A human rights lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba, says declaring June 12 as the new date for the celebration of Democracy Day in Nigeria was illegal but he would not challenge it because it is a popular declaration.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently declared the new date as against May 29, on which Nigeria had celebrated Democracy Day since 1999.
Mr Buhari made the declaration in honour of Moshood Abiola who won the presidential election of that date in 1993 but was not allowed to be sworn in by the military government of Ibrahim Babangida.
Mr Abiola died in detention in June 1998 in the struggle to validate the mandate of that election.
The president also posthumously conferred the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Mr Abiola at a ceremony last week Tuesday in Abuja.
Mr Agbakoba was among the few Nigerians invited to that ceremony.
On Monday, the senior lawyer said the aspect concerning Democracy Day was “clearly an illegal declaration, but a popular one.”
Mr Agbakoba, a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
”I also think that the declaration is illegal, but I do not think that it is important. What is important is that there is a declaration that is popular; so, that is how we will take it.
”I know it is illegal, but I don’t feel aggrieved. I will not go to court to challenge the declaration; those who feel aggrieved can go to court and challenge it.
“But, I know that the late Abiola’s family deserve the recognition,” he said.
Mr Agbakoba’s stance appears similar to that of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Alfa Belgore. PREMIUM TIMES reported Mr Belgore’s argument that the award was illegal because it could not be given posthumously. Many lawyers, however, countered that argument. An argument that the president giving such award without consulting the National Council of States made it illegal was also countered by other lawyers.
Mr Agbakoba, however, urged presidential aspirants to emulate the legacies of the late Moshood Abiola to enthrone good governance in 2019 and beyond.
”Our presidential aspirants in the coming 2019 elections should be purposeful and think about the electorate, the people, like the late Abiola.
”When you are running for an office, you are running to carry the burden of the people. It is like becoming the father of the house.
”Many of these politicians often forget why they go there and do away with all their campaign promises.
“So, it is very simple; to be a politician, all you need to do is to remember the people that voted you to power, that is all.
“If you do that, you will find that wherever you go, you will be honoured.
”When MKO was alive, he was remarkable, because he had the will to listen and attend to the yearnings of the people.
”That is why today, we are honouring him, even in death. A politician must remember his political goal by providing good roads, healthcare, education and basic amenities for the people.
”The way forward in Nigeria is to get a good leader to rule this country,” he said.