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Nwabueze flays Buhari’s new Democracy Day declaration

Benjamin Obiefuna Nwabueze

Elder statesman and constitutional lawyer, Prof Ben Nwabueze (SAN), has faulted the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it affronts the law.

His view was contained in a statement he sent to The Guardian titled “ President Buhari’s 6th June, 2018 Declaration of A New Democracy Day And The Rule of Law.”

In the statement, the legal icon said Nigeria should not be turned into a state where the president can, in his unfettered whim, set aside the law or do things contrary to the law.

Nwabueze said President Buhari could not have been more careless, he could not have made a greater mockery of the Rule of Law than by the announcement.

According to him, May 29 is enacted by law ­– Public Holidays Act – as Democracy Day, and that could not be changed to June 12 except by amendment of the Act, not by mere presidential declaration.

‘His wishes, intentions and whims, however pure and benevolent, are not law, as in the days of the absolutist military dictatorship when laws could be made simply by word of mouth, later to be put in written form by
decree or edict.

“It is incredible that, knowing all these facts but still believing himself to be an absolute ruler, Buhari went ahead to organise the farce of commemoration ceremony on June 12 at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa. His perception of himself as absolute ruler is antithetical to constitutional democracy, and constitutes a danger to the country. He should be made to shed that perception of himself.”

The astute lawyer said the president’s declaration raised several issues concerning, first, the intention behind it, whether it was motivated by the public interest or by a political desire to secure the votes of Nigerians in the 2019 election, especially the votes of people of the South-West, or to sow the seed of division among members of the National Assembly in order to scuttle the threat to impeach him, or to throw the country into turmoil or to smear the polity with the taint of illegality.

“A motive of mischief seems evident on the face of the declaration. It is indeed a masterstroke of mischief and insincerity, a deceitful contrivance, suddenly and mischievously trumped up to rescue his dying image three years after his installation as president,” Nwabueze added.

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