By Bisi Lawrence
The inclusion of a provision in the Nigerian Constitution with regard to a fair and even distribution of senior official positions all over the Federal Republic was, without a doubt, intended to be taken seriously. Although it does not appear to have been made justifiable, a commission was actually established to pursue that purpose. The intention was to hold in check by legal means, if necessary, any tendency on the part of any one, or group of persons in power, to influence or effect the appointment of a host of people from any particular area—usually theirs—to strategic or important positions in the country.
In specific terms, the Constitution states:
“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 unity, thereby ensuring that there shall not be predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies”.
The Constitution is even more direct in the case of states, in which it specifies that the functions of the State government or any of its agencies shall be conducted in a way as to “recognize the diversity of the people within the area of its authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging….”
It is all there in the “1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” and yet the provision is casually flouted almost as a matter of routine. However, never before has our history of governance recorded such a disregard, such outright disdain, for the “Federal Character” policy of the nation. A cursory glance at the outline of a number of senior officers in the security appointments is, to say the least, almost mind-boggling. Here we go:
Comptroller-General of Customs…. Hameed Ibramim Ali
Comptroller Nigerian Prisons … Ahmed Jafaru Chairman EFCC … Ibrahim Magu
Minister of Interior …. Abdulraman Bello Danbassu Minister of Defence ….. Mansur Dan Ali
Director-General of State Security …. Mamman Daura
Chief of Army Staff …. Tukur Buratai
Chief of Air Staff ….. Abubakar Sadique
I.G. Police …… Ibrahim Idris
Controller-General Immigration …. Mohammed Babandele
And the list has not been exhausted.
It can be stated categorically that these appointments as made side-by-side, have not reflected the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, by ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from a few states, or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups. On the contrary, the appointees are preponderantly all from the same Hausa-Fulani group. Their appointments in this manner, are in no way calculated to promote, to say nothing about command, national unity.
As already stated, the Constitution also made provisions for the establishment of a Commission—The Federal Character Commission”—for the sole function of seeing that the provision is effectively enforced. It is composed of a chairman and members from each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The Commission is empowered to “take such legal measures including the prosecution” of the head of staff of any ministry or government body which fails to comply with any aspect of the Commission’s position. It is only right to add that all the members of the Commission are appointed by the President.
And so, this serious default in the compliance specified by the Constitution is set, initially at the doorway of the President. The fault does not fall short or go beyond his office. In an embarrassing manner, it is on all fours with his image which has been smeared with sectionalist tendencies by even some of those who support him politically. But how else can this action be painted but in the lurid colours of ethnical preferences?
It removes without any remorse from the widely acclaimed anti-corruption efforts of the Buhari Government, and falls in line into the strong indictment that the drive against corruption has indeed been limited by motives that fall short of the altruistic, for we submit, with due respect, that partiality induced by one reason may erupt in another way in other circumstances.
Those whom a situation may favour in one direction may simply not be able to crawl under the aegis of favour in another. Therefore the apparent even-handedness of the confrontation against corruption may not have been conducted under conditions that provided the same kind of cover for the preferences in injudicious appointments.
The oft-repeated justification that anyone would be expected to appoint only people he could trust around him does not dignify the person of a head of state, nor does it add value to the status of his position. It was propounded as a shallow rationalization by errant apologists whose presence in the corridors of power is an unavoidable nuisance. Such a twisted philosophical notion indeed gives credence to the view that there may be alien hands close to the reins of power in Aso Rock.
But beyond all that, we still have to wonder about what has prevented the people who have been adversely affected by these lop-sided appointments from showing their resentment at being short-changed so brutally. The instruments for justice have been provided within their rights as citizens of the country. They are duty bound to point out these slip-ups—not only to correct them at this time, but also to ensure that tendencies towards such unconstitutional practices are not encountered if future.