Last week appointment of Kano State born Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi as substantial Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) by President Muhammadu Buhari to replace Bayelsa born Mathew Seiyefa who had been acting since the dismissal of Lawal Daura in August, was greeted with outrage.
The Southern and Middle Belt Forum, which had upon getting a wind of Seiyefa’s potential replacement on account of his ethnicity and religion, warned that it would not accept any such move, immediately released a statement describing the president’s action as “provocative” and a “vote of no confidence on Nigeria.”
In the statement jointly signed by Chief E.K Clark (South South), Chief Ayo Adebanjo (South West), Chief John Nwodo (South East) and Dr. Bitrus Pogu (Middle Belt) the Forum noted that, “Since 1960, Nigeria has never had a leader more sectional, narrow, parochial, and tribalistic like the current President who went on a global stage to divide Nigeria into “97 % and 5%”.
Senator Ben Bruce equally expressed dismay over Buhari’s decision, noting that “all intelligence agencies are now in the hands of Northerners.”
But his removal had been long in the making. It would have been a tall order to assume that a president who has consistently shown either outright dislike or a phobia for Nigerians of other tribes and religion especially Easterners, would allow Seiyefa head such a sensitive position as DG of DSS.
The dismissal of Mr. Daura, by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in July while President Muhammadu Buhari was away in London after he ordered DSS personnel to invade National Assembly complex, was said to have embittered key actors in the presidency, particularly the Chief of Staff to the president, Abba Kyari, who sources said, plotted to recall Daura upon the return of President Buhari.
However, unable to do so due to possible implications, the presidency opted to shop for ‘another Northern candidate.’ Magaji Bichi’s appointment was thus to be expected and plays to a pattern that appointments under President Buhari have followed since inception.
Only recently, the president named Mr. Abbas Umar Masanawa, from Kastina, as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company in what has cemented North’s hold on key agencies of government.
Since he divided the country into 97 percent and 5 percent group, Buhari has not looked back in his pursuit of what many have come to interpret as ‘Northernization’ agenda.
“It is a very criminal and nepotic system that Buhari is running,” noted Chief Abia Onyike, PDP chieftain in Ebonyi State. “He should stop talking about fighting corruption because the system he presides over is extremely criminal and very corrupt, and he is not even ready to address it.”
Few months ago, the president appointed 15 individuals into managerial positions in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ten of them from the North – mostly from the North West and North East; five from the South – three from the South West, two from the South South and none from the South East.
It came as dust was yet to settle over a similar lopsided recruitment in May last year, into the DSS which also largely favoured the North, especially the North West.
The DSS had commissioned 479 new officers, out of which 331 were from the 19 states of the North and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Katsina, the home state of the president, had 51 officers, with the North West generally taking 165, while the five states of the South East had 44 and the South South 42. The figures for the other zones are North East 100, North Central 66, and South West 57. Similar controversy had also trailed recruitment into the Nigerian Police Force in December 2016
The Buhari administration had been riddled with accusations of nepotism. He has consistently been accused of favoring his Northern constituency in key appointments to the detriment of the South, especially the South East and South South geopolitical zones where he got the least number of votes in the 2015 presidential election.
He had stated a few days into his administration in 2015 that constituencies that gave him five percent votes should not in all honesty, expect to be treated in some issues as constituencies that gave him 97 percent. A mathematical absurdity, but a point well made, and in many people’s opinion, well pursued.
Starting with the appointment of his kitchen cabinet – the first set of appointments he made which had an overwhelming Northern domination – the president made it immediately clear, some say, that contrary to his inaugural speech postulation of belonging to everybody and to nobody, he indeed belongs to the North. He never looked back ever since; presently nearly all the country’s major security apparatus and revenue generating agencies are headed by Northerners.
When the President took power on May 29th 2015, bookmakers tipped the current Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onu for the post of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and former Rivers Governor and current Transport Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi for Chief of Staff (COS): Onu for being his long time ally in the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and Amaechi for being the key financier of his presidential campaign.
Both positions would go to Mr. Babachir Lawal from Adamawa State, North East and Abba Kyari, Kastina, North West respectively.
Of all the appointments made at the time, only two went the way of the South, but none to the South East. Yet, the two posts he ceded to the South were largely advisory: Femi Adesina from the South West, special adviser on media and Senator Ita Enang from Cross River, South South, special adviser on National Assembly matters.
Afterwards the president saw a need to change security chiefs. As it was with the kitchen cabinet, the North took the lion share, while the South East was once again left out altogether. Maj. Gen. Tukur Buratai from Borno State, North East was named Chief of Army Staff; Maj-Gen.Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin from Ekiti State, South West, Chief of Defence Staff; Air vice Marshal Sadiq Abubakar from Bauchi State, North East, Chief of Air Staff and Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas from Cross River State, South South, Chief of Naval Staff.
On the same day, he appointed Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan as Chief of Defence Intelligence and Retired Major-General Babagana Monguno from Borno, North East as National Security Adviser. South East had no representation.
The appointments into NNPC drew criticisms from Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and several groups from the Niger Delta region who accused the president of totally neglecting the federal character principle. But even the critics admit it does not come as a surprise.
“It is regrettable that we blame IPOB, Arewa youths or Niger Delta youths over threats capable of disintegrating the country but the series of appointments made by this administration even up till now have shown that the administration is worse than those issuing ultimatum to the Igbo,” former Chief Whip of the Senate, Roland Owie had told Vanguard.
“We have observed a systematic plan to strangulate the South, particularly the South East in appointments, and it seems that this administration is not bothered at all which is sad.”
Nigeria is a country founded, at independence, on a tripod of East, West and North, dominated by the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani in that order. This has since collapsed into 36 states and six geopolitical zones, but historically, sharing of political appointments and revenue allocation are two thorny issues that quickly flair up ethnic tensions.
It was in an attempt to ensure that everyone gets a fair share of these appointments that the principle of Federal Character was provided for in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, which states in part, “… 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 in any of its agencies.”
“The composition of the Government of a State, a Local Government council, or any of the agencies of such government or Council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manners as to recognize the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the Federation.”
To this effect, the Federal Character Commission (FCC), a Federal Executive body was established by Act No 34 of 1996 to “implement and enforce the Federal Character Principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructures among the various federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The FCC, since its establishment, has been saddled with observing recruitment exercises to allow MDAs willingly apply the approved guidelines and formulae in the staff distribution amongst the States of the Federation.
However, its “observer” status has often prevented it from interfering in the proceeding of the exercise even when the wrong things were observed to be done ab initio. Nonetheless, as a response to this moral obligation, Nigeria’s leaders, particularly from 1999 when democracy returned with Olusegun Obasanjo as president, had largely adopted this principle.
With the coming on board of Buhari however, it would appear that the gain made in this regard as it concerns building national cohesion has been reversed and complaints of marginalization has become rife, even from the North.
Coincidentally, both houses of the National Assembly, whose leadership is often spread across to achieve balance, have also gone the way of the North. As it stands, the region controlled the executive, the legislative and judicial arms of government, before the appointment Walter Onoghen as CJN in April.
In an interview early last year, second republic law maker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed concluded that nepotism in Buhari’s government is the worst in the country’s history.
“If this is not nepotism, then I don’t know what is nepotism and anybody who has the guts, the brutal arrogance to appoint these relations not bothering about public opinion, about the sense of justice, about competence, then you can see that he has a very serious question to answer.”
The president had also filled other strategic revenue collecting and security agencies with Northerners. As it stands over 80 percent of key government ministries agencies and departments are disproportionately headed by Northerners, including but not limited to the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mrs. Hadiza Bala Usman (Kaduna, North West.
Others include Commandant General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC), Abdullahi Muhammadu (Niger, North Central); Controller General of Nigerian Prison Service (NPS), Ahmed Ja’afaru (Kebbi, North West); Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris (Niger, North Central); Chairman, Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Muhammad Abdallah; Controller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede and Director General, Department of State Security Service, Lawal Daura (Katsina, North West).
The nearest equivalent of these posts headed by Southerners include Corps Marshall, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr Boboye Oyeyemi (South West); Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Dakuku Peterside (South South); Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler (South West); Acting Director General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NAFDAC), Prof. Moji Christianah Adeyeye. Again no individual of South East origin is included.
Veteran columnist and administrator, Akogun Tola Adeniyi said it was a well thought out plan by the president to populate the country’s armed forces with his people and subsequently run the country like a dictator.
“We have been under Military dictatorship since the day Buhari populated the entire Security apparatus of the state with his kinsmen and cronies,” he said.
“You would have noticed that since the inception of Buhari dictatorship, he had used the military for police functions and today the Armed Forces and the politicised partisan police have occupied virtually the entire country’s landscape. The brutish and gustapo treatment of (Ibrahim Yaqoub) El Zakzaky and (Nnamdi) Kanu are classical examples of tyranny.”
50 strategic appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari by geopolitical zones
- Aide de Camp to president: Lt. Col Abubakar Lawal.
- Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity: Garba Shehu.
- Accountant General of the Federation: Ahmed Idris
- Attorney General, Minister of Justice: Abubakar Malami
- State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant: Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure.
- Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA): Hadiza Bala Usman Abdulahi
- Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission:Umaru Dambatta.
- Director General, Budget Office of the Federation: Aliyu Yahaya Gusau.
- Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF): Dr Bello Aliyu Gusau
- Managing Director, Asset Management Company of Nigeria, (AMCON): Ahmed Lawan Kuru.
- Controller General of Nigerian Prison Service (NPS): Ahmed Ja’afaru.
- Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission: Mohammed Kari
- Petroleum Minister: Muhammadu Buhari
- Minister of Interior: Abulrahman Dambazau.
- Controller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service: Mohammed Babandede.
- Defence Minister: Dan Ali
- Perm Sec. Ministry of Interior: Mohammed Bello Umar.
- Perm Sec. Ministry of Finance: Dr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse.
- Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mrs. Nuratu Jimoh Batagarawa
- Executive Secretary, NHIS: Usman Yusuf
- Managing Director of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company: Mr Abbas Umar Masanawa.
- 50. Director General of DSS: Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi
- Finance Minister: Zainab Ahmed
- National Security Adviser: Babagana Monguno.
- Chief of Army Staff: Tukur Buaratai.
- Chief of Air Staff: Sadique Abubakar.
- Group Managing Director (NNPC): Maikanti Kacalila Baru
- Chairperson, INEC: Mahmood Yakubu.
- Secretary to Government of the Federation: Boss Mustapha.
- Chief of Staff to the President: Abba Kyari.
- Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service: Hameed Ibrahim Ali.
- Director General, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Umar. I. Ajiya.
- Perm. Sec. Ministry of power, works and housing: Mohammed Bukar
- Chairman, EFCC: Ibrahim Magu.
- Director, Department Of Petroleum Resources: Modecai Baba Ladan.
- Commandant General, (NSCDC): Abdullahi Muhammadu
- Inspector General of Police (IGP): Ibrahim Idris.
- Chief of Defence Intelligence: Monday Riku Morgan.
- Executive Chairman, FIRS: Babatunde Fowler.
- Minister of Power, Works: Babatunde Fashola.
- Director General, PENCOM: Funso Doherty.
- Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity: Femi Adesina.
- Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonishakin.
- ICPC chairman: Bolaji F. Owansanoye
- DG, NAFDAC: Prof Moji Christianah Adeyeye.
- Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters: Ita Enang.
- Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN): Godwin Emefiele.
- Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN): Hon. Justice W.S. Nkanu Onnoghen.
- Director General, NIMASA: Dakuku Peterside.
- Chief of Naval Staff: Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas.
Zero strategic appointment.
Source: Business Hallmark Newspaper.