Appointments of security chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari seem to take a particular and predictable pattern, which defy all the tenets of federalism and national unity. The recent appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, leaves even his most ardent support disappointed and angry over such level of nepotism and insensitivity to public feelings. By this action, virtually all the heads of the nation’s security apparatus are from the north, which has never happened before in the history of the country.
When the immediate head of the NIA, Mr. Ayodele Oke, was removed following the Ikoyi towers N42 billion scandal, it was expected that his replacement would come from the south west. There was sufficient reason to hold such belief. After former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal lost his position on account of his alleged graft in the IDP grass cutting project, he was replaced with a kinsman – his cousin – Mr. Mustaph Boss.
Although, such an act of favouritism rankle good sense, it did not depart from the statutory requirement of zoning and federal character. Now the question is, why should Oke, who was sacked alongside Lawal, be replaced by somebody from not only outside the state and geopolitical zone but the entire south altogether? This is a slap in the face for the Yoruba people who are supposed to be a part of the government, and whose son is the second in command constitutionally.
It is even worse than what happened to the Igbo when Mrs. Chinelo Amazu Anoku, former DG of Pencom was removed. By keeping quiet over the impunity of government to ignore the Pencom Act which stipulates that her replacement should come from the south east, the Yoruba forfeited the moral right to protest over this flagrant abuse of power and process. It is more unfortunate that the Vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was implicated in such perfidy of justice.
By this most recent security appointment President Buhari has completely cut off the south from the nation’s security architecture and made it a northern affair. The policy implication is that critical decisions on national security policies may be taken without a southern input. The immediate danger is that the government can decide on any cause of action based purely on northern interest and understanding of the issue.
This denigrates our federal principle and the concept of national unity. How could anyone speak of one Nigeria when a part of the country not only controls but also determines its security interest and future? In fact national security could pass for a cultural meeting and be conducted in hausa language as every member, except the chief of defence staff and chief of Naval staff, is from the north and speak hausa. Nigeria has never been this manifestly divided and openly so.
The insulting aspect of this desecration of our national mores is the rationalization by some officialdom and their ilk that the appointments are based on competence. Mrs. Abike Dabiri- Erewa, a hitherto political activist, and Senior Special Assistant to the President of the Diaspora, justified the appointment and practically told her people to shut up: “People complain about his (Ahmed Abubakar) appointment; I am not bothered; it is about competence and I know he is competent”, she enthused.
Her position only stands logic on its head. On what basis was the competence determined; was there a test and performance assessment? If it is about competence, why do we have quota system to ensure that the north gets a fair shot at federal placements? It is nonsense! There cannot be more competent people in the north in any aspect of national life than in the south.
Obviously there is a political implication and undertone in the appointments. With the 2019 general election ahead and growing opposition to the government, the appointments are deliberate measures to secure the government and its interest against any challenge or threat. This also is dangerous because it tends to equate government interest with national interest.
Nigeria is bigger than this government or any government at all, and it will be an unpardonable error of priority to align the two. Government comes and goes but the nation endures. Whatever happens, this government’s tenure will come to an end and its legacies under historical scrutiny.
This government and its supporters must know that they are setting a precedent for future actions and if it is good and permissible for Buhari to appoint all his kitchen cabinet and heads of security agencies from the north, they should not protest when some other president does so even more justifiably.
By these discriminatory appointments, President Buhari has started something that may eventually destroy the unity of the country as we would have gone back to the spoil system where the winner takes all irrespective of the feelings of others parts of the country. No federal system can survive on such retrogressive and hegemonic political propensity. It will be the crystallization of Larry Diamond’s ‘prebendal politics’.