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Quo vadis Interim Government? (2), by Mike Ozekhome


In the 1st part of this expose, we started by asking the suggestion of an Interim Government in Nigeria amounts to Interim Nonsense. We, then, traced the catalyst of such an idea to Datti Baba-Ahmed interview, after which we rounded off the discussion by wondering whether Interm Governments are Coups in Disguise.

In this part, we shall start by concluding our discussion of the question of whether Interim Governments are Coups in Disguise. We shall then examine the notion of Interim Governments holistically, starting with its definition; moving to factors which may necessitate them; and concluding with the Nigerian Experience thereof (not necessarily in that order). Please, read on.


This leaves the option of a military take-over – GOD FORBID! It is for this reason – and this reason alone -that patriots and lovers of democracy have raised their voices against the suggestion. I hereby humbly add mine. Yes, our experience in democracy since its return 24 years ago has been anything but stellar. I was in the trenches for years to drive the military back to their barracks – CLO, UDD, JACON, etc. I experienced its ugliest side in perspectives too horrific to narrate here. I readily concede that our flawed electoral process, notwithstanding successive legislative interventions in virtually every electoral cycle – has forced the hedgehog out of its burrow. Afterall, a frog does not run in the daytime for nothing. It is either after something or something is after it. The political class has repeatedly failed us. It has refused to get its acts together, notwithstanding that it would be the single biggest loser were democracy to be truncated yet again. However, I firmly believe none of these challenges and shortcomings is enough reason, in my humble opinion, to abandon the Nigerian contraption project, which at any rate, has forever been a work-in-progress.

Any suggestion that the solution to the glaringly evident flaws in the last bastardised “elections” (which are legion and nauseating), is an unconstitutional structure called an ‘Interim government’, would not only subvert the presumed will of the people, but would also replace an admittedly repulsive and compromised system with a raging amoebic monster, so grotesque that it’s precise form, shape and structure are unknown. Such an idea – if it ever sees the light of day – will, in all likelihood, not only make a bad situation infinitely worse; it might end up consuming all of us. It may open a Pandoras Box, whose contents are presently unimaginable. It is like opening a whitened sepulchre. Know it now that the fowl does sweat, but it is its feathers that prevent us from seeing its sweat. Having an interim government to me, is simply akin to a man who pours palm wine in the ground in the name of preserving it, but ends up getting the spirits drunk.

To put it bluntly, the idea of an Interim government (even if it was historically expedient 30 years ago during the military dictatorship of General Ibrahim Babangida), is simply unworkable under the present political dispensation. The situations are quite dissimilar. It is when the termite decides to fly like a bird that it enters into trouble.

This is because the circumstances in which the Ernest Shonekan interim government was installed in 1993 was the June 12, 1993 annulment of the Presidential elections won clearly by Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. The annulment was executed by the Babangida military junta. Such circumstances do not presently exist- unless the proponents of the ING are calling for the replication of the same scenario. Once again, God forbid! At any rate, that IG only lasted for barely 90 days, before it was promptly declared illegal by a Lagos High Court on 10th of November, 1993. According to late Hon. Justice Dalapo Akinsanya, the courageous Judge who declared the Shonekan ING illegal, the erstwhile military ruler, General Babangida, had no legitimate power to sign a Decree post-August 26, 1993, after his exit from power. She held that “the Decree by which the Interim National Government was established was void and of no effect”. The suit had been filed by the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election Chief M.K.O Abiola, who was not only prevented from governing Nigeria, but was also killed in hazy circumstances in Aso Villa. (See Ernest Shonekan and Interim National Governance in Nigeria; Oladiti Abiodun Kazeem on October, 03, 2014 < Accessed on 2nd April, 2023>). See the case of Madzimbamuto v. Lardner-Burke (1969) 1 AC 645.

The abhorrence of coup d’etat in Africa has since been formalised. On Monday, the 25th day of April, 2022, the representatives of the African Union (AU) Member States; members of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU; AU Organs/ institutions and the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution (RECs/RMs); as well as the representatives of African Civil Society Organisations (CSOs); academic, professional bodies; youth and women groups; and other stakeholders, strongly condemned all forms of unconstitutional change of government in Africa, coup pepertrators and manipulation of democratic processes to effect constitutional amendments and urged all interested parties to address political concerns through the available national legal mechanisms to find solutions in a constructive, peaceful and constitutionally accepted manner.

To the extent that the circumstances in which interim governments are viable options, such as the India experience in the build-up to her independence in 1948) do not exist in Nigeria, to that extent must we remind ourselves of the dangers and bitter lessons of history in our previous unpalatable experience with that idea. If an unelected military junta could not sustain that Shonekan experiment, it is hard to see how a civilian government, which has just concluded a most shambolic general election can accomplish it. This government will never agree to hoist an interim government. Doing so will be self-immolatory. It will be tantamount to the story of a beetle – whether it rolls its dung forward or backward – it ends up rolling it into its burrow. An interim government, though called a government, is never a legitimate government. Surely, the alligator is not a crocodile, even though they look alike. The alligator is a mere infantry officer, while the crocodile is a Naval Admiral. It is only the tortoise that knows how best to carry its hard shell.

Let us now explore the world of IGs to show us why they are detestable. It is important at this juncture, to define exactly what an IG means. According to the Institute for Integrated Transitions (See htpps://ifit-transitions-9rg; Interim Governments: Lessons and Guidelines, November, 2020<Accessed on 2/4/23), “an Interim government is a formally constituted government holding an extra-ordinary mandate to conduct governmental affairs for an extraordinary term lasting until the election of a new government for an ordinary term with an ordinary mandate.” The Institute adds that this definition excludes the following:

i Unelected governments established for an interim period without the promise of ordinary elections within a reasonable timeframe; and ii Elected governments that remain provisionally in place as part of the ordinary process and rules for the transfer of power or the temporary filling of a conventional constitutional vacuum.

Also,, regarded an IG as “a provisional government, also called an interim government, an emergency government, or a transitional government. It is an emergency governmental authority set up to manage a political transition generally in the cases of a newly formed state or following the collapse of the previous governing administration. Provisional governments are generally appointed, and frequently arise, either during or after civil or foreign wars. Provisional governments maintain power until a new government can be appointed by a regular political process, which is generally an election. They may be involved with defining the legal structure of subsequent regimes, guidelines related to human rights and political freedoms, the structure of the economy, government institutions, and international alignment.” Provisional government (See Wikipedia; https: //en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Provisional _ government).

Again, in one of its publications on March 30, 2023, had this to give as the meaning of interim government; “Therefore, an interim government is an emergency governmental authority set up to manage a political transition, sometimes in the case of a newly formed country or following the collapse of a previous administration. It can be an unelected government established for an interim period or an elected government that remains provisionally in place pending the successful conduct of an election. This can be at the state or federal level.” (See Interim Government; What you need to know – Simply Law;

We can therefore comfortably surmise that an interim government can only result or manifest in a situation where the norm, convention or legally institutionalized system and/or process fails. Interim governments from the definitions above and from the instances that will be analyzed in this intervention, will and should only be in contemplation where there is an impossibility, or at worst, a near impossibility to continue the norm or the legally provided mode for change of government in a state. Interim government should just be a mechanism to hold the state intact pending the return of a legitimate government.

Viewed from this perspective, it will mean that an interim government should not be in contemplation where the legitimate mode for change of government is still in process, and has not failed or been exhausted; and where there is no situation or state of emergency. This will therefore suggest that any calls or clamours for an interim government before the occurrence of any of the following conditions listed below, will have no justification, or be ripe. Such calls may therefore be interpreted to mean a motive to sabotage the lawful and peaceful existence of the state. It may amount to a home rat venturing into the forest to wrestle with a bush rat.

Interim governments must therefore be seen as a mere contingency plan, designed to normalize a bad situation.

Interim governments do not just spring forth from the blues in normal circumstances. No. The factors and causes would have been there for long – even if dormant and latent. But it is only the ant that hears the whispers of the sand; just as it is only the worm that knows what is buried in the earth. Vigilant Nigerians had seen these signs long ago. Aare Babalola is one of them. I am one of them. My daily write-ups and frequent television appearances wholly attest to this. (To be continued).

“The government is us; we are the government, you and I”. (Theodore Roosevelt).

God bless my numerous global readers for always keeping faith with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by humble me, Prof Mike Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR, FCIArb., LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D. kindly, come with me to next week’s exciting dissertation.

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