Two other political parties, the Labour Party and Progressive Peoples Alliance, have joined the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in refusing to hang the portrait of President Muhammadu Buhari in their respective secretariats.
The two parties hinged their decision on the action of the ruling All Progressives Congress, which before it came to power, allegedly refused to hang the portrait of former President Goodluck Jonathan in its national secretariat.
“We will never hang his (Buhari) portrait in this office, because President Buhari is not known to our party. He is not a leader of our party and, therefore, we will never put his portrait here. We are a political party, very partisan and therefore, we are not going to hide that,” Metuh had told our correspondent on the telephone.
One of our correspondents, who visited the national secretariat of the PPA, situated along Emeka Anyaoku Street, Area 10, Garki Abuja, on Friday, observed that the President’s portrait was conspicuously missing.
The National Chairman of the party, Mr. Peter Ameh, explained that the APC blazed the trail of “subtle civil disobedience” when it was in opposition.
Ameh said, “Your storyline should be whether the APC had the photograph of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. They did not. And that is the story; the APC did not have Jonathan’s portrait in the party’s national secretariat.
“Everything is about precedent. Throughout Jonathan’s tenure, the APC didn’t have his photograph; so, may be other political parties are also learning from the precedent set by the APC. They are following in the footsteps of the party during the last administration.”
A similar situation obtained at the national secretariat of the LP also situated in Garki.
The National Chairman, LP, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, said the party did not have Buhari’s portrait, noting that apart from the fact that the APC never accorded Jonathan such respect, the new administration had failed to make the official portrait of Buhari available to it.
Abdulsalam said, “We don’t have the photograph of President Buhari in our secretariat because the APC never had the photograph of ex-President Jonathan in their offices.
“We are supposed to get it but we don’t. The fact of the matter is that the Federal Ministry of Information should have called us, not only political parties, to say that the President’s photograph is available at the Federal Ministry of Information and that all organisations should apply for it.”
Meanwhile, top chieftains of the PDP have expressed divergent views on the position espoused by Metuh.
A stalwart of the party in Oyo State, Senator Lekan Balogun, said hanging of the President’s portrait should not be an issue to Nigerians.
Although he questioned PDP’s position on it, Balogun, however, said that if the constitution did not back hanging of the President’s portraits in all places, discretion should be exercised in doing so.
He said, “If it has become acceptable by the years, it is left for anybody to hang it. It will sound partisan to the extreme. It is not a constitutional requirement, but the PDP should not be the party that will reject hanging the President’s portrait, bearing in mind that when Goodluck Jonathan of the party served as President, everybody put his portrait in their offices at the time.
“Unless you can prove that when Jonathan was ruling, the APC did not hang his portrait, it should not be an issue. It is the kind of thing Nigerians play on.”
A prominent member of the party from the state, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), refused to comment on the issue. He told our correspondent that if the PDP had taken a position on the issue, he would rather not comment on it.
The Chairman and the Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kwara State chapter, Iyiola Oyedepo and Rex Olawoye, however differed with Metuh.
In separate telephone interviews with one of our correspondents in Ilorin, they stated that Metuh’s position was wrong, adding that as the President of Nigeria, Buhari’s portrait should be everywhere and that he deserved to be respected.
However, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, dismissed the controversy as “a non-issue.”
A constitutional lawyer, Fred Agbaje, who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH in a telephone interview, described the practice of displaying presidents’ portraits as a civic responsibility embedded in the constitution.
According to him, though the constitution does not expressly provide that the President’s portrait be hung, failure to do so in public places amounts to reneging on a civic responsibility, which is a constitutional requirement.
He said, legally, by one of those old 1960 laws, which we inherited, we are supposed to do that (display presidents’ portraits). “Even if it is not part of our constitution, it is part of our civic duty under the constitution that all public places should display the portrait as a mark of respect for constituted authority.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Emeka Ngige, similarly told SUNDAY PUNCH that although the constitution did not explicitly provide that the President’s portrait must be hung, it had become a universally accepted convention as a sign of accordance of respect.