So far, Buhari has shown from his political appointments that he does not have a regard to the Federal Character principle. Notwithstanding the public outcry, the President has remained adamant in appointing the northerners into key positions. In this piece, DOZIE EMMANUEL looks at why Buhari has concentrated his appointments in the North.
Once again, President Muhammadu Buhari stirred up the hornet’s nest recently when he made some controversial appointments predominantly dominated by people from the North. The appointments, just like the previous ones, have elicited severe criticism and condemnation in some quarters. The social media have been inundated with reactions condemning the President’s appointments.
Political analysts have argued that the lopsided appointment Nigerians have witnessed so far is as a result of the voting pattern the ruling party got from the six geo-political zones. They believe that the President wants to please those zones that gave him bulk votes during the last Presidential polls before looking the other way round. The voting pattern shows that North-West gave the APC the highest votes while the South-East gave the least votes. North-West has 5, 650, 000 votes; North-East, 2, 550, 000; North Central, 1, 860, 000; South-East, 650, 000; South West, 2, 900, 000 and South-South 1, 700, 000.
Surprisingly, the South-West geo-political zone, with its heavy weights in the persons of Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, has not benefitted much from the Buhari’s administration. These lopsided appointments have obviously divided the party leaders in the region and created a big crack as the party chairmen have continued to decry the pattern of appointments by President Buhari, describing it as having “ethnic slant.” They said aside the President’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, every other appointment so far made by Buhari have been from the core North.
Of course, various political and socio-cultural groups have overtly expressed their disappointment and displeasure on the President’s lopsided appointments. The basis of their argument has been hinged on the failure of the President to adhere to the federal character principle.
In fact, Section 14 sub-section (3) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly stipulates that “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 any of its agencies.”
Obviously, it was out of the desire to accommodate all in the allocation of resources and power that the federal character principle came to be. Section 147 of the constitution stipulates that “the President shall appoint at least a minister from each state.” No doubt, this is to ensure fairness as well as give all the states a sense of belonging.
Spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Fani-Kayode, has jumped on the bandwagon of people expressing dissatisfaction with Buhari’s appointments. He, however, said the bitter truth is that Nigerians have to live with the consequences for the next four years because they wanted change.
“Nigerians wanted ‘change’ and now we have got it. No-one should complain because this is what our people wanted. Those of us that warned the country that this would happen were insulted and lampooned. Now we have to live with the consequences of our choice for the next four years. Welcome to the new Nigeria.”
Aggrieved by this outright abuse of the Federal Character Principle, an Abuja based lawyer, Dim-Udebuani Marcel, has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari to an Abuja Federal High Court over excluding the South-East region from all his political appointments. The plaintiff also prayed the court for an order compelling the 1st defendant (Buhari) to reverse the appointments so far made to observe and comply with the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
In suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/732/2015 he instituted against the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Chairman, Federal Character Commission filed on August 31, 2015, by his counsel, Jude Ifesemen, the plaintiff also asked the court to determine whether the total of over 25 appointments made so far by President Buhari was not against the spirit of Section 14(3) of 1999 constitution (as amended).
“Whether the exclusion of South East geo-political zone in the 25 appointments made so far by the 1st defendant is unconstitutional and divisive? Whether there are no qualified and credible or corrupt free persons from the entire South East zone? Whether the 2nd defendant has in the circumstance of this case, discharged its statutory duties under paragraph 8(1), (a), (b) and (c) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)?” the statement read in part.
The President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, described Buhari’s appointments as sectional.
According to him, “It is unfortunate the way the situation is, because one becomes worried. We must be seen to be nationalistic than being sectionalized. I am beginning to feel uncomfortable because the complaint is that the appointments are seen to be lopsided. I also do not think that is the intention of the government.
However, no matter how we pretend, the reality is that things are not done in the right way.
“The government should be seen to be more nationalistic than sectionalized. If we truly believe in true federalism and federal character, it should go round.We cannot say that a particular area has the best brains in the country. I think the government should look into that area thoroughly in as much as the President has good intentions.”
Similarly, the umbrella body of Ijaw youths, the Ijaw Youth Council, has said the appointments so far made by President Muhammadu Buhari contravene the provisions of the country’s federal character principle.
The council, in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Eric Omare, said Buhari’s lopsided appointments did not respect the principle as stipulated in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“Buhari has never regarded the southern part of Nigeria as a part of the larger entity called Nigeria. However, the IYC is pained that the leaders of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress from the South-South and South-East zones lack the gut to insist that the constitutional provision on federal character should be obeyed.
“It is, indeed, strange that the same people are now comfortable even with the most flagrant violation of the Nigerian constitution by President Buhari and lack the courage to challenge Buhari’s lawlessness. Ironically, some of them take delight in maligning former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration on a daily basis instead of focusing on how to give the South-South and South-East zones attention in Buhari’s administration,” Omare said.
It is quite disheartening that out of 30 political appointments Buhari has made so far, 23 of them are from the North while only seven are from the South. They 23 from the North are: Secretary to the Federal Government; Chief of Staff to the President; Chief of Army Staff; Chief of Air Staff; Comptroller General of Customs; Director-General of State Security Services (SSS); National Security Advisor; Director General NIMASA; Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC); Comptroller-General Immigration, Accountant-General of the Federation; Commander of Civil Defence Corps; Chief Security Officer to the President; ADC to the President, Principal Secretary to the President; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media; Chairman of the EFCC; Head of Service; MD of Nigerian Ports Authority; DG of Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Chairman National Development, Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA.
Regrettably, Buhari made these lopsided appointments mindful of the fact that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Federation, President of the Court of Appeal and Chief Justice of the Federal High Court are all from the North. At the moment, North-East has six appointees (20%); North-Central has three (10%); North-West has 13 (43%); South-East has nothing (0%); South-South has five (17%), while South-West has three (10%).
Nigerians are now watching with bated breath to see how Buhari balances his lopsided appointments when he finally names members of his cabinet this month. The President’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, has said repeatedly that there are many appointments ahead and expressed optimism that Buhari will correct the imbalance in subsequent appointments. Political watchers are keen to see how Buhari go about this without violating Section 147 of the constitution which stipulates that “the President shall appoint at least a minister from each state.”