IN the height of his very public fallout with then President Jonathan, Gen. Obasanjo wrote in an 18-page open letter that one of his grouse with Jonathan was that the latter had set up himself as the president of only the Ijaws. I wonder how Obasanjo is feeling this morning after Buhari unveiled a kitchen and store-room cabinet of 100% Northern males.
As feared by some people, Buhari has quickly reverted to being a local champion, an unabashed sectional leader and not a broad-minded statesman President.
The true measure of a human being is what he or she does privately, when no one is looking. In other words, without the encumbrance of the dictate of the constitution that stipulates that Ministers must come from all States of the Federation, Buhari has chosen all his core appointments from the Northern part of Nigeria. He’s given a one-finger salute to the entire Southern Nigeria – including his APC mates. It would appear his vaunted Party supremacy only applies to Legislative officers.
For a president of a country to openly declare that he would favour only those that massively voted for him to the exclusion of others; you don’t need to look far to know what is really in his heart.
As a national politician, if people reject you, if they are not convinced by you, you should want to know why. Then you build bridges and begin to cultivate friendship, making necessary amends where possible. You do not go out of your way to emphasise parochialism, reinforcing their original fears.
What irks is that no attempt at all was made to even pretend to be inclusive. The core appointments that Buhari has to make without worrying about Federal Character, he made exclusively from his neck of the woods. The utter disdain shown to others is scary indeed. It is insensitivity taken too far.
When, before the election, some of us raised the issue of parochialism, nepotism and all the other negative isms that litter Buhari’s public record, we were told that the man is not discriminatory at all, that his drivers, cooks and gardeners were from the South. Well, the man is here to reprise that wonderful formula.
Take for instance, the Nigerian Customs. The most senior Custom officer in line to be the Comptroller General of that service is a Yoruba fellow. Buhari completely ignored and bypassed him and brought in a retired (yes, Northern) Army officer to head Nigerian Customs.
How about that for gumption? The single mindedness and the determined manner these lopsided core appointments are being made and the utter disregard for others and their feelings is quite troubling. At this rate, it is only a matter of time before the current Police boss is replaced by another ‘trusted’ hand.
Right under all of our collective nose, while we were still yammering about APC-PDP dichotomy, we were dragged right back to the era where one region lords it over all others. As we childishly focus solely on the War Against Jonathan’s Corruption, power is being consolidated in just one place. And, wouldn’t you know, some of the folks that were shouting marginalisation less than a year ago have suddenly discovered the beauty of meritocracy.
One inelegant argument I heard was that because Yar’Adua appointed his people as Chief of Staff and as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), and because Jonathan of the South-south appointed Ayim from the Southeast as SGF, it is alright for Buhari to put only his Northern brothers everywhere. My response is: I thought this was supposed to be a corrective government.
Some people say that Buhari has assembled a team he feels he can work with. I say why contest a national post if you can only work with folks from just your region. Others say we should be patient and watch the President assemble a team to rescue the nation. I ask; rescue Nigeria from what?
Yet some others insist that we should wait as Buhari still has about 5,000 appointments to fill. I don’t know from where they obtained that figure, but the important point to note is that the core appointments have all gone to Northern males. The fluff and space-fillers will be thrown as token to others. Is this where we should be as a Federation? Treating very sensitive matters with complete disregard for the notion of ‘one Nigeria?’
I can confidently predict that Buhari will only unhappily and grudgingly obey the constitution when it comes to appointing his Ministers. And even at that, the meatier Ministries will all be handed over to older Northern males. Why? Action speaks louder than campaign promises.
If you take social participation away from people, you make them slaves. Buhari must resist the temptation to continue treating sections of Nigeria like conquered territory. The President must not see some of his citizens as adversaries. He is president of all Nigerians and must always demonstrate that in all of his actions.
In the meantime, I hope that Vice President Osinbajo has enrolled himself in a suitably accelerated Hausa language lesson…
Dr. Michael Egbejumi-David, a medical prctitioneer, wrote from London.