Lopsided appointments and nation-building

The mood of the nation today allows Buhari to ignore the elders, and if he so desires, seek from his Daura village a minister for Federal Capital Territory who would not cede prime Abuja land to a sitting president, his wife and secretary to government, ministers of petroleum and finance who will not jointly preside over the theft and disbursement of N1.7trilion to fuel fraudsters; a minister of internal affairs who will not fleece young job seekers of over N1billion and end up supervising state murder of some of them through sloppy arrangement”.

That was this column’s September 2, 2015 call on President Buhari to ignore the reactions of Professor Nwabueze, Pa Edwin Clark and Pa Okunronmu to his first wave of appointments which they claimed heavily tilted towards the north.

With the level of incompetence displayed by President Buhari’s APC government in managing our crisis of nation-building in the last five years, many will today readily admit we have merely replaced the impunity and recklessness of Jonathan and his ministers with the impunity, sectionalism and cronyism of Buhari and his ‘loyal gate keepers’.

The basis of my optimism in 2015 was Buhari’s promise to make a U-turn from a 50-years journey through an uncharted dark alleys that led to nowhere and return to Awo’s “Path to Nigerian freedom” never taken, which guarantees social justice for our multi-ethnic society that shares some parallels with India where smaller ethnic groups that cannot stand on their own form a federation within India federation of big ethnic nationalities.

Most of those who voted Buhari in 2015 strongly believed the author of ‘Nigeria has no other country they can call their own’ and who Maitama Sule in 2015 described as: “a Nigerian with sense of justice and fair play”; was out to enthrone social justice.

If he ever erred, his miracle-seeking supporters thought, it would be on account of impatience to see the country attain her potentials. Even those he had jailed in 1984 for reporting the truth that ‘embarrassed government’ gave him another chance.

Disagreement over ethnic and religious representations are but symptoms of crisis of nation-building associated with multi-ethic, multi-lingual and multi-religious state like ours.

Quite often, the answer to unity in diversity is a workable federal arrangement that will guarantee freedom, liberty and equality for every linguistic group, making up the federating state. This is never achieved through coercion, the option chosen by the military since 1966.

And this is why all the self-serving military social engineering efforts such as JAMB, quota system of admission to tertiary institutions and federal character in recruitment and appointment have become of sources of disharmony than foundations of unity.

But what went wrong? First, President Buhari has shown no inclination towards governing the country. He instead chose to abdicate governance to loyal gate-keepers who were not equipped for modern art of governance and who probably never shared his pan-Nigeria passion that won him the 2015 election.

Forgetting the buck stops at his table, he allowed his warring self-serving ‘loyal gate keepers’ to substitute bureaucratic systematic processes and organized hierarchies that are necessary for maintaining order and ensuring maximize efficiency with arrogance, impunity and favouritism.

The Presidency was in chaos. Without reference to the acting President, Lawal Daura organized mid-night invasion of Supreme Court justices’ houses and later the National Assembly.

Abubakar Malami without clearance from anyone went to Dubai for a meeting with Abdulrasheed Maina, a fugitive offender on the run from justice after an indictment by a probe set up by the National Assembly. Malami even attempted to smuggle him through the back door into the bureaucracy.

Forgetting that participatory democracy in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious setting makes interventions of constituents groups and individuals in political decisions and policies that affect their lives imperative, the gatekeepers started to exploit the president’s weakness including studying his body language to fill key positions not on the basis of merit but tribe and religion inclinations.

Yusuf Magaji Bichi from Kano was appointed on September 14, 2018 to replace Matthew Seiyefa from Bayelsa who had replaced Lawal Daura, a prominent member of Aso Villa house of commotion. Some elders from Southern Nigeria and the Middle-Belt claimed six competent senior hands in the State Security Service, who were from the South were bypassed to appoint Bichi, a northerner who had retired from the service.

On September 14, Zainab Ahmed replaced Mrs Kemi Adeosun who resigned over NYSC certificate scandal as finance minister.

The trend continued with the replacement of Babatunde Fowler as chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with Muhammed Nami and Dakuku Peterside as Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) with Dr. Bashir Jamoh .

Punch newspapers in its August 1, 2016 editorial called attention to what it described as President Buhari’s ‘unprecedented sectionalism’.

According to the editorial, “the president ‘ring-fenced himself with appointees from his northern constituency; recruited a retired military officer to man the Department of State Services; imposed a personal acquaintance as Chief of Staff, and loaded the other security and law enforcement agencies heavily in favour of northerners and ‘in spite of public opinion, he replaced the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, a Southerner, with a Northerner, an Assistant Inspector-General whose ascension induced the retirement in one fell swoop of 21 DIGs and AIGs who were senior to him.’ The paper had advised the president to “rise above primordial instincts and become a father to all Nigerians”.

On August 10, 2016, a coalition of Christian groups raised an alarm not just about the lopsided appointments in the security services, but also about what was described as the privatization of the education key positions including the National University Commission, (NUC) the polytechnics, Colleges of Educations, TETFUND, JAMB, NTI, NABTEB and UBEC controlled by northerners.

A prominent member of the northern political class and Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Muhammed on his part had described the situation where about seven names he alleged are the president’s relatives, constitute the power behind the throne in the villa as the “worst form of nepotism in the history of government in Nigeria.”

But as indicated above, nepotism, favouritism and lopsided recruitment and appointment are but symptoms of crisis of nation-building which according to ex-President Obasanjo “must be given continued attention to give every citizen a feeling of belonging and a stake in his or her country”.

Even with our First Republic’s three regions (later four), there were struggle for federal positions. The response of the Western Region to the control of federal institutions such as Yaba College of Technology, University of Lagos and University of Ibadan by Igbo, the junior partner in the NPC/NCNC coalition was to set up University of Ife to cater for the interest of her people. That was possible because we ran a fiscal federalism.

Fair and equitable representation helps in managing crisis of nation-building. But what reduces tension in a multi-ethnic society is a workable federal structure that guarantees social justice for all citizens.

There is no part of our country that is today guaranteed peace with the export of insecurity and almajiris to other parts of the country by the same north that controls most of the security formations and seven of the eight key positions in the education sector.

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