Former President of Senate, Dr. Ken Nnamani, in this interview with Leo Sobechi, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring Chief MKO Abiola and commemorating June 12, stressing that necessary legislation should follow to regularize what the President has begun.
How do you react to the proclamation by the President on June 12 and award on Chief MKO Abiola, even without the result of the election being officially announced?
It was clear that MKO won the election even though he wasn’t sworn in. I was in SDP (Social Democratic Party) then and I was in Chief Abiola’s campaign, we were quite confident that he won the election overwhelmingly, what was left was declaring him the winner. I don’t think that there is any doubt about that, because the weather on that particular day and how things went in terms of voting across the country was totality in favor of SDP. So, President Muhammadu Buhari, in my view, has shown what we call political courage to do the right thing. So, I commend him tremendously. If there are laws, as I believe there are, that requires amendment I believe it can be done, but it’s the right step in the right direction. The constitution or the Holiday Act cannot be static. An issue like that of Abiola requires political courage and that courage is what President Buhari has shown, so I think we should all commend him and move on. He made the amendment act because I know to declare a public holiday is not randomly done, but it can be done in a special circumstance like this by amending the act.
But some states in the Southwest like Ogun, Osun, and Lagos, declared June 12 as public holiday; does that vitiate or regionalize what the Federal Government did?
No, I think rather it harmonizes it. Instead of just localizing it, Abiola’s achievement is not local, it concerns all the states in Nigeria, it concerns Nigeria as a country so the Southwest have been observing it, now Mr. President in his wisdom has found it necessary to harmonize. I don’t think its proper to sectionalise the achievement of MKO Abiola.
So, what the President has done is to bring the holiday issue not peculiar to southwest, but for the whole country. It makes a lot of sense.
As the former Senate President what do you make of this imputation in some circle that the President acted to scout for Southwest votes in 2019?
Everything in our country, especially during the general election year, is always interpreted as politics. The decision taken by President Buhari, deserves commendation, but in our country we have difficulty commending somebody when the person has shown courage. Others have opportunity of doing exactly what he did, but they didn’t have the courage to do it so, if any person is attributing it to 2019, so be it. After all if any person is in politics or particularly the executives, the people that are occupying the political offices usually they have election in their minds, but they should do the right thing that can win them votes. There is nothing wrong about that, if that’s the only thing required to reelect him fine.
Do you think the schism between the National Assembly and the Presidency compelled the President to go solo on the June 12, especially against the background of calls for abrogation of National Assembly in the last three years?
I don’t think so. The trouble between the legislature and executive branch is quite unfortunate, because the legislative arm is the bridge between autocracy and democracy. During the military regime, we usually have the Executive branch and the Judiciary, what lacks during the military rule is the legislature, the parliament is not there. If you remember, each time the Army came in, the first assignment was to suppress the constitution and then of course, dismiss the National Assembly. The primacy of National Assembly is to reorganize our constitution if you look at section 4, 5 and 6, is it by accident that National Assembly came out at section 4? I recall very vividly section 4 deals with parliament, section 5 talks about the Executive branch of government and 6 deals with the judiciary. So in order of primacy National Assembly takes the first position so, its very critical in democracy. What is happening between the executives and judiciary is very unfortunate, but I am sure it would be resolved.
I don’t think our democracy would be really like democracy in other parts of the world if any person canvasses total folding of the National Assembly. Remember I said the bridge between autocracy, authoritarian and a democratic regime is the National Assembly. How can any person in his right mind talk about expunging it unless we should return to the third term if any persons is advocating it. And there were no reasons for some of us, who played specific roles in the constitutional amendment; we should have allowed the President then to continue.
To respond to your question, sacking the National Assembly is synonymous to allowing third term in Nigeria. What we should be talking about is rationalizing the size of the National Assembly, should it be a fulltime assignment or part time, instead of three Senators from a state or instead of having 360 members of House of Representatives we should rather reduce it drastically to 90 or so. Politics is supposed to be service and not where school leavers will get their first car or first apartment, its not proper, especially in the three branches of government. We have to bring experience to play; we cannot make laws on what we don’t know anything about. When it comes to National Assembly, there must be experience either you are in an industry or private practice. I will not support somebody saying that in a democratic setup we should ignore the National Assembly.
Is it proper to leave out Prof. Humphrey Nwosu in the list of those recognized for honours award about June 12?
Well, there a lot of those who deserve recognition and perhaps the President could be reminded to include in subsequent programmes. There are a lot of issues involved in June 12, but it is good that President has taken the right step in righting the wrongs done to the nation.