President Muhammadu Buhari the other day appointed his cabinet that has raised some curiosities in the polity. While piecemeal appointments into other governmental institutions are ongoing, we need to do some content analysis as a guide to our leaders at this time. First, the emerging picture from presidential appointments so far, is one of continued lopsidedness – since 2015.
In spite of clarion calls on the government to redress the in-balance in the polity, it has missed every opportunity to do so. And this is very precarious for this delicate federation, as this newspaper has noted several times here.
However, it can be recalled that since the takeover of control of the central government in 2015 by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the fragile unity of Nigeria has been consistently pushed to its elastic limits. Its leadership takes the country for a conquered territory and largely ignores the sensibility of the multinational state. This is evident in virtually all the institutions of the state.
The consequence is that more than ever before, the colonial sinews and innovative bonds of unity that some of the country’s central players had mainstreamed in the past have gradually begun to sever. As some observers have noted, players at the centre forget easily that our country is a federal secular state and have carried on haughtily without caring a hoot about the foundational bricks that make for an enduring union.
It has been quite curious that the Nigerian leader had again an auspicious occasion to remedy the loud complaint about his clannishness but lost it. It is obvious from the cabinet posting that key cabinet positions went to the north-west and north-east zones while the ministry of interior given to a southerner was cropped off the police department in a manner of being in office without power.
Specifically, all the nine appointees from the northwest have full cabinet positions in high-spending ministries. This is too brazen and dastardly. Previously, the appointment canvas was one of ethnic and nepotistic relief, for instance. The appointments of heads of military, security, intelligence, police and even para-military agencies have already typified the sectional canvas since 2015.
The personnel include the following: Director-General, Department of State Security Services, Yusuf Magaji Bichi; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Burutai; Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar; Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd); Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Mustapha Abdallah; Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede; Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu; Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali, Minister for Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau; Director-General, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Modibbo Hamman Tukur; Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu and Controller General of the Nigeria Prison Service, Ja’afaru Ahmed.
As if the above was not enough, opportunities for remediation were squandered. For example, the appointment of Justice Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria, despite clear succession protocol to that exhorted office was met with unconscionable dilatoriness until the Vice President in acting capacity did the needful in 2017. Also, the appointment of Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi as Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to replace Mr. Matthew Seiyefa in active service left a bile in the mouth.
In her moment of trial, the finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun who hailed from South Western Nigeria, was easily replaced by Hajia Zainab Ahmed rounding off a clear dominance of key cabinet positions by personnel from the core northern parts of the country. The country’s armed forces are equally dominated by personnel of the same ethnicity with the president. It is reprehensible that even in this math of domination; minorities in the north and of different faiths are not factored into the equation. And what often is ignored is that, a scrutiny of appointees from the zones of the north also reveals a predominance of the president’s ethnicity with a widespread residency in the zones.
It is important to note that the framers of the post-1966 constitutions, after the trauma of a civil war, have always engrossed in the constitution the federal character principle to ensure that every section of the country is a participant in the affairs of his country. In so doing, they were not misguided and it smacked of political wisdom and was a masterstroke in nation-building. The 1999 Constitution as amended has clear provisions for this. And it bears repeating once again as we have done before if only to remind the current minders of the constitutionality of the point being made.
In Section 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution, the federal character principle is spelt out unambiguously: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.”
Under the prevailing administration, it would appear that the principle has been consigned to the dustbin of history. It is in reality a violation of the constitution. The president has carried on in a cavalier manner with consistent petulance previously displayed by yet again swamping the federal bureaucracy and the presidency with family members and cronies without regard for competence, public opinion and sense of justice. It portrays the president as only a president of a section of the country. This is bad for the legitimacy of the incumbent and the nurturing of the patriotism of the citizens. In this case, it is not too late to toe the path of wisdom and we say with all sense of responsibility and seriousness that merit and grains of nation building must not be sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity and clannishness. Nigeria is bigger than its leaders. In the main, no leader pursues policies that are capable of threatening the unity and security of his nation such as this.
And so there should be a quick introspection on this nation question challenge before it is too late.
*This Editorial was first published by The Guardian (Nigeria) on September 10, 2019.