Hurray! It is September and Nigerians from the South can now expect to be called upon to serve their country as members of President Buhari’s cabinet. No, they are not going to be the National Security Adviser. They are not going to be Accountant-General of the Federation. They are not going to head DSS, EFCC or INEC. They are not going to head the Nigerian Ports Authority or the Nigerian Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency (NIMASA). They are not going to head Customs or Immigrations. Listen; there is quite a long list of serious positions they are not going to have because those positions have gone to the North. In the infinite wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari, after having searched the length and breadth of Nigeria looking for competent people who are also not tainted by the stain of corruption, these positions will only go to the North where there is an abundance of incorruptible and competent Nigerians.
If we applied to the Obasanjo Third-Term saga, or to the Goodluck Jonathan I-want-a-second-term saga the logic being espoused today by diehard Buharists as justification for the lopsidedness and apparent ethnocentric appointments he has made so far, Buhari would not be President today. As far as Obasanjo and Jonathan were concerned when they were in office, they were the best thing to happen to Nigeria since sliced bread, and so deserved to continue in office regardless of what Nigerians said. Some early-day Buhari sycophants are now telling us that competence and integrity are the only yardsticks by which Federal appointments are made in Nigeria. And if the President is only able to find every single appointee he needs in Katsina State…perhaps even in Daura, as long as they are competent and without blemish, he should go ahead and make those appointments. They have also arrogated to Buhari the exclusive right to appoint people without consulting the party; a literal explanation of the powers vested in the him by the Presidential system of government we are practicing in Nigeria.
Fortunately, in the room where these sycophants are conspiring and collaborating to feed Buhari with poison sit a couple of 1000 lbs gorillas – the gorillas of Nepotism, Sectionalism, Rank Discrimination and Marginalization. They ignore these gorillas at their own perils. Buhari ignores these gorillas at his own peril. Some of us still remember what happened to Aguiyi Ironsi when he failed to recognize these same gorillas at the time. With over 250 ethnic groups and different languages, only a foolish leader will fail to treat Nigeria as a diverse entity of equal…EQUAL parts.
True, Buhari reserves the right to appoint whomever he wants (although in some cases, the Senate has a say), the President did not come from heaven. This President in particular…this President that we all so warmly welcomed back into our lives after Decree 4…that we so massively trooped out to elect…did not come from heaven. Before he became available for us to elect in the general election, he went through the APC primary. People…not some self-righteous labels called “competence” and “integrity” today…physically sat in blazing sun and heavy rains to help him win the primary. People…human beings…spent their time and personal resources (not everybody that spent money to get him elected is a thief) before he was able to defeat Atiku Abubakar. The support that many key party members and delegates gave him caused them permanent damage to their anti-Buhari friends in the party and throughout the rest of the country. And these people who bent over backwards to get Buhari to Aso Rock are not all from the North. They are all from all over the country. So, how come these “competence” and “integrity” criteria are only finding and qualifying folks in the North to the detriment of the Southern part of the country?
All of a sudden, these apologists are now telling us that as long as the country is being run well, it does not matter the ethnicity of the appointees. If this was true, how come there was the strident clamor for the Presidency to return to the North? If it didn’t matter where competent people come from, how come we didn’t get our Vice President too from the North? Couldn’t we have found a more qualified VP from Kano State? We as a people and our leaders in particular do not learn from the past, even the recent past. Not too long ago, bootlickers and sycophants egged Jonathan on when he started to brazenly appoint people to positions of import that were mostly from the South-South and the East. They told him it was the turn of the “minorities” and he better make good use of it because once power returned to the North, their people would be relegated to second-class citizenship again. Many people, especially from the North, joined the struggle to remove Jonathan from power because of that singular action…shutting the North out of key positions. Easterners said he “put them in their place.”
When this latest round of appointments ignited the level of uproar Buhari did not expect and Buhari saw he was hemorrhaging a considerable amount of goodwill, he quickly dispatched his Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, to assuage the feelings of the aggrieved public by promising to “balance” future appointments – an indirect admission of the fact that the appointments so far were DELIBERATELY skewed in favor of the North. Why did he not make the North wait for “next appointments” if he was being fair to all of Nigeria? Are Southerners like Daura cows to be herded in September when he throws token ministerial appointments at them?
This self-inflicted wound allowed mischief makers to quickly remind those of us who supported Buhari as if our lives depended on it of what Buhari said when he was in the U.S:
“Going by election results, constituencies that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political realities. While, certainly there will be justice for everybody but the people who voted, and made their votes count, they must feel the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I think this is really fair.”
That unfortunate statement, which came from his heart and which his media team tried to downplay and walk back by claiming he was quoted out of context has now come to fruition. Buhari got more votes from the North; he is from the North. And so, his government must cater more to the interests of the North than those of Nigeria as a whole. In essence then, the man we all elected to the highly-esteemed position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…the man whom the North, by itself, failed to elect three times before… has demoted himself to President of Northern Nigeria.
A few ignorant people argue that appointees don’t necessarily benefit their ethnic regions or villages anyway; so why bother about where they come from at all. Such fallacy! Each head of the major organizations to which Buhari has appointed people gets to appoint scores (if not hundreds) of others; and they get to award contracts. If they too go by the Buhari doctrine of hiring mostly people from their region or only people they know personally, then we would really be in trouble in this country.
Some other ignorant people argue still that Buhari just started a four-year term and we should wait for about two more years before criticizing him. I think only in North Korea would you find a population in “unanimous support” of its leader from Day 1 until he dies. Not even Russia gives its leader a carte blanche for two out of four years. We are not Daura cows, I repeat.
The most laughable argument is that which accuses Buhari critics of trying to micro-manage him. In fact, the Presidency frequently alludes to that charge by telling bragging that “those who know the President know he cannot be teleguided by anybody.” No one I know has asked Buhari to appoint X, Y, or Z into any specific position. That would be attempting to teleguide him. That would be trying to micro-managing him. But asking him to allow his appointments to reflect the character of the country we have is not too much to ask. Sectional domination like this has caused many countries to go to war. Iraq is still boiling because of it. Where they don’t go to war, they stage coups such as the one IBB staged to remove…guess who…Buhari from power in 1985.
In his coup speech, IBB said:
“The principles of discussions, consultation and co-operation which should have guided decision-making process of the Supreme Military Council and the Federal Executive Council were disregarded soon after the government settled down in 1984. Where some of us thought it appropriate to give a little more time, anticipating a conducive atmosphere that would develop, in which affairs of state could be attended to with greater sense of responsibility, it became increasingly clear that such expectations could not be fulfilled. ..Regrettably, it turned out that Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance. Efforts to make him understand that a diverse polity like Nigeria required recognition and appreciation of differences in both cultural and individual perceptions, only served to aggravate these attitudes.” (Emphasis mine.)
Is Buhari consulting with those in his party who helped him win? I don’t know why it is so difficult to understand that Nigerians are not goats to be herded anyhow by anybody. I know the PDP (and especially Jonathan) messed things up so badly, but just because we want some meat, we are not going to prostrate before a cow. Buhari cannot say “oh, I am fighting corruption so well, therefore you must let me appoint ONLY my family members or my close friends to key positions.” This blatant, arrogant, in-your-face, and insensitive disposition will be his undoing. And it will damage APC to no end. Could he conceivably ask for votes in the South in 2019 with his record of appointments as it stands today? Granted he may not be seeking reelection, but what about the party? Does he want to damage the APC brand just because he has a chip on his shoulder? He cannot now become President and start acting as if he got there just by his good looks. If good looks could have done it, I would have been President by now. Buhari rode the APC #Change’s horse to power. He cannot now govern as if the party does not exist. Those who are saying he has more than three years left to right this wrong are acting as if tomorrow is promised to anyone. If he dies today (God forbid), I am sure the epitaph on his headstone will read something like: “Here lies Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Northern Nigeria.” Is that what he wants?