Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023

By Chris O. O. Biose,

Since his inauguration as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, May 29, 2023, some Nigerian news media, have been announcing that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the 16th President of Nigeria. That is quite wrong and needs to be corrected very quickly.

Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the 6th President of Nigeria after Presidents Shagari (October 1, 1979-December 31,1983), Olusegun Obasanjo (May 29, 1999-May 29, 2007), Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (May 29, 2007-May 5,2010), Goodluck Jonathan (May 5, 2010-May 29, 2015) and Muhammadu Buhari (May 29, 2015-May 29, 2023).

Those referring to President Tinubu as 16th President of Nigeria are probably lumping together into one category, all those who have ruled Nigeria since 1960, including the First Prime Minister, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the long line of violent Military Dictators, and the Military-appointed Head of the Interim National Government in 1993.
The idea of President of a democratic country connotes civility and due legal process in attaining political power. In contrast, becoming a military ruler involves violent or treacherous overthrow of existing authorities by means of coup de tat.
It is generally recognized that teamwork is emphasised in achieving military goals but this does not apply to the business of coup making. As one time Nigerian Chief of Army Staff who later served as Minister of Defence, Lt. General Theophillus Y. Danjuma (retd.) explained in a lecture which he delivered in 1986:
“A military coup is an act of revolt usually planned and executed in extreme secrecy by a small group. The bulk of the armed forces are not normally consulted and therefore not involved in the revolt. So, the first casualty of most coups is not the constituted civilian government, but the destabilisation of and overthrow of the military set-up.” Danjuma concluded that “coup making is not an act of bravery or gallantry but a function of opportunism.”

It is bothersome to imagine that this picture vividly painted by the former Nigerian Chief of Army Staff is that of a Nigerian President.

However, as soon as the successful coup-maker assumes office, everybody must obey him. There is no room for polemics. A costly product of military ethics is “You can’t question the boss.” Rather than bring any form of progress, the advent of prolonged military in Nigerian public life served to institutionalise the command mentality. Increasingly, most people failed to see anything wrong with dictatorships. Consequently, a whole generation of Nigerian youths was acculturated to trust in brawn rather than the brain.
The position of President of a democratic country is qualitatively distinct from that of military ruler. One entails rule of law while the other thrives on murder, treachery, arbitrary power and other unwholesome practices. To presume that the two are the same or should be known by the same descriptive title, amounts to grievous disregard for democratic values.
Military coup de tat is not only unconstitutional and illegal, it involves the most heinous offences against the state. It follows from this that coupists should be called upon to answer for their crimes irrespective of the number of years they enjoyed the benefit of their crimes.

Although most former military dictators in Nigeria acquired fame and stupendous wealth, those are not measures of constitutional rule. It should not be the role of the Nigerian media to launder the image of this class of rulers. They socialized a whole generation of Nigerian children and youths that force makes right and this pernicious social ideology is at the root of most of the ills that have plagued the country since the formal end of military rule in May 1999.
The act of calling different types of rulers of Nigeria by the same name or title does irremediable damage to Nigerian political history. It does equally immeasurable injustice to those Nigerian leaders who assumed political power by legitimate means as distinct from those who seized it by felonious and unconstitutional tactics.
A generalized title of President to both elected leaders who scrupulously embrace the rule of law and violent impostors who ruled by the gun, serves to mislead the younger generation of Nigerians. It gives the wrong impression that military dictators who came to power by subverting the constitution or by killing their fellow men, are in the same political bracket or categorisation with democratically elected Presidents freely chosen by the unfettered will of Nigerian citizens.
Those who came to power by foul means are only enjoying the benefits of their misdeeds because Nigeria is a place where mighty criminals go unpunished or are even rewarded
For example, on November 3, 2010, the Nigerian Senate approved new bumper package for former Heads of State in the country. This included offices of President, Head of Government of the Federation, Prime Minister, Vice President, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives under the 1999 Constitution.

Curiously, the pension was also extended to former master coup plotters and military dictators who came to office by force of arms. Everyone seems to presume that the coup plotters were above the law since they had friends in the Army whom they could use to cause trouble.

A significant section of the Nigerian media all along euologised former coup plotters, calling them President, elder states man and the like. The only former military dictator that most of the media men describe appropriately is late General Sani Abacha, because he is dead. If he was alive, media practitioners would not dare to call him thief.

No democratically elected President is known to have granted State Pardon to any of the offenders against the state as late President Shehu Shagari did to late ex-Biafran leader, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on May 18, 1982, for his role in the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967 to 1970) and he returned to Nigeria on June 20, 1982, as a free citizen after about twelve years in exile.

There has been no true Nigerian leader with courage to address fundamental issues, face reality or do justice in the polity. Nigeria needs courage to right the wrongs of the past, based on equity and justice and the media has a vital role to play in this sacred and social cleansing project. Heavens will not fall when justice is done in Nigeria. On the contrary, Heaven will bless those who have courage to do right.

I have never seen a country where the law and Constitution says that violent overthrow of government is a crime and then the law makers of the country go ahead to remunerate those who overthrew the law and the Constitution of that same country. If that be considered right, equity demands that lesser offenders need to be equally compensated according to the enormity of their crimes.

The hefty pensions awarded to former coup plotters and their families by David Mark-led National Assembly, himself a retired Brigadier General, served to legitimise the illegality of coups in Nigeria. At the present time, nobody know how many persons in this category earn multiple pensions from the Nigerian treasury because some of them acquired legitimate political positions after retiring from military service.

What message is the National Assembly and Nigerian media sending to the younger generation and all rational minds? Carry out whatever heinous crime you can. Just make sure you succeed because you will enjoy the fruits of your illegality ever after.

It is demeaning and unjust to place duly elected Presidents of Nigeria in the same pedestal as military dictators. It signifies disregard for democratic values. It places military rule in the same category as democratic governance and that is really tragic.

All the above are reinforced by the provisions of Subsection (2) of Section 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation), 1999, Decree No. 24, which states: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
Chapter 6, Part 1, Section 132 of that Decree which currently serves as the Nigerian Constitution, sets out .clear processes for the election of a President of that Federal Republic of Nigeria. Carrying out a military coup is not one of the processes.

Section 14(1) of the same Decree states: “(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on principles of democracy and social justice. (2) It is hereby accordingly declared that (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives its powers and authority.”

It follows from the above that Presidency of Nigeria is not a title to be frivolously awarded to anyone by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or conferred on former military dictators by some over-zealous media practitioners.

It is for this reason that a large number of well-meaning and intensely patriotic Nigerians are currently withholding their recognition of the declaration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as President of Nigeria because of serious irregularities and alleged fraud that attended the disputed February 25, 2023 presidential election until the Nigerian judiciary confirms the true winner of the election. The holder of the esteemed position of President of Nigeria must merit and earn it by electoral due process.

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