Outcry, outrage and blue murder that followed the seeming lopsided appointments recently made by President Mohammadu Buhari have refused to go away. Truly, his handlers have made effort to quell the tension and anger being overtly expressed at various fora and in the media by the people of the South East over their marginalization in major appointments of the President.
Reading through the newspapers, the matter has begun to take another dimension. Whereas the President’s men have argued that it is the number one citizen’s prerogative to appoint those he feels that have the capacity and grasp of his dreams and modus operandi to turn the country around. They further hold that in so far as those so appointed deliver, it does not matter where they come from even if they are chosen from the same family.
However, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina while reacting to critics over Mr. President’s appointment, which largely favoured the North, averred that President Buhari who is not unaware of the Federal Character provision in the constitution will balance his appointments in due course. He further told his principal’s critics to look at the qualification of those appointed by the President.
Of course, this defense did not only provoke further reactions but was rather described as insults if not an orchestrated attempt to humiliate the people of the South East that can boast of human resources in virtually every facets of human endeavour.
The appointment conundrum has not only aroused a twitchy feeling among the zone but has begun to bring back to memory one of the ills of Nigeria that has never blown anyone any good. The harm ethnicity has done to the Nigerian project is so huge that it is better handled subtly.
Buhari may have meant well by choosing those he felt he could trust to deliver on his electoral promises. However, such premise may have collapsed like a pack of cards following the reason adduced by his critics who wondered how Mr. President could not have spotted out any qualified and trusted technocrat among the millions of Igbo trained professionals.
Beyond the South East agitation, their South West counterparts are already crying foul in solidarity to the people of the South East. However, South East should have been shown such sympathy when the South West insisted on getting two leadership spots in the House of Representatives at the expense of the South East, which is one of the tripod upon which Nigeria stands. But this was not to be. The Speaker of the Green Chamber put up a good show to protect the interest of the South East as it were, but was conquered with the instrumentality of the party, All Progressives Congress. It was at this stage that close watchers had expected those sympathizing with the South East to blow the whistle but that was not to be. Meanwhile, Dogara who was embroiled in the fight of his life for acceptance from his party had to thread softly to calm the nerves of some godfathers.
Again, at the Senate, the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki was not without its controversy to the extent that he had to yield to unfathomable marriage of convenience between Peoples Democratic Party and his supporters. Of course, Ekweremadu became the devil’s alternative who had to reap were he knew he never sowed. It is on this note that the South Easterners are crying foul. In the scenario, the leaders of South East described the whole drama as hatched plan to emasculate Ndi Igbo. Looking at the political realities, do Ndi Igbo deserve accommodation in Buhari’s administration by any moral justifications? This question is not unconnected to the fact that the South East and the South-South counterparts never pretended they would not vote for President Buhari and they made real their promise by doing so at the Presidential poll.
President Buhari’s handlers have spent time and energy trying to calm the outrage coming from all quarters but reasons so far adduced seem indefensible. The newly appointed Secretary to the Federal Government also joined in the fray in defense of Buhari’s choice of him hinging it on qualification and merit. Another question is, could it be that in the whole of South East, there is not a single trustworthy qualified technocrat who could bring to bear the needed know-how to ensure that our President succeeds.
The appointment has not only caused reasons to ask about the place of their leaders, which Governor Rochas Okoroch represents. This has led to the recent calls by most notable Igbo sons and daughters through various media to the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha to quickly intervene so as not to relegate Ndi Igbo to the background. The call on Governor Okorocha is expected.
Recently, while fielding questions from the newsmen shortly after meeting with some of the APC members and other stakeholders Governor Okorocha used the opportunity to state his take on the matter. While urging people to calm down, he assured them that President Buhari means well for the country and therefore deserves everyone’s understanding.
Speaking further as it concerns the appointments made so far, he said he believed they are personal staff and does not warrant the outrage. He therefore called on the people of the South East to exercise patience as he believes that the President has taken his decision based on national interest. He however stressed that his interest is in what comes to the South East in the area of infrastructural development and other projects and programmes that will aide development and welfare of the people.
With the hindsight of what transpired in 2015 presidential elections, it is incontrovertibly clear that the people of South East were politically reckless by their robotic choice to vote like those under spell. Ordinarily, one would not explain how everyone decided to damn the consequences to voting for one party and nothing more. One would have also thought that they could have damned the consequences and accept their fate as it were. It is on record that South East did make up to 200, 000 votes for Buhari in the last presidential election.
Governor Okorocha did his best. He was variously insulted, harassed and called names over his vehement support and campaign for Buhari but he refused to give up. In the villages, he told a story about the change Mohammadu Buhari would bring. He christened him Okechukwu for Ndi Igbo to own him. At occasions he toured round South East States, he kept the goal of APC to making Buhari emerge the President a priority. Beyond the shores of Imo State and South East, Governor Okorocha participated and where he could not, he sent a proxy.
From the realist perspective, Ndi Igbo should stop this call for Buhari’s head and put a stop to trying to deride Owelle Rochas Okorocha. President Buhari has said he appointed those who have remained loyal to him despite all odds. The lone voice who was Okorocha who did all for his people to understand him was vilified and ridiculously taunted. This was rather like the Noah and his message of the time but was also rejected.
While not glorying in Buhari’s apparent extreme realist posture, methinks that his action is, perhaps, insensitive to sacrificing the sanctity of the very nucleus of Nigeria as a living organ. A policy, decision, resolution or even memoranda for Nigerian Project without Ndi Igbo is not plausibly possible and would have created political abyss in the Nigerian project. On this note, like Governor Okorocha averred, giving the South East an opportunity of development and repairing her decayed infrastructure is the way to go.
Again, the people of South East will also, in their nature, give President Buhari even a greater support if the gulf created is remedied with other soothing appointments, giving their rightful place in every sector and creating opportunities where they can comfortably ply their trade as entrepreneurs in addition to the governor’s point that providing critical infrastructure is the most auspicious and most strategic lifeline for the South Easterners.
Ogbonnaya, a public affairs analyst writes from Owerri