With the current political developments in the country, it appears the South East merely exists on the fringes of the map of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Out of 31 key political appointments made by President Buhari so far, the South East region was deliberately excluded. The brazen insensitivity is worrisome in a federation where the principles of federal character clearly defined ways and manner political offices should be occupied. Does it mean that nobody from the five states of the region has the requisite qualification(s) to occupy one of these positions? The doubt, if any, is unfounded.
The prerogative of appointment of political office holders no doubt resides with the president but I boldly submit that these appointments violated the spirit and letters of the fundamental objectives and direct principles of State Policy otherwise known as federal character. The principle as enshrined in section 14 (3) of Nigeria’s Constitution directs that “ the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and 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 complexities of our nation-state and need for all-inclusiveness in governance gave rise to the introduction of the principle of federal character in appointments into public offices. The best intentions of this principle must not be undermined and deliberately ruined now.
In his piece “Awaiting the Season of Anomie” Arthur Nwankwo vividly captured the status of Ndigbo in contemporary Nigeria thus: “That Nigeria has remained a theatre for circus governance is not in doubt. That in the execution of Nigerian project Ndigbo have borne the burden of hubris is also not in doubt. At this critical point in history, Ndigbo have been violently stabbed in the back by people they thought were their partners. At each point, Ndigbo have been betrayed and subjugated to ridicule and often cast in the role of a felon.”
The assumption that the South East was and still remains a conquered territory of Nigeria even after over 49 years after the civil war was an oddity. Some analysts had alluded to strict compliance with merit and competence in those appointments. However, anyone who alludes to the issue of competency as a precursor to these appointments maligns the whole Igbo nation. Do only the north and other regions have the prerogative of competency? There is no merit in the outright rejection of a people for who they are. The low presidential rating or perception of a people well known to have distinguished themselves in all their endeavours was spiteful. The unfair treatment is capable of creating monumental hostility and brings back the ugly memories of the civil war; that is if it had not already. The Nigerian project must be beneficial to all of us because the nation is not a personal property of any of the six geopolitical zones.
In July, the president hastily gave an insight into how his government will treat Nigerians in far-away United States during question and answer session at the United States Institute of Peace on his three-day visit to the US. Dr. Pauline Baker, who described herself as a student of Nigeria for many years, sought to know President Buhari’s plans for the Niger Delta, “with particular reference to amnesty, bunkering, and inclusive government.”
The Holy Bible emphatically says in Mathew 12:34 that; “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” Hear Mr. President’s response: “I hope you have a copy of the election results. Literally, constituencies, for example, that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated, on same issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political realities. While, certainly there will be justice for everybody but the people who voted, and made their votes count, they must feel the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I think this is really fair.”
The president’s ability to handle the complexities of the Nigerian state and her unstable political antecedents must have informed the basis for the question. It was a test for the President to show and share to the world his understanding, thoughts and hopes about a nation he craved to lead since 2003. Of how much the president appreciates freedom of choice, the heterogeneity of his nation and ways of carrying everyone along in the business of governance was on trial in his presidential court.
The presidential assertion at that material time took the political front burner. Some people thought it was a gaffe associated with the new job. It raised much dust in the polity typical of Nigerian mannerism: friends pitched against each other, the APC against the PDP and the north against the south. There are those who argue that Buhari’s appointments have shown that he does not see the nation beyond the North. Many viewed the appointments as a deliberate pursuit of a northern agenda. They cannot qualify as a good example of change upon which Buhari’s administration is anchored.
However, Buhari’s sympathisers felt it was untimely and very unfair to rate the president on a statement he made on the fillip of the moment. The comment they claim was made in an interview where he only responded to an off-the cuff question. They argued he could have answered devoid of giving much thought to the weighty nature of his utterances. Abi! This school of thought maintained that holding Buhari accountable on the avowals of his inaugural speech should be momentous. Moreover, they view the positions as the President’s personal staff. How could they be when he does not pay them from his personal pocket? Evidently, the aftermath of that pronouncement speaks volumes of the political appointments so far made.
Conversely, this was coming on the heels of an undertaking made to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe by the President that he belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody. The President should be mindful of the fact that the moment he was sworn in, he ceases to be a northerner but President and father of all Nigerians. Part of the oath he swore to says; “…I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria…I will do right to all manner of people, according to the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will…and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria.”
Eze writes via [email protected]