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Where is the equity?

By Wale Akinlabi

ONE thing that worries a lot of people in this country is the way our leaders have always taken us for granted even in sensitive matters that have the tendency to cause a head-on-collusion in the polity.

Of recent, political appointments in the country have assumed very dangerous dimension that even within a particular environment everybody claims it is their turn to take a shot. This trend has wittingly or unwittingly justified the “come and chop” saga of Sunday Afolabi and Bola Ige fight in 2001 or thereabout.

While it is believed that the President has the prerogative to appoint whoever he so desires to any position, it is also instructive for such appointment to reflect a human face or conform to the federal character principle which is already enshrined in the nation’s Constitution. After all, what is good for the goose, they say, is equally good for the gander.

In view of this, it is very disappointing to note the flagrant disregard President Yar’Adua has applied to equity in the same appointments he has made since he came to power. Under him geographical spread/ethnic balancing has suffered a fatal blow.

For instance, it is embarrassing to say the least that appointments in the two key sectors of the nation’s economy, oil and public finance, is dominated by a section of the country. Just a sampler for the records: The President, the Secretary to the Government of Federation, the honourable Ministers of Finance and National Planning, Governor of Central Bank, Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Accountant General of the Federation; Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, Managing Director, Nigeria-Import Export Bank, Director General, National Pension Commission, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, amongst many others.

It is this type of very obvious lopsided appointments that have plunged the nation into perpetual crisis as evidenced in the Niger-Delta region. How therefore could it be explained that the President who came on board preaching rule of law and due process could allow these glaring imbalances in his appointments in a nation where nerves are continually frayed?

However, when the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation became vacant in May this year and the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) advertised the vacancy, hell was let loose across the length and breadth of the country because people believed it was ploy for a particular cabal within this administration to once again corner it.

After many months of painstaking efforts and supposedly credible process, three candidates had emerged. The FCSC in its wisdom forwarded the names to the Presidency for selection of one of them for the position.

Interestingly, Nigerians trusting in the ability of their President to take a good decision were disappointed to learn of the appointment of one Mr. Samuel Ukura from Benue State, North-Central Zone of the country.

What is worrisome is that the citizens cannot trust their leaders or believe in this government again. This is so because, a few days before Ukura’s purported appointment was made public, media reports had predicted that the President was under intense pressure by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa and Justice Alloysius Katsina Alu of the Supreme Court to appoint Ukura.

Astonishingly and to justify the speculation that had pervaded the exercise, National Life newspaper issue of Saturday, October 24, 2009  carried an expository story of the shameful act of connivance at the Presidency to do the bidding of a serving powerful minister to at all cost have a Benue man clinch the position. Since then the story has not been debunked from any quarter. It is obvious that the existence of Benue mafia in Yar’Adua’s government is real.

The question now, is what message is the government at the centre sending to the Nigeria nation and particularly to other geopolitical zones? This question has further fuelled the suspicion that the recent banking reform where about eight chief executives of banks from the Southern part of the country were sacked has political and ethnic undertones.

Consequently, if the President wants Nigerians to believe him in his effort to make the country better, he should reconsider the so-called appointment of Ukura. The Senate also should reject the appointment because it is a clear breach of the federal character principles.

The reconsideration is necessary because if it is allowed to stand, he may have wittingly or unwittingly set a precedent that would be cited negatively in future.  Again, in July he forwarded the name of Ms. Arunma Oteh to the Senate as Director-General designate of the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC).

Since then, the protest that trailed it had stalled her appearance and subsequent clearance by the Senate. The founding fathers of Nigeria had looked forward to a nation where no man would feel oppressed on account of his tribe, tongue, geographical zone or status.

Mr. Akinlabi, a social critic,  writes from Ekiti, Ekiti State.


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