Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Buhari’s appointments: Uniting southern Nigeria


By Oshiokpekhai Utu-Orbih

There has been so much hue and cry about the recent appointments made by President Mohammed Buhari on the August 27, 2015, filling the much awaited positions of the Chief of Staff to the President, Secretary to the Federation, Comptroller General of the Customs and the Immigration Services, and his Aides to the National Assembly.
A lot of arguments have been canvassed back and forth on these latest appointments. Ardent supporters of Buhari have come out to condemn the appointments while some others commended it. In no time, the uproar will subside and everything would return to normalcy, and of course, ife would go on.For me, the appointments have once again thrown up the anomalies in the entity called Nigeria. The reality of our nation is that Nigeria is in a fix and we need men of goodwill to fix it.The bane of our problem is that we are a people that have little or no sense of history, driven by a murderous quest for power and corrupt enrichment with the ultimate aim of annihilating those who are not so lucky to be at the corridors of power.After the military desecration of Nigerian for 13 years, the principle of ‘Federal Character’ was introduced into the Nigerian Constitution in 1979. Students of jurisprudence will always avert their minds to the purpose of a particular kind of law. In this case, what is this principle of law meant to achieve, or what problem is it meant to solve. It’s no rocket science. The answer is simply because of Nigeria’s ethnic, religious, and geographical diversity.The principle of federal Character was meant to unite all Nigerians and give everyone a sense of belonging as it is clearly stated in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which provides as follows;“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring 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 Buhari’s appointments so far runs contrary to the spirit and letters of this constitutional provision. While some justify the appointments on the basis of merit, the question is how come a people who have been educationally disadvantaged from independence can now have the most competent people to occupy positions that ought to be spread across the country?Some have taken solace in the fact that what Buhari is doing is not new. It is in fact a re-enactment of the Northernisation policy of the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the then Premier of Northern Nigeria who canvassed and practiced the Northernisation policy where all good positions must be occupied by the Northerners. The policy further employ expatriates to temporarily hold such positions where northerners were yet unqualified for. Buhari no doubt benefited from the Northenisation policy wherein people from a particular part of the country were recruited into the military, paramilitary organisations, and other federal services without the requisite requirement. This policy also paved way for the Northernisation of the Nigerian military. Thus, every non Northern military head of state attained that position by a quota selection rather than competence.The ultimate aim and goal of this policy was to appropriate the common wealth of a people in a very unfair, brutal, and illegal manner. Today 83 % of oil blocks belong to citizens from a particular section of the country – North.It must be made clear at this juncture, that those who planted and still perpetuate these toxic divisive elements within the Nigerian polity are those old oligarchs from our sordid military past who still hold sway today in Aso Rock under the Buhari Presidency. The younger generation of Nigerians no matter where they come from have taken advantage of the global world order which promotes love, unity, freedom and democracy. But each time we move forward, the oligarchs are always quickly reminding us of those moments that divide us. Hence the vicious circle continues.Apart from lopsided appointments so far which are clearly born out of bigotry, Buhari has demonstrated once more, his desire to rewrite the Nigerian story even against what he preaches. For instance , Abba Kyari, the new Chief of Staff to president Buhari was the Executive Director/ Managing Director and Vice Chairman of defunct United Bank of Africa, who was forced to resign by the Central Bank of Nigeria in the 90s for free funds fraud before the Bank was eventually bought over by Tony Elumelu’s Standard Trust Bank. Nigerians are now made to believe that Mr Kyari passed the so called integrity test of President Buhari.Colonel Hamid Ali, Buhari’s new Comptroller General of Custom was handpicked by late General Sanni Abacha as a member of the Tribunal mandated to kill Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 8. Against international outcry and even before the expiration of the mandatory legal time allowed for Appeal, Kan Saro Wiwa and others were executed. The same Col. Hamid Ali has also served as Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), an ethnic organisation notorious for promoting Northern domination above National interest. The appointment of Col. Hamid has now eroded professionalism in the Customs Service.In his desperation to continuously promote Northern domination, President Buhari trampled on the provisions of the AMCON Act by Appointing Mr. Ahmed Lawan Kuru as the Managing Director of AMCON without the nomination of the minister of Finance as required by law, and the approval of the Senate. In line with Buhari’s predictable normal military fiats, all appointments take immediate effect.With deep insight, I can confidently say that Buhari’s onslaught on the Nigerian people has surely awaken a new consciousness .The uproar across the length and breadth of the nation condemning these appointments is one of such consciousness. Like never before, the dichotomy of North and South is present and stares at us boldly. The people from the Southern part of Nigeria are now getting wiser irrespective of party affiliation and bonded by a National malaise called marginalisation unleashed on them by President Buhari and his unseen Kitchen cabinet.Today there is a complete disconnect between the party that brought Buhari to power and his actions. Nigerians are overwhelmed with the gradual institutionalisation of a new order. One that has total disregard for due process of law and order. Some have argued that this is the only way to put Nigeria back on track. But the appointments as they stand today have succeeded in raising fundamental issues about Southern Nigeria. Will this unite them? Only time will tell.

Oshiokpekhai Utu-Orbih is an attorney, broadcaster and media consultant

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