We Nigerians examine the controversy that has continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointments, which are seen as lopsided to favour a particular section of the country
Amidst grievances from the different parts of the country over the appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari, which are widely believed to be lopsided in favour of the North, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang, on Wednesday dismissed such insinuations.
Enang, who is from Akwa Ibom State in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country, at an event in Abuja, said the Federal Government deserved the support of the Cross River and Akwa Ibom people as well as the entire inhabitants of the South-South because the current administration had been kind to them and generous in terms of appointments from the two states.
He noted that Buhari gave the two states the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and Chief of Naval Staff.
Enang said, “He (Buhari) has given us the Chief of Naval Staff, a very high ranking officer in the federal security council. He has given us the Minister of Budget (and National Planning) and, then, my humble self, as the Senior Special Assistant (to the President) on National Assembly Legislative Matters. He has also given us the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. “In the entire South-South region, he gave us Minister of Transportation in charge of about three ministries merged together. He also gave us the Minister (of State) of Petroleum. “When I see people trying to incite others against the President over matters of appointments, I conclude that they are being unfair; and that is why we gather here today to appraise the appointments and to appreciate the President.”
But out of the six appointees in the batch named by Buhari on August 27, 2015, Enang, who defends the lopsidedness, was the only one from the entire southern part of the country. Along with Enang, the President had approved the appointments of Babachir David Lawal from Adamawa State as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Abba Kyari from Borno State as his Chief of Staff; Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd.) from Kano State as Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service; Kure Martin Abeshi from Nasarawa State as Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service; and Suleiman Kawu from Kano State as SSA on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives).
Then, several individuals and groups had raised their voice against the perceived preference for the North to the South under the new administration.
It was then that the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, told the critics of the lopsided appointments that the President would respect the Federal Character as stipulated by the Constitution.
He said, “Nobody can fault the fact that the persons appointed were appointed on merits. In terms of the spread, the President has prerogative to appoint and he knows there is Federal Character. I am sure that there will be balance in the future.”
Like Enang, Adesina was the only southerner in his own batch. The northerners in this batch of appointments were the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura; Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mrs. Amina Zakari (who succeeded Prof. Attahiru Jega, a northerner, and had since been replaced by another northerner (Prof. Mahmood Yakubu); the Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, Mordecai Danteni Baba Ladan; and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.
Also in the batch were the President’s Chief Security Officer, Abdulrahman Mani; State Chief of Protocol, Abdullahi Kazaure; Aide-De-Camp, Lt.-Col. Muhammed Abubakar; and the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu. Only Adesina, who hails from Osun State in the South-West, came from the South.
The President would later on June 23, 2016, get another CSO, Abdulkarim Dauda (who replaced Mani), and Officer in Charge of Presidential Movement, Kayode Sikiru Akande, after their promotion from the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police to Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Many observers saw Enang’s epistle on Wednesday as an effort to shoot down the fresh outrage over Buhari’s recent appointments, against their hope in Adesina’s words that the appointments would “balance out.”
The latest public outcry is on the lopsided appointment of heads of security and safety agencies in the country. Less than two weeks ago, several southern groups had kicked against what they described as pro-North appointments.
Findings have showed that 14 of the nation’s 17 security agencies are currently being headed by northerners; only three are from the South, while the majority of them were appointed by President Buhari.
For instance, the current Minister of Interior, Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), under whose purview are the Nigeria Prisons Service, the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Federal Fire Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, hails from Kaduna State.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, is from Borno State. The National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.), is also from Borno State. Also from Borno State is the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. The Minister of Defence, Brig.-Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (retd.), hails from Zamfara State, while the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, is from Bauchi State. The acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, hails from Niger State.
Also from Niger State is the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu. The Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Musa Daura, is from Katsina State. All of them are from the North.
However, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, is from Ekiti State in the South-West.
Also from the North are the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede, (Jigawa State); the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd.) (Bauchi State); the Controller-General of the Nigeria Prison Service, Ja’afaru Ahmed (Kebbi State); and the Federal Road Safety Commission boss, Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi, is from Kwara State.
But the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (Cross River State) is from the South.
The heads of security and safety agencies, who were appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan and have not been replaced, are the Comptroller-General of the Federal Fire Service, Joseph Anebi and the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Sani Didi, from Kaduna State. They are both from the North.
The only Jonathan appointee in this category who remains in the office is the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, from Oyo State.
One of those who criticised the imbalance in the distribution recently was the Secretary General of the Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndi’gbo, Dr. Joe Nwosu, who said the appointments so far had not reflected the Federal Character as embellished in the country’s Constitution.
He said, “We have been crying out loud since the first appointments — of the ministers were made — when out of the 36 Ministers, 24 were chosen from the North. Now that other Nigerians are complaining, it means we are not alone. As a tribe, we have had a long history of marginalisation from governance in Nigeria.
“The President said the appointments were made on merit, so are we now saying that only the Northerners have merit? Where is the federal character which we talk about in Nigeria?”
Nevertheless, two days after the outrage by the southern groups, President Buhari on Monday removed the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, as Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and replaced him with Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru. Kachikwu is from the South; Baru is from the North. The President also approved the composition of the Board of the NNPC as provided for under Section 1(2) of the corporation Act of 1997, as amended.
The new board would now have Kachikwu as its chairman, while most of the members are northerners. Members of the board are the Baru; Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance; Dr. Thomas M.A. John; Dr. Pius O. Akinyelure; Dr. Tajuddeen Umar; Mr. Mohammed Lawal, and Mr. Yusuf Lawal.
The cries of marginalisation, especially from the southern part of the country, did not start now. The criticisms had begun from the first sets of appointments made by the President.
It is mandatory for the President to appoint at least one minister from each of the states in the country to form his cabinet. However, apart from ministers, the President has the powers to appoint whoever he chooses as member of his kitchen cabinet and head of parastatals, agencies, institutions and departments, including members of their boards – who are far more than the presidential cabinet.
In this regard, while a school of thought believes that all geopolitical zones and states have been represented in the Federal Executive Council, to another school of thought, the appointments have been unfair outside the mandatory ministerial appointments. For instance, before ministerial nominations were made and the ministers were sworn in on November 11 – about six months after Buhari came to power – the president had appointed a number of Nigerians – mostly northerners – into different non-political and executive offices.
By the end of July 2015, the president had appointed nine persons as aides and heads of departments and agencies. Eight of them were from the North, while one was from the South. By the end of August 2015, of the 30 appointments made by the president, only seven of them came from the southern part of the country, while the rest were northerners. And out of those from the South, none was from the South-East geopolitical zone.
While the alleged lopsided appointments generated protests from within and outside the All Progressive Congress, Buhari had defended his appointments in an interview with BBC Hausa on September 9, 2015, saying he chose those he could trust and who he had worked with over the years.
He said, “If I select people whom I know quite well in my political party; whom we came all the way right from the All Nigeria’s People Party, Congress for Progressive Change and APC, and have remained together in good or bad situation; the people I have confidence in and I can trust them with any post, will that amount to anything wrong?”
Speaking on the appointment controversy, a lecturer of political science in the University of Lagos, Prof. Solomon Akinboye, noted that while he shared the sentiments of those aggrieved by the lopsided appointments, Nigerians should also consider the eligibility and competence of those appointed.
Akinboye, who is also the Dean of the College of Post-Graduate Studies of UNILAG, said, “I also share in the belief that they are a bit lopsided but one has to take into cognisance the fact that some of these appointments are based on certain criteria, irrespective of where somebody comes from. And once that is the case, then, it will be difficult to say that something untoward has been done.”
But another lecturer in the Department of Political Science of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Prof. Emmanuel Onyebuchi, said that all those eligible for various positions cannot all be from a section of the country. According to the political scientist, Buhari is the President of Nigeria and not that of any particular group. He stated that whether a section of the country voted for him to be president or not, the election had been won and the preoccupation of the president should be how to unite the country.
Onyebuchi said, “A critical analysis of the appointments made so far (by the president) shows that all the appointments are skewed in favour of a particular section (North) of the country, and even within the particular section, a particular geopolitical zone – the North-West. It appears from the appointments made so far that the South is disadvantaged. “Some people have argued that they (the appointments) are based on merit but I don’t want to believe that we have more qualified people from the North than from the South.”