By YUSUF MOHAMMED
A major focus of Nigerians as President Muhammadu Buhari in his second term will be the appointment of his cabinet. In his first term, this was the most criticised of all his policies and actions, followed by the handling of the herdsmen crisis. Many Nigerians had accused President Buhari of abandoning the zoning principle which was enshrined in the Nigerian constitution in order to give a sense of belonging to every Nigerian due to the complexity of the country.
Reports have shown that the President had appointed people based on favouritism rather than competence along ethnic lines.While receiving his certificate of return, Buhari himself promised to run an inclusive government in his second term which begins on May 29 this year.
However, many Nigerians are sceptical. To them, “Buhari has to walk his talk.” A social commentator, Eze Ikechukwu said, “Buhari has claimed he would do many things in the past but failed. He has to convince Nigerians this time around by matching his words with action because talk is cheap.
The suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghenthe Chief Justice of Nigeria and the swearing in of Mohammed Tanko as acting CJN by Buhari has further drawn the attention of Nigerians to the level of nepotism in this administration.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. While Tanko is the rightful person to take over from Onnogehn since he is the next in seniority, the manner in which Onnoghen was suspended has brought political coloration to it.
While lawyers are looking it at from the legal angle, politicians have taken advantage of the situation to insinuate that the president is bent on cornering all the top positions for the North. At present, all the three arms of government are headed by northerners, including the security services.
On May 29, 2015 the day Buhari was inaugurated, he made his famous speech of “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”
Barely three months after that historical day, Buhari said the exact opposite of that. At the US Institute of Peace, while speaking with Dr. Pauline Baker, he said, “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, for example that gave me 97% of vote cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%.”
And based on his appointments, he seems to be walking his talk. Of the 100 appointments directly made by the President, 81 of them are from the northern part of the country while 19 are from the southern part.
In fact, almost all the service chiefs are from the north. The Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed is from Niger State. Comptroller General of The Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali hails from Bauchi State. Minister of Defense Mansur Dan Ali is from Zamfara; Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen.Tukur Buratai is from Borno State (North East)
Lawal Daura, the former boss of the Department of State Service DSS, is from the north. He was sacked and Godwin Seiyefa from Bayelsa State (South south) who was the next in line was appointed as the acting DG of DSS.
According to Erasmus Ikhide, “Buhariwas a despot in his first coming in the 80’s and his presumed repentance as a democrat can never be redeemed from the ‘northernisation’ agenda.”
The next most senior persons in line of succession at the DSS after Seiyefa are all southerners. Many frowned at the idea of Buhari picking Yusuf MagajiBichi who retired two years ago as the DG of DSS.
BusinessHallmark gathered that Bichi retired in 2017 after 35 years of service as Lawal Daura’s Finance and Admin Director but was retained by Daura for few months and then finally left the service in February 2017.For many Nigerians, the appointment had nothing to do with competence but crass nepotism.
The oil sector is not also left out of nepotistic appointments. The main driver of the Nigerian economy is oil and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is the number one regulator of petroleum products. The Group Managing Director who runs the day to day affair of this government agency is MaikantiBaru from Bauchi State. He succeeded Dr.Ibe Emmanuel Kachikwu (Delta State) who is the Minister of State for Petroleum.
Two years ago, a memo written by Kachikwu to President Buhari over alleged irregularities and unruliness by the GMD, Maikanti Baru was leaked to the public.
His memo, dated August 30, was meant to draw Buhari’s attention to the alleged misgivings at the NNPC, which he said were capable of hindering progress in the oil sector.
Kachikwu accused Baru of “reckless disregard for extant rules,” which bothered on appointments, award of contracts, and referring matters to the President without going through the Board.
There was also the controversial appointment of Dr Ahmed RufaiAbubakar to replace Ambassador Ayo Oke as the substantive Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA that caused uproar in the country. Events however, made it short-lived.
The appointment of Abubakar was too glaring to be ignored by concerned Nigerians. Abubakar is from Katsina State. That is the same place the President hails from.
The former DG of NIA, Ambassador Oke was dismissed from office in 2017, following discovery of huge sums of money in local and foreign currencies in a flat at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, in Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The problem is not the dismissal of Oke who was found wanting. The problem, according to many, is that the Buhari administration had once again abandoned the federal character principle which is enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
Oke is a Yoruba man from the South West. Many have argued that if BabachirLawal, the former Secretary General of the Federation who is from Adamawa state in the North East could be replaced by Boss Mustapha, actually his cousin and also from the North East, Oke should have also been replaced by someone from the South West.
Abubakar, was before his appointment, a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs/International Relations.
However, there were reports making the rounds that he was born and raised in Chad and that he married a woman from Morocco. The reports say that he had his primary and secondary education in Chad before moving to Nigeria. That led to Nigerians calling for his dismissal.
Former Governor AyodeleFayose of Ekiti State is one of the prominent Nigerians who lent his voice to criticize the President’s’ “lopsided” appointments. “Buhari is unrepentant sectional leader,” Fayose had said
“The President has further demonstrated to Nigerians that he is an unrepentant sectional leader, who does not care about the feelings of people from other parts of the country.”
“With the appointment of Ahmed RufaiAbubakar as the NIA Director General, all heads of security agencies are now northerners and the question is, is this what those who enshrined federal character in our constitution envisaged?”
Aside from the fact that Abubakar is from the Katisna State, his qualification for the job has also been questioned. BusinessHallmark investigations gathered from reliable sources that “Abubakar retired from the NIA in 2013 to avoid being dismissed.
As an assistant director in the NIA, he sat for two promotion examinations and could not pass. He hurriedly sent in his letter to retire. By the rules, having failed the second examination, he was supposed to be retired. This was because failure for the third time would have earned him instant termination,”
This newspaper also learnt that the NIA boss was a level 12 officer in the Katsina State Civil Service when he was transferred to the NIA and was placed on Grade level 14 by Talban Katsina, Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim.
After leaving the agency, he became an informal personal assistant to Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, who took him to Senegal and later secured an appointment for him as Senior Special Assistant to the President on foreign affairs.
Senator Isah Misau representing Bauchi Central at the National Assembly last year criticized the appointment of the DG NIA questioning if he is qualified for the position.
“Today, the DG NIA that was just appointed, is he qualified to be there? He’s not qualified. This is the person that failed two exams, we know. He failed two exams and just because he is close to people taking decisions, he was appointed.”
The appointment of Abubakar also brought nepotism to the fore in our national discourse.
One of the sins of Buhari, according to former president OlusegunObasanjo, is the “clannishness” that has characterised his administration.
According to him, the president has also been unable to bring discipline to bear on “errant members of his nepotic court.”
Afenifere spokesman Mr.Yinka Odumakin does not believe Buhari would run an inclusive government. In a chat with BusinessHallmark, he said, “Let’s see if a leopard can change its spots. But the truth is that the President has not shown he understands how a plural society should be run.”
Efforts to reach the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Mr. Femi Adesina, to get the view of the Presidency, proved abortive as he did not respond to messages to his phone.
Nigerians are waiting to see how President Buhari will handle the appointments in his second term, a situation that has become an ’embarrassment’ to his administration.