The Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) provided the oath of allegiance and oath of office to be sworn to by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, conducted by the Chief Justice of the Federation, during inauguration observance for the office and this formulates an express legal obligation known to the law, binding on the President, before commencing a tenure of office.
Whereas Section 140 is very apposite on this subject matter, Section 140(1) “A person elected to the office of President shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in this Constitution and he has taken and subscribed the oath of allegiance and the oath of office prescribed in the Seventh Schedule to this Constitution. (2) The oaths aforesaid shall be administered by the Chief Justice of Nigeria or the person for the time being appointed to exercise the functions of that office” and whereas sections 130 to 139 of the same Constitution also unambiguously provided for every legal requisites and issues flowing from the subject matter of the office of the President, we do not see anywhere inaugural speech was mentioned by the framers of the Constitution.
The above position is to hold that the law is not interested in whether or not a duly elected and validly sworn in President impresses his audience with a speech or not, this position expressly denotes that there is no legal wrong flowing from a non-donation of an inaugural speech.
Should there also be any other law in Nigeria that provides for an inaugural speech on Inauguration Day, it is at variance with the Constitution, therefore, null and void, referencing Section1(3) of the same Constitution, it also goes further to advance that there is no offence flowing from this matter at the moment.
Before we crucify President Muhammadu Buhari, it passes the test of reasonableness that we first establish two things to correctly assert that he has erred by his conduct of no inaugural speech on Inauguration Day, (1) the physical conduct itself (2) mental element or intent, that is, why was it not done? Except we are saying there is a strict liability on not donating an inaugural speech, which, of a fact, there is none. Those who are criticising him needed to have conducted an empirical inquiry before putting up the reckless, malicious, rancorous and acrimonious criticisms, which are objectively very laughable and frivolous to any reasonable and prudent man in business.
In another sense, the holder of office of the President has a social contract with Nigerian citizens, therefore, on the premise of tradition, is expected to read an inaugural speech to Nigerians for his new tenure after the very successful tenure, which ended by effluxion of time, concurrently make promises to Nigerians (whether those promises shall be fulfilled or not), I align my opinion with this position and it is abundantly clear that President Buhari did not rescind this traditional obligation. The President, as we have seen so far, has not since the beginning of his first tenure conducted himself in a manner that may derogate Nigerians, he has always taken all Nigerians in very high esteem with a fatherly concern.
However, all reasonable and rational minds see it as unwarranted attempts to whip up cheap sympathy, unwise, unpatriotic, irrational selfishness as well as politics of bitterness embedded in self-aggrandizements from those who believe their candidate must win or nothing has been done well to indulge in the kind of bitter criticisms as we have witnessed after the inauguration on May 29, 2019.
We have observed from different media platforms the backlashes of the mischief-makers calling for President Buhari to be “crucified” because he did not deliver an inaugural speech at Eagle Square, Abuja. This is a clear dissipation of their negative energies, an attempt to make a mountain out of a molehill and cause disaffection between the President and the teeming majority of Nigerians from all the federating states who have seen the sincerity of purpose in President Buhari and have wholeheartedly stood by him; the numbers keep increasing by the day because it is a consensus decision of the Nigerian people to adopt June 12 as our Democracy Day and this present government has placed significance on this date, to the joy of well-meaning Nigerians, and we all know the reasons behind it.
Immediately after the inauguration, many trusted media organisations consistently passed information that it is expected the President shall give a speech on June 12, so it is conspicuously meaningless for the opposition to be propelling their usual kind of unpatriotic reactions on this matter without even waiting for June 12.
One would have thought that every Nigerian should have been happy that we have a President who does not want to cunningly extend his tenure based on the new consensus on June 12, which is what other people would have done. Did we not witness a President who wanted to extend his term of office into a third one, against our Constitution? Or don’t we know that another two weeks in office is a big deal?
It is either an innocently ignorant fellow or a mischievous person who has set out to deceive gullible Nigerians that can claim he is not aware that the President’s action is targeted at symbolising the June 12.
We will not also say we have not heard from the President for long because he has been consistently speaking to all Nigerians recently, even two days before Inauguration Day.
Few fundamental questions we are asking here, between inaugural speech and good governance, which one should Nigerians place our priority upon? Were those in opposition voting their candidate because of inaugural speech? If the opposition were voting their candidate because of inaugural speech, well-meaning Nigerians voted President Buhari for second tenure because of his abundant good governance.
Between those that hired powerful speechwriters to enable them give Nigerians beautiful but not result-oriented inaugural speeches for 16 years and President Buhari’s four years of governance, which should Nigerians objectively and sincerely appreciate and desire more?
Honestly, we, the majority of Nigerians, prefer the President who did not give us the traditional grammar-garnished inaugural speech that would not flow from his conscience but was guided by his very good conscience to give us more good governance to the opposite.
We prefer a President with impeccable character with a proven, unimpeachable integrity, who is clean, sincere and bold enough to declare his assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau before coming into office in 2015 for his first tenure and bold to declare it again after his four years in office as an elected democratic President.
This is better than giving us a good speech and thereafter leading the business of corruption.
If not to secure cheap political points, we all know that the President is not economical in marshalling out his account of stewardship to Nigerians and the whole world at any slightest opportunity, to the extent that many complain that he is too sincere and open and does not hide anything from public knowledge.
We all know that PMB is not in the business of deceitful razzmatazz embedded in smooth speeches targeted at hoodwinking Nigerians, which many other politicians take delight in doing.
Some of the rabble-rousers are saying it is the inaugural speech that would tell us what to expect from the President in his second tenure; common sense suggest that a man came into office declaring his three major areas of concern, economy, security and fight against corruption, and, sincerely speaking, that is the most intelligent programme of a government in Nigeria that we have ever seen, because, when you expatiate on those areas, you would notice that all other things are anchored on them. Once a government in Nigeria gets them right, all other problems have been solved. We know that those areas have not been totally fixed because of the precarious state the APC government met them and the government has done credibly well so far. What a reasonable person should expect are improvements on the efforts already made to make Nigerians experience better living standards and nothing more, and the President acknowledges this fact on a daily basis. Do we not also remember again that there is a document called party manifesto? APC has a manifesto. Any person can conduct further inquiries into it for other details on what to expect from PMB and challenge the party on issues in the manifesto, that is how intelligent oppositions with good intent and interest of the nation at heart conduct their business of criticisms against government. Did we not listen to the President during his campaign tour in all the 36 states of the federation? That is also another ground upon which an intelligent opposition party should challenge the government in power.
Inaugural speech is a product of the tradition and traditions are made by humans for humans not humans made by traditions for traditions. Therefore, traditions could be altered, suspended or even abrogated once such conducts are not repugnant to equity, natural justice and good conscience or do not cause an injury to any person or constitute any legal wrong.
The time to rebuild our dear nation is now. We must stop chasing inconsequential issues and face those major issues challenging us as a nation, devoid of political party affiliations. All Nigerians must rise and support President Buhari to continue to rebuild this nation, not scavenging for trivial issues to distract him. Nigeria belongs to every Nigerian, therefore, we must all nurture it.
•Agbaeze writes from Bello Al-Adam Integrity Forum, Abuja