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June 12: Honour for Abiola not illegal, says Akinyemi


Bolaji Akinyemi

Former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, says the issue of legality of the posthumous honour conferred on the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, is not tenable, hence a red herring.

Via an executive order, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday June 6, 2018, conferred national honours on Abiola; his running mate, Babagana Kingibe, and deceased human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi. He also declared June 12 as Democracy Day.

The conferment became contentious after former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Alfa Belgore, described the award as illegal. Belgore, who was CJN from 2006 to 2007, said the national honour cannot be awarded posthumously, let alone the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), which is the highest honours in the land.

“It is not done. It is for people living. The only thing they could do is to name a place after him, but national honours award, no,” he reportedly said.But the professor of political science in making his views on the matter known said: “The legality of the executive order, which has been raised is not tenable and is a red herring. First is the issue of precedence. President Shagari awarded a national honour posthumously to Chief Israel Adebajo, and his son collected it on his behalf. Secondly, the award cannot be subject to strict legal interpretation.

“I would rather suggest a Dennington approach, where determination is based on the need to achieve justice. MKO Abiola was elected in 1993 when he was still alive and remained alive for six more years. That is when he earned the GCFR. Acts of illegality prevented him from being decorated with it. Those acts of illegality have just been annulled.”

According to him, by the honour, Buhari has “addressed some of the wounds inflicted on this nation and applied healing balm on these wounds. Only those who lost family members, those imprisoned and detained, or who had family members imprisoned and detained, those tortured and those driven into exile had felt the need for some measure of closure. That closure was achieved on June 6 by the executive order issued by President Buhari.”

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