The appointment, last week, of mainly individuals of Northern extraction by President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to stir wild debates amongst Nigerians, as fears that the new president may be championing a so-called northern agenda become increasingly palpable, especially across the southern part of the country, writes SAMUEL OGUNDIPE in Abuja…
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, announced the appointment of six individuals to crucial positions in continuation of his quest to have his cabinet fully ready by next month.
Five of the six individuals, as revealed in a press release signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, hail from the northern part of the country.
Mr. Buhari has been at the receiving end of relentless criticisms for his alleged indifference to geopolitical balance in appointing his administration top officials, especially as he continues to ignore the South-east geopolitical zone of the country. The latest controversy is coming ahead of the 100 days celebration of his assumption of office.
The Newest Appointments…
“President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the following appointments:
Engr. Babachir David Lawal – Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Abba Kyari – Chief of Staff to the President, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd.) – Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, Mr. Kure Martin Abeshi – Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Senator Ita S.J. Enang – SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Hon. Suleiman A. Kawu – SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives),” Mr. Adesina said in a statement posted on his Facebook page Thursday night.
The president has been running the country for over 3 months without filling crucial positions like SGF and CoS.
The announcement triggered a frenzy that has continued to provoke ethnic sentiments within the polity, with many expressing their reservations over some of the positions, especially over the top-level offices like those SGF and CoS.
“The president has refused to give any position to the Southeast since he came into office,” said political analyst Victor Okhai. “His action has not only made a mockery of the federal character system but also betrays him as a man with tribal and ethnic agenda, all of which are dangerous.”
Reacting in a similar vein, Mr. Demola Olarewaju, a Lagos-based PDP strategist and Coordinator of KoroNation, an independent political action think-tank, said the Buhari’s latest appointments are a vindication of the sentiments long held by his political opponents.
“President Buhari’s appointments so far,” Mr. Olarewaju told WESTERN POST Thursday, “reek of nepotism hiding under the guise that competence is the exclusive preserve of some parts of the country.”
Olarewaju also echoed Okhai’s sentiments that the president’s actions are not unexpected.
“It also confirms the fears of some concerning his candidacy and puts into action his infamous statement about 97% and 5%”, he said. Like he also said in that statement, one is confident that the Constitution will be the protector of ethnic diversities which despite his (the president’s) well-known ethnic biases must be upheld in line with the principle of federal character.
“Ethnically imbalanced as the APC is, I wish they’ll show more guts in protecting Nigeria’s multi-ethnic status,” he admonished.
In Defence of Buhari…
But the president’s media team and his party maintained that the appointments so far made are not enough to conclude that Buhari has a northern agenda, dismissing those who expressed various concerns with the president’s appointment pattern as detractors.
“If the president can find his best eleven in just a local government in Kogi or Plateau State,” argues Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the publicity secretary of APC’s Lagos chapter, “I am very comfortable with it, and I believe many Nigerians who want the country to progress believe the same, too.”
Igbokwe told WP that he hopes Nigerians will eschew their “primordial sentiments and ethnic preoccupation” and “cooperate with President Buhari in his relentless ambition to make the country a better place for all.”
A member of the president’s communication team, Mr. Olusegun Dada, said Nigerians should look at the quality of the appointments as announced by the president so far; while also accusing those who have continued to chorus marginalisation of channeling their deep-seated prejudice against the person of Buhari.
“The president is appointing people with whom he feels comfortable to work with,” he told WP in a mid-day interview on Friday. “Look at the quality of the other over 30 individuals he’d appointed and you’ll see he means business.
“People are only pandering to their long-held prejudice against the president as a person instead of them to look at the merits of his work so far.”
He said the government had given positions of financial authority to those who’re outside his geopolitical zone.
“One very clear action the president has taken to show that he has no ethnic or tribal agenda is the appointment of people who hailed from outside of his geopolitical zone to head the major financial agencies which include the NNPC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service.”
Dada further disclosed that the president will be filling over 5,000 government positions in the coming months and urged people to wait until the appointments have been concluded before screaming about the president having a northern agenda or being lopsided in his approach to appointments.”
“Nobody remembers the person (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo appointed as Chief of Staff and no one remembers who the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was under (former President Goodluck) Jonathan,” he said. “The president was elected based largely on the strength of his character and he will actualise the mandate given to him, which is why I don’t think these positions should be causing too much rancour.”
Some chieftain of the APC, who preferred anonymity to avoid disaffection within the party, said they have no way of describing the president’s appointment pattern so far than to say it’s lopsided.
One of them, a publicity secretary for the party’s chapter in one of the South-west states, said, “President Buhari has left many of us unbelievably worried about the direction of this administration.
“I think we would be doing Nigerians a disservice if we continue to keep mum and encourage the president to keep going in this dangerous direction,” he said.
“When we accused Jonathan of appointing only people from South-south and South-east, we were alluding to the key positions of those who will be very close to the president and who will help him in carrying out his major activities.
“Surely, those are just about 50 of the over 6,000 positions to be filled.
“The president seems to be going against the dictates of the federal character system that has continued to foster national unity amongst Nigerians and the party will need to convene a meeting soon to put things in check,” he added.
The federal character system is enumerated in the Constitution under the Third Schedule, and mandates “the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.”
The federal character system is largely seen as the driver of national integration and unity since it stipulates that federal positions must be filled equitably to reflect the diverse ethnic and tribal peculiarities of the nation.
Give New Leaders a Chance, Says Adebanjo
In his reaction, foremost Yoruba leader and Afenifere chieftain, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, said the president’s appointment pattern is overtly lopsided, but implored the plurality of the Yoruba to give the new leader a breather.
“Even though our agitation is still overwhelmingly about the need for true federalism, we will give the president the time he needs with the hope that he would implement some policies that will benefit our people.
“But there’s no question about the fact that the appointments so far have been lopsided, yet it only further establishes our position that Buhari’s is a case of a leopard that does not change its spots,” he said.
On Friday morning, Mr. Femi Adesina acknowledged the disparity in the appointments so far made by his principal.
Speaking during a live interview on RayPower FM in Abuja, he said: “In terms of the spread, the thing I will also like to say is that the President has the prerogative to make appointments and he knows that there is federal character in our constitution. I’m sure he bears that in mind as he makes the appointments that will come in the future. I believe that at the end of it all, there is going to be a balance.”
A WESTERN POST analysis of President Buhari’s appointment shows that he has approved appointment of 29 individuals to various consequential positions ranging from top NNPC officials to Directors-General of several government agencies.
Of these 29 appointments, 12 are from the North-west, where Buhari hails from, 7 went to the North-east, 4 positions were ceded to the South-south, North-central received 3, the South-west can boast of only 3 appointments and the South-east has continued to endure marginalisation with zero appointment from the zone.
•Aide de Camp to president: Lt. Col Abubakar Lawal, [Kano State, North-West and husband to President Buhari’s foster daughter].
•Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity: Garba Shehu (Kano State)
•State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant (Presidential Matters), Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure (Jigawa State)
•Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris (Kano State)
•Director General, State Security Services, SSS: Lawal Daura, (Katsina State)
•Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission, Umaru Dambatta (Kano State)
•Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives): Suleiman Kawu (Kano State)
•Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission, Mohammed Kari.
•Acting Chairperson, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Amina Zakari (Jigawa State)
•Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Aliyu Gusau (Zamfara State)
•Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Habibu Abdulahi [Kano State, North-West].
•Managing Director, Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, Ahmed Lawan Kuru (Kano State)
•Chief of Defence Intelligence, Monday Riku Morgan (Benue State)
•Director, Department Of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Modecai Baba Ladan (Niger State)
•Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Kure Martin Abeshi (Nasarawa State)
•Acting Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency, NIMASA, Baba Haruna Jauro (Yobe State)
•Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar (Bauchi State)
•National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno (Borno State)
•Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai (Borno State)
•Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari (Borno State)
•Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ibrahim Ali, (Bauchi State, North East).
•Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal (Adamawa State)
•Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the president, Femi Adesina (Osun State)
•Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonishakin (Ekiti State, South-West)
•Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Babatunde Fowler (Lagos State)
•Special Adviser, Niger Delta Amnesty Offic, Paul Boroh (Bayelsa State)
•Group Managing Director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Emmanuel Kachikwu (Delta State)
•Chief of Naval Staff: Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, (Cross Rivers, South-South).
•Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom State)
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