s commitment to democracy.”
The governor, who stated this in a statement by his Director General of Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo, applauded the President for identifying with the “iconic date that religious bigotry and ethnic bias were defeated in our body polity.”
The statement partly read, “On June 12, 1993, I was part of a generation of young Nigerians who witnessed the betrayal of the voices of our people against the iconic date that ethnic divisions and religious bigotry were defeated in our political life.
“The late MKO Abiola who was a renowned Muslim, who floated a presidential ticket with another Muslim, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe. Nigerians ignored those interests and chose a united Nigeria.
“The annulment of that historic poll sparked a chain of events and our father, MKO Abiola, died in the process, giving birth to the democracy that we all enjoy today.
“Administrations after that did little to give a badge of respect to June 12, despite being the tree that bears the democratic fruits we enjoy today. But President Muhammadu Buhari has dared to be different and bowed to the wishes of Nigerians to set aside the date to celebrate our freedom from dictatorship.
“This has gone a long way to position Mr President as a defender of democracy, a defender of common good and a defender of freedom.”
It’s Greek gift, says IPOB
But the Indigenous People of Biafra has described President Buhari’s pronouncement of June 12 as Democracy Day in honour of Abiola as a Greek gift.
In a statement on Sunday in Awka, Anambra State by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, the group urged Nigerians, especially the people of the South-West, to view the pronouncement with studious circumspect.
Describing the move as cynical, IPOB said it was not for good that President Buhari had to make such pronouncement a few months to the general elections.
The group said the move was specifically designed to destroy the glowing handshake across the Niger wherein the South-East and the South-West geopolitical zones had made “formidable progress” to change the old order of northern oligarchy.
The statement said, “It’s a cynical move designed to truncate any East/West alliance or understanding with regards to a renegotiated Nigeria before 2019.”
The group, however, expressed confidence that high-level educated people of the South-West would be able to “detonate Buhari’s time bomb.”
“We view this announcement of a posthumous award for demised leading sons of Yorubaland in Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi as another clever but desperate attempt by Arewa agents of neo-colonialism to drive a wedge between the burgeoning understanding between the East and West,”the group added.
Atiku’s ex-aide says MKO’s honour illegal, threatens legal action
Also, a former presidential aide, Dr. Umar Ardo, has called on President Buhari to convene a meeting of National Council of State to approve the national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic given to Abiola.
Ardo, in a text message to one of our correspondents in Abuja on Sunday, said that the council should meet and approve the honour in order not to subject it to unnecessary legal interpretation.
Ardo, who was seconded to the office of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar while working in the Presidential Villa during the regime of former President Obasanjo, said he had spoken with some members of the Council of State and they had denied discussing the award at any meeting.
He said, “…Therefore, to go ahead and perform the investiture ceremony as planned is to indulge in flagrant illegality.
“Having campaigned on, sworn in and is on oath to govern this country in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and due process of law, and to defend and protect the said constitution, the President cannot confer national awards on the late Chief MKO Abiola, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe and Chief Gani Fawehinmi or anyone else without subjecting his decision to the advice of the Council of State as stipulated in the constitution.
“To do so is a breach not only of the constitution but also of the oath sworn to by the President. That is unacceptable.
“…I will institute a court action demanding compliance with the provisions of the constitution in the award of the said national honours if the government goes ahead with the investiture ceremony without abiding by the due process of law.”
I didn’t oppose honour for Abiola, says Melaye
Meanwhile, the lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye, has denied opposing the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the posthumous conferment of the GCFR on Abiola.
Melaye, however, urged the President Buhari-led administration to amend the National Honours Act to legalise the honour given to Abiola and others.
The senator, in a statement on Sunday, said he had been “inundated with calls and text messages from well-meaning Nigerians especially my constituents” who wanted to know his exact position on the recognitions.
“If the right thing is done now by the Federal Government by proposing amendment to the National Honours Act 1964 to accommodate the current developments, no government in future will reverse the decision. This is my stand as a lawmaker,” he stated.