A photo shows a campaign signboad displayed by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to show its readiness to defeat Boko Haram Islamists on assumption office at Ogijo, Ogun State in southwest Nigeria, on July 3, 2015. Boko Haram carried out a fresh wave of massacres in northeastern Nigeria on July 3, locals said, killing nearly 200 people in 48 hours of violence President Muhammadu Buhari blasted as “inhuman and barbaric”. AFP PHOTO
By Douglas Anele
There is increased momentum in the war against Boko Haram, as the military struggles to meet the presidential directive that the sect must be crushed by December, the very group that Buhari, before he became President, wanted his predecessor to treat with kid-gloves. In the last one month, the Nigerian army and air force have made steady progress in degrading the fighting capabilities of the “death cult.”
Several towns and villages in the North East previously controlled by the murderous terrorists have been recaptured, giving rise to expectations that soon Boko Haram would be defeated. Now, some of the strategies adopted by the President in fighting the insurgents, including relocation of the operational headquarters of the army from Abuja to Maiduguri, are encouraging.
However, it must be pointed out that before the March 28 presidential elections, the Nigerian army had inflicted serious damage on Boko Haram to the extent that people voted in Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and Bauchi states in a relatively violence-free atmosphere. Therefore, on the Boko Haram issue, the Buhari government is actually consolidating the military successes already achieved by the military under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Overall, in assessing the achievements of President Buhari in areas such as power, oil and gas, Boko Haram terrorism and the war against corruption, it is important to keep in mind that government is like a relay race in which the performance of the athlete who takes over the baton is crucially dependent on the performance of the teammate that handed it over to her.
Of course, the quality of the individual athlete matters a lot. But no matter how good or talented an athlete might be, she cannot achieve much if her teammate left too much gap for her to cover.
Similarly, the modest progress noticeable in different aspects of our national life since May 29, 2015 could not have happened de novo from scratch, independently of the serviceable institutional frameworks, policies and programmes put in place by Jonathan. As I argued previously in this column, Goodluck Jonathan made several mistakes while in office. However, his government formulated and implemented some good policies the benefits of which are manifesting now but are being unfairly attributed to Buhari by buharimaniacs.
Perhaps, for President Buhari, Lai Mohammed, Junaid Mohammed and other chieftains of APC, relentless excoriation of Jonathan and his lieutenants is part of the change agenda of the ruling party. But meaningful change cannot be realised that way because telling the people continuously how bad the previous government was will not provide employment, stabilize electricity, repair the economy, and provide adequate security nationwide, among others. On the contrary, what Nigerians want from the APC federal government is good governance anchored on strategic planning and efficient utilisation of available scarce resources to improve their well-being.
In my opinion, the obsessive negative attitude of the new ruling cabal to Jonathan is clearly indicative of hubris, mean spiritedness, lack of progressive ideas, and poor preparation for the difficult task of governance.
President Buhari provoked unnecessary controversy by the lopsided appointments into key positions in his government. Specifically, out of the thirty one appointments he has made thus far, about eighty-five percent went to the North, and none to the South-East, the region whose indigenes, despite their temperamental deficiencies, have done more than their compatriots from other zones to actualise the idea of “One Nigeria” through solid contributions in the development of different towns and villages nationwide.
No other ethnic group matches the demographic spread of Ndigbo across the country, which implies that any arrangement, policy or action by the federal government that marginalises Ndigbo or treats them as second class citizens is a negation of justice and the principle of national unity prescribed by the 1999 constitution. I am Igbo: but if members of another ethnic group other than the Igbo have contributed as much as Ndigbo had in developing Nigeria, the validity of my argument still stands.
The main point I wish to stress is that there is no good reason for President Buhari to marginalise any geopolitical zone even if he has made only six strategic appointments thus far, let alone thirty-one, because in each zone there are competent Nigerians that can function effectively in any position.
Expectedly, the President and his alleluia chorus boys and girls have tried to justify the unreasonable lopsided appointments. Before examining their arguments, it must be pointed out that preferential treatment of the North by President Buhari is not a new phenomenon: as military head of state and chairman, Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), he manifested the same tendency.
As if to confirm accusations of ingrained ethnic bias against him, Buhari, while responding to a question in the United States some weeks ago, made it clear that he would treat different parts of the country based on the quantum of votes he received from them during the last presidential elections. Thus, since the North voted overwhelmingly for him, the region must be compensated accordingly, while the South-East that voted for Jonathan should not expect much from him.
Buhari pointedly justified his exclusion of the South-East in his appointments in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service on Tuesday, September 9, by reiterating that the appointments were a reward for those loyal to him and to the various parties under whose platform he contested presidential elections. It follows that as far as President Buhari was concerned, issues of national integration, fairness to all parts of Nigeria, and inclusiveness were irrelevant.
Not surprisingly, die-hard Buharimaniacs maintain that it is the President’s prerogative to choose whomsoever he pleases to work with, and that the appointments were based strictly on merit and competence. They also argue that hundreds of appointments are still pending, such that the imbalances Nigerians are complaining about would be corrected by the time most of these positions were filled.
The arguments by President Buhari and his supporters are invalid. First, apart from contravening the constitution which stipulates the federal character principle for appointments to promote national unity and national integration, the idea of treating people from different parts of the country based on voting pattern is dangerous. It exacerbates the problem of ethnic rivalry and fear of domination that could deepen the already fractured foundation of our nationhood.
Marginalisation of the South-East and the South-South portrays President Buhari as a narrow-minded, vindictive ethnic jingoist incapable of envisioning the entire country as his constituency in line with the spirit and letter of the constitution. Aside from that, a President whose circle of loyalists is restricted to his particular section of the country, who sees appointments as an avenue to reward his own dedicated loyalists, seems to lack the kind of expansive nationalistic vision and mentality needed right now for positive transformation of the entire country.
Moreover, by stressing loyalty at the expense of fairness to every part of Nigeria, is Buhari saying that both are mutually exclusive, that Mike Ahamba, Chris Ngige, Ogbonnaya Onu and other prominent members of the APC from the South-East are not loyal enough to be considered for any of the positions he had filled, or that no high-ranking military officer form the zone is good enough to serve as one of his service chiefs?
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.