September 10, 2023

Emilokan, awalokan appointments will not help Nigeria, By Dele Sobowale

Emilokan, awalokan appointments will not help Nigeria, By Dele Sobowale

President Bola Tinubu

“Dele, why are you keeping quiet now that your brother is appointing Yoruba to the most lucrative positions in the Federal Government?”

“Truth is constant.”

One of the amazing things about writing columns for so long is how many people remember what was written two, even fifteen years ago on a matter of national interest. The composition of Buhari’s government in 2015, starting with the first 20 appointees, virtually all Northerners, Muslim, Fulani, Katsina and from Daura, was all I needed to break away from him. It was clear, from Buhari’s nepotism, religious bigotry and ethnic agenda that a corrupt government would follow. Discrimination for, or against certain groups to fill certain positions, means sacred cows are created – untouchables are installed everywhere. Performance suffers. I cannot remember anytime and anywhere in history when a government founded on nepotism has succeeded. They may last long, but, they seldom leave an enviable legacy for posterity.

I deliberately left out the name and phone number of the sender of that message because more than one person sent me a similar message. His text message summarized a complaint from readers which is legitimate. They wanted me to declare my position on President Tinubu’s appointments. I was relentless in my attacks on Buhari from start to finish and the man has entered my Black Book of Governance for crimes committed against Nigerians during his eight tragic years in office. It all started with narrow-mindedness.


“When those in office regard the power vested in them as personal prerogative; they inevitably enrich themselves, promote their families, favour their friends. The fundamental structures of the modern state are eroded…” – Lee Kuan Yew, 1923-2015, the Father of Singapore

Yew, who took Singapore from the third to the first generation in one generation – defined as 30 years by demographics – left advice which African leaders like Buhari never read. Buhari, in particular, hates reading. It was one of the tragedies of Nigeria in the early years of the 21st century that we freely twice elected a man who stopped growing mentally years before he became President. For example, he appointed the daughter of a close friend as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA – which, from its inception, had remained one of Nigeria’s major dollar revenue generators.

It is the sort of position which Yew would not have filled with anybody but the most experienced person in Singapore – given its strategic importance to our economic survival. Buhari awarded it, with no more thought than an indulgent uncle giving a three years old niece a piece of candy. Just recently, a House of Representatives Committee was stumped by the revelations from a former staff member of a Federal Commission about how vacancies were openly sold – with the Chairman, a woman, receiving the lion’s share of the filthy lucre. Again, she was the nominee of a close friend. Now, we know why that Commission is in a bloody mess; and stinks to high heavens.

It is doubtful if any of Buhari’s two Ministers of Finance would have even been short-listed for interview in any Banana Republic – let alone a nation calling itself the giant of a continent. That Nigeria now spends 90 per cent of her revenue to service debt is a clear testimony to the triumph of narrow-minded ethnicity over competence and character. Because it is easier to destroy than to build (I just heard that a three-storey building in Lagos Island was demolished in five days. It took three years to build it), it will require three Presidents to repair the damages done by Buhari in eight years – assuming they abandon the “awalokan” – it is our turn – mentality and go in search of excellence.


“An eye for an eye will soon result in a nation of blind people” – Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948

Gandhi, the Father of India, is a perfect example of leaders who place national interest above all else. After leading India to independence, he was offered the Prime Minister’s position on a silver platter. He rejected it. Instead, he proposed Jawaharlal Nehru, 1889-1964, who, unlike Gandhi, had spent all his life in India, knew the country better and was a superb administrator. He was to Gandhi what the late Chief Simeon Adebo, 1913-1994 (who served in the United Nations from 1962-1972), was to the late Chief Awolowo, 1909-1987 – the man who made government to work efficiently.

Nehru made two tough decisions – which have had lasting impacts. First, he banned imports of all fabrics by proclaiming that “if India cannot clothe herself, then India should go naked.” That brought an end to Indians, no matter how wealthy, wearing suits. The second was even more courageous, bordering on lunacy. “If India cannot feed herself, then India must go hungry”- at a time when 200 million Indians were suffering from acute malnutrition. Today, India has overtaken America as the world’s largest exporter of food. Smuggling of clothes and food were severely punished until smugglers largely stopped.

Nehru succeeded mostly because he learnt the lesson Gandhi taught. He appointed the most capable people for the important posts; and he was frugal with appointments. His Ministers worked like galley slaves; and were rewarded – when they delivered on promises to the people. India has remained largely the same. I attended a conference on food production and poverty alleviation in 1990 in India – which was to be declared open by the Minister of Agriculture at 9am.

I had an early breakfast, dressed in a 3-piece suit with tie and shoes to match; and stood at the entrance to the hotel. I didn’t know why people were gazing at me. A Volkswagen Beetle drove into the hotel at 8.50am – with only the driver in it. Then there was an announcement: “The Honourable Minister for Agriculture has just arrived. All participants should come in and take their seats.” I thought it was a mistake. So I rushed in to correct the announcer that no Minister has arrived. Then somebody tapped me on the shoulder: “Good morning, I am the Minister for Agriculture. Thanks for coming.” It was the fellow in the Volkswagen!!! Furthermore, I was the only one dressed in suit. People who would later transform India into a food power house were in simple shirts.

I have recalled that story because Tinubu’s cabinet of 48 men and women has only about five people who can be regarded as reaching global standards. There are far more comedians than competence. Finally, there are too many Yoruba people instead of five – since Tinubu is Minister of Petroleum Resources; and under him 400,000 barrels of crude are still being stolen. At my last count, there are at least 158 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Yoruba account for less than 15 per cent; Fulani less than 5 per cent.

Granted, Buhari was so myopic as not to realise that his lopsided appointments will induce a backlash when he leaves office, I honestly believe Tinubu should stop emulating all the worst aspects of “Buhariism”. The man was a disaster; and Northerners are now realizing what happens when a Nigerian President fills all the best positions only with his own people. It breeds resentment; and unless Tinubu takes corrective measures, the next President will do to Yoruba what Tinubu is now doing to the other ethnic groups. I protest on their behalf.


“Against great excellence in another, there is no way of defending ourselves except love” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832.

Nigeria has produced several individuals who were excellent in one aspect of life or another. But, very few have left permanent footprints on the sands of our time in so many areas like Chief Olusegun Osunkaye who marked his 82nd birthday on September 7, 2023.

It was once said that “all that was required for a company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange to become blue chip was for Gamaliel Onosode, 1933-2015, to sit on the Board.” But, by early 2000s, the title shifted to Chief Osunkeye. By 2005, he had established a record as longest serving Chairman/Managing Director of NESTLE Plc – then most valuable company on the NSE and was on the board of more quoted companies than any Nigerian. He was also:

•Past Chairman, International Chamber of Commerce Nigeria 1999 -2011

•Nigeria Director Development Committee, 2003-2009

• Past Chairman IoD

His financial support and other services to the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta remains unequalled.

Through his personal efforts NESTLE Plc investment in Ogun State remains the largest of any company.

The Anglican Church in Nigeria will not forget him in a long time – if ever…..