During President Muhammadu Buhari’s inaugural speech on May 29, 2015 after his swearing in as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he made some declarations that endeared him to most Nigerians. To a large extent, those pronouncements allayed the fears of some people who had voted against him in the March 28 presidential election on the alleged ground of his being an ethnic bigot. President Buhari had said, “I intend to keep my oath and serve as president to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.” That quotation immediately adorned him with the toga of a nationalist, as many praised his nationalistic resolve, especially following the voting pattern of the presidential election.
Today, that political goodwill seems to be diminishing following the manner of appointments made by the president in his first 100 days in office.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of some of his administration’s key officials of late, has been anything but lopsided and lacking in regional even-handedness. The president has made about31 appointments into key sectors, including defence, energy, and the economy. He is yet to appoint someone from the South East. Most of the appointees are from the North West, his geopolitical zone and North East, from where he garnered humongous votes during the elections. He has made a sprinkling of appointments in the South West, South South and North Central. Tilting appointments heavily to favour a particular geopolitical zone or ethnic group in a democracy is unacceptable. This becomes more worrisome since the president’s predecessors had raised the bar in the recognition of the ‘unity in diversity’ of the people and promotion of a sense of belonging among all the peoples of the federation.Appointments into offices should be carried out in such a manner that will reflect the federal character of the country in order to stimulate national unity, and also facilitate national loyalty.
The Third Schedule of the 1999 constitution states that the government must ensure “the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.” These positions include those of the permanent secretaries, directors-general in extra-ministerial departments and parastatals, directors in ministries and extra-ministerial departments, senior military officers, senior diplomatic posts and managerial cadres in the federal and state parastatals, bodies, agencies and institutions. Even in every public company or corporation the federal character must be reflected in the appointments of its directors and senior management staff. That is the peculiar reality of our existence as a nation. So we wonder what kind of excuses the president would canvass for behaving unnationalistically in appointments of key officials of his government, creating suspicion.
Ostensibly, following the mode of appointment, it seems the president is making good his promise in the U.S. during his visit in July to that country. President Buhari had during a question and answer session with journalists in the U.S. on July 22, said, “(Going by election results), constituencies that gave me 95 percent cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me five percent. 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.”
Those forgoing statements contradicted his May 29 inaugural speech, even though the presidency tried explaining to embellish Buhari’s avowal. With these appointments, the president may have confirmed the fears of some people who refused voting him in the March 28 poll, alleging that he is an ethnic irredentist. It is important for President Buhari to understand that he is setting a wrong precedence against the principles of democracy and social justice in the country especially when he has to work with the constitution that seems like the pilot’s compass if he must properly steer the ship of the Nigerian state. The constitution is for the purpose of promoting good government and welfare of all persons in our country.
The president should see the whole country as his constituency and treat the zones equally, ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in his government or in any of the government agencies. In a country with six geopolitical zones, 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory (FCT), 774 local government areas and over 300 ethnic nationalities, it will be counterproductive to exclude any zone from the governance of the country.
This newspaper believes that in 21st century Nigeria, appointments to government offices must recognise merit, no doubt, regional equity and gender balance. President Muhammadu Buhari should take advantage of the groundswell of goodwill he enjoys to address the mood of the country following his recent appointments because the cooperation of all Nigerians is needed for him to deliver dividends of democracy for the welfare of Nigerians. It is important he shows in practice that hebelongs to everybody and belongs to nobody.