Published On: Thu, Sep 3rd, 2015

Northernisation of Buhari’s government

Last week’s appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari of his kitchen cabinet has closed the possibility of his running an inclusive government. Without any pretensions, he has declared unapologetically that this is a government of the north by the north, and possibly, for the north. It is not about the motive and intention as some otherwise intelligent southerners posit; it is about visible evidence on the ground. Action, it is said, speaks louder the voice.

At no other time in our history has the government been so dangerously skewed in favour of a part of the country than now. Any leader with some measure or modicum of sensibility would have deliberately tried to ameliorate such lopsidedness in government. But not this president; he still went ahead to rob it in daring even those who laboured against all odds including sacrificing their own political future and interest of their people to make him president. This is a betrayal of trust and regrettable.

Many South Westerners, especially in the media, seem to be indifferent to this development on the basis that trust and competence should be put above balancing and federal character in appointments of top aides. Yet, some notable Northern leaders, like Alhajis Balarabe Musa and Tanko Yakassi, have expressed concern and reservations over this. It is, therefore, shameful for any Southerner to justify such appointments.

The simple truth is that President Buhari is pursuing a warped and discriminatory agenda, which no Southern president, even the great Obasanjo, could and can contemplate. Look at the hoopla the North made about composition of the delegates to the last national conference, an excuse they have continued to raise as basis to reject the report.

One is amused by the argument of some youthful Southern APC supporters of PMB for their apparent ignorance and political naivety who are living in denial of the unfolding Northernisation of Nigeria, perhaps to continue to rationalize their support for him in the election. Ironically, the South which for long has borne the indignity of quota and federal character to avoid dominance of government by a section is now a willing victim of it. What the North has rejected Buhari wants the South to accept.

My worry in this unquestioned Southern support for PMB is the danger to our democracy because it is the South with its control of the media and civil society groups that can stop the emergence of a dictatorship, a role we seem to be abdicating. We can complain all we can about the failure of Southern leaders in the past 16 years but it is no justification to abandon our democracy and federal system of government predicated on ethnic, regional and religious multiplicity and balancing.

Arguments that PMB is only interested in competence and integrity in his appointments are naïve, illogical and patently false. Between the North and South there should be proportionally more competent and merit oriented people in the South given education, training and exposure? Why do we have quota system and federal character in recruitment, admission and appointments, which lowers standard and competition for the North?

Prof. Ango Abdullahi was less than 10 years as a Ph.D when he was made vice chancellor of ABU, Zaria, above Southerners who were already professors before he earned his doctorate degree. Prof. Chukwuma Soludo introduced competition and performance test for promotion and recruitment in CBN when he was governor, which Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II promptly scrapped because it favoured the South. When former finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, conducted merit and performance based recruitment test for the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Authority, Southerners came first to fifth.

We have had situations where Southern JAMB candidates with 220 points were rejected in a university that admitted Northern candidates with only 140 points. For any competent Northerner, there are ten Southerners. Sanusi was only six months old as managing director of First Bank when he became CBN governor when there are Southerners who had put in ten years.

For instance, what is the background and competence of Alhaji Abba Kyari, the new Chief of Staff to the president; a former managing director of UBA? True! But he had no executive powers. He was Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie’s yes-man, who was executive vice chairman and only put him there to placate Gen. Sani Abacha.

Besides his largely sinecure position in UBA, what else has he done to talk of performance? It is insulting to talk about integrity as a criterion for appointment as if corruption is only characteristic of the South.

So, the argument of competence is first dishonest and secondly a lie. There is no way the North can dominate the South on the basis of performance; it is not historically and empirically founded. The question should be why is it only in the appointments by PMB? If we have suddenly discovered the wisdom in merit and competence in the change tradition, let us scrap quota system and federal character and see who will complain. It is all hogwash!

It is absolutely nonsensical to assume remotely that there are no competent and even better Southerners for any of the appointments made last week. It is sheer absurdity to suggest as presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, did that there are over a thousand other appointments to be made by the president. For a man who is a respected journalist and led his professional group, and expected to understand the dynamics of Nigerian politics, this is incredibly preposterous and ludicrous.

Which other appointments are left, may be like the one given to Senator Ita Enang, as presidential liaison officer? In real and practical terms, there are only three positions of any significance left. These are finance, chief economic adviser (CEA) and petroleum. Of these, only finance and perhaps, CEA may go to the South, because the North has already taken petroleum with the appointment of Dr. Ibe Kachukwu as GMD of NNPC.

In terms of power and strategic influence, there are just about a dozen positions in government, namely, SGF, chief of staff, COAS, IGP, DG DSS, petroleum, NNPC, finance, CBN, INEC, NSA and CEA. For agencies, we have DPR, NPA, NIMASA, FIRS, AMCON, Customs, and NCC. Out of 12 government positions only three are Southerners, CBN, NNPC and IGP; and only NNPC was appointed by him. As for agencies, only Mr. Tunde Fowler of FIRS is from the South. So, which other positions will be used to balance these appointments; information, education or even works?

Now, add this insult to the injury, which obviously cannot be attributed to him, where the three arms of government – executive, legislature and judiciary – are headed by Northerners, the first in the history of the nation. Political consideration and sensibility would have demanded that given the already disquietingly disproportionate and lopsided dominance of government by the North, extreme care should have been employed to mitigate it. But what do we have?

Some say PMB means well. How so? Whose well does he mean? He could not mean well for Nigeria, which is multi-ethnic and religious, a fact enshrined in the constitution, when he is surrounded by only his own people. Well-meaning cannot be defined by the North because that is what is applied when all his close advisers are Northerners – people he meets every day. Where is the Southern view in shaping his perspective on policy? We can only accept that if we agree that what is good for the North is willy-nilly good for Nigeria.

 

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