The rift between the executive and the legislative arms of government, once again, manifested at the 58th Independence Day anniversary as the leadership of the National Assembly was conspicuously absent.
But two former Heads of State, Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar, alongside Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, were among the dignitaries that witnessed the Independence parade with President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2015, but recently dumped the president’s party for Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The Senate President is one of the presidential aspirants on the PDP platform, while Dogara has also picked the PDP House of Representatives nomination form.
Why I was absent — Saraki
Explaining why he was absent at the ceremony, Senate President, Saraki, said he was out of Abuja attending to other important political assignments as an aspirant to clinch the presidential ticket of PDP, ahead of its primaries, weekend. He also said in his home state, Kwara, the gubernatorial primary election took place yesterday and required his presence.
Special Adviser to Saraki on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, who spoke on his behalf, said his principal was unavoidably absent at the parade ground because he would also meet with Kogi delegates to the national convention of the PDP.
According to him, these are two very important political assignments that required the attention of the Senate President. Olaniyonu said: “The Senate President and a frontline presidential aspirant on the platform of the PDP is currently not in Abuja, he is at the moment in his home state, Kwara. ‘’The governorship primary is holding today (yesterday) in Kwara and he must be present and after that, he will be holding a meeting with Kogi State delegates to the PDP National Convention.
These are two very important assignments that require his attention.” Spokesperson of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Turaki Hassan, said he had no idea if his boss was invited to the event or why he was not present at the ceremony. “Actually, I am out of Abuja and I don’t know what is happening there,” he said.
President Buhari did not make any speech at the ceremony that saw different armed forces displaying their combat readiness in case of any external aggression and even internal strife. The Nigeria Police was not left out, as its outriders entertained the public, which included members of the federal cabinet, Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, and other government functionaries.
Also present was a former military leader, Oladipo Diya. There was inspection of guards by President Buhari, which was followed by march past in slow and quick time. There was also march past by para-military organisations, agencies and Nigeria Police Force mounted troops. The last time the ceremony held at the Eagle Square was in 2010 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
That parade in 2010 was marred by bomb blasts. Since that year, subsequent independence anniversary parades were held in low key at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Buhari, who made national broadcast marking the 58th independence anniversary at 7am yesterday, broke the jinx and arrived the Eagle Square venue of the parade around 9.30am.
According to the programme circulated to guests, Saraki and Dogara were listed to arrive the venue by 9.10a.m for the event. Even on Sunday, at the interdenominational church service at National Christian Centre, NCC, Abuja, Dogara was listed on the programme to take the second Bible reading but he was absent and the reading was then taken by former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon. There was also aerial show by Nigerian Air Force. Before departing the venue, President Buhari signed the 58th Independence anniversary register.