On May 29th, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari made his popular “I belong to nobody” statement at the Eagle Square, Abuja. However, events leading up to his 100 days in office have seriously challenged the foundations of that statement. By his subsequent statement in Washington and lopsided appointments, he leaves no one in doubt that he belongs to some people and some people don’t belong to him.
While no right-thinking Nigerian would deny Mr. President’s right to affinity to his people, it shouldn’t be such as to jeopardize the continued unity of the Nigerian state.
When Ndigbo and other southerners were vehemently opposing his election, it was because he had antecedents of being unfair and inequitable to other zones of the country other than his region. For instance, on assumption of office after his 1983 coup d’état, he jailed a Vice President – Dr Alex Ekwueme (an Igbo/ Southerner) while merely placing the President & Commander in Chief – Alh. Shehu Shagari (a fellow Fulani/Northerner) under house arrest. He even clamped Ikemba Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who held no office in jail. Also, during his tenure as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, 60% of his projects were in his North West zone while the S. East got meagerly 6%!
Today, Buharian change seems to mean two things, all at once. Today, the anticorruption agencies ‘seem’ to have rediscovered their bite. Yet,
Nigerians will regard his anticorruption war as being selective until some key figures in his party, who are patently corrupt, are touched and scorched.
Conversely, it seems to mean a beginning to impunity in the distribution of opportunities and positions. Since this democratic dispensation, it has become conventional for Nigerian Presidents to spread key appointments among the six geo-political zones for equity. Today, however, for the first time since our return to democracy, no South Easterner or Igbo man anywhere, is a service chief or heading any paramilitary/security service institution in Nigeria! There is obviously a plot to encircle and neutralize Ndigbo politically.
And to think that this political genocide is coming after Nigeria was pulled back from the precipice after a highly divisive campaign by President Jonathan’s uncommon patriotism is most saddening. One would have expected President Buhari to take immediate steps to reconstruct himself as a born-again democrat, re-uniting and healing old wounds. But he is going in the opposite direction with the bravado of a cowboy.
Shehu Garba, the President’s media aide aggravated the injury already inflicted on South-Easterners by his misleading claim that President Buhari’s appointments were based on merit. I wonder what parameter was used in measuring Buharian measuring, which every Igbo son and daughter. To the Igbo nation, a nation renowned for producing world-beaters across the ages, from Olaudah Equiano to Gen. Toussaint L’ouverture, from Nnamdi Azikiwe to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, from Barth Nnaji to Philip Emeagwali, it is indeed a grave insult. If Mallam Shehu paid more attention to history, he would have realized that of all African ethnic groups in the United States, the US Government built the Igbo Frontier Museum in Staunton, Virginia in 2009, “in recognition of the fact that the Igbos were the African tribe that contributed most to the making of America”. It would be foolhardy to
attempt to confine such a nation to the dustbin.
It would also interest Shehu to know that out of a list of three shortlisted candidates from the South South, South East, and North Central, President Jonathan approved the appointment of a new Commandant General of the Nigerian Security & Civil Defence Corps from the South
East on 26th May, 2015, based on the candidate’s superior resume and the need for equity. However, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior- Engr. A.G. Magaji- allegedly sat down on the presidential directive until Jonathan’s tenure elapsed on May 29, 2015. Subsequently, he decorated the 2nd placed candidate from the Niger State, Muhammadu Abdullahi as Commandant
I was still pondering Garba Shehu’s diatribe when President Buhari’s honest confession put paid to Garba Shehu’s lies. Mr. President has told the world through the BBC that it was more about job for his boys. He even claimed that all the appointees, including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Commandant of the Security and Civil Dedence Corps, and Comptroller-General of the Immigration as well as that of Customs are his “personal staff”. Interesting.
I wonder if Buhari understands that his obvious tribalistic disposition has done unquantifiable damage to goodwill that brought him to office and as
all his actions, including the fight against corruption, will henceforth be viewed through the prisms of primordial tribal and partisan sentiments. Why? Because nepositm itself is the worst type of corruption since it is both intellectual and economic and the biggest facilitator of state capture.
For instance, Obiora – a male pupil from Anambra State has to score 139 in order to gain admission into the so-called Unity schools (Federal Government Colleges) whereas Ahmadu – his mate from Yobe only needs to score 2 to gain the same admission! Obiora will grow up feeling cheated and marginalized, while Ahmadu will grow up feeling inferior. Ahmadu is given positions and opportunities he knows he does not merit and has no capacity to occupy, while Obiora is made to serve someone he knows very well does not qualify to serve as his messenger. And it is such feelings of marginalization and inferiority have been basis for ethnic disharmony and cleansing.
I am glad nevertheless that in this season of politically induced reasoning, one man stands tall like a memorial to the possibility of a new Nigeria, where tribe or creed will not be the yardstick for political empowerment. He is Alh. Yerima Shettima, the National President of the Arewa Youth Congress
who is the only Northern leader to have publicly condemned Buhari’s lopsided appointments because of the danger it portends to our present and future.
The same, however, cannot be said about many northern elites and social critics who have watered this seed of discord with every form of open knock-kneed logics or by a conspiracy of silence. While I cannot worry about the likes of Junaid Mohammed, a renowned irredentist, I have to worry about Kabiru Mato’s recent piece where he claimed that the only South Easterner standing in this government, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, got what did not belong to him. And that rather than genuflect and come crying and begging for forgiveness, that Ekweremadu insisted that what the South East got through him was within their constitutional rights.
Suddenly, bipartisan leadership of the legislature, which was staunchly defended by the APC and the Kabiru Matos as democratic, right, and constitutional in the cases of Hon. Aminu Tambuwal as well as currently in Benue and Plateau State Houses of Assembly where the APC are Speakers despite being minority party has become wrong because a South Easterner is involved. What a shame.
Some of them, including, Governor Rochas Okorocha have tried to justify Buhari’s ‘body language’ against the South East on the premise that he performed abysmally in the South East during the election. My answer is, what of the Igbo people that worked for him and ensured that Jonathan did not do as well as he did in the zone in 2011? Rochas claims he could have produced an Igbo Senate President if there was even a single APC Senator from the South East, but he could not produce a common APC principal officer such as Deputy Whip in the House although he has two APC Reps from Imo. What has Buhari’s number of votes in the South East got to do with abiding by the federal character principle? I bet, even if Igbo voted 100% for Buhari, the story would still not be different. Ask the South West!
By the way, what Igbo man/woman, having the genocidal and fratricidal civil war that at the back of his/her mind, would not be alarmed hearing declaration of total commitment to implementing Sharia contrary to the secularity of Nigeria? Which Igbo man would not be worried to hear that “The monkey and the baboon will be soaked in blood”? So, that Buhari got the proverbial 5% votes from the South East had little or nothing to do with where he came from, but with his antecedents. A moderate like Atiku Abubakar, Balarabe Musa, etc, for instance, would have enjoyed a great support of Ndigbo.
The claim by APC that Igbos will get ministerial positions is arrant nonsense because it is a matter of constitutional compulsion. It is dangerously wrong for the South East or any other
zone in Nigeria to be so brazenly excluded. Nigeria’s
elder statesmen should call Buhari to order.
Engr. Oji, an Enugu-based poet and political activist is former National Chairman, Ohaneze Youth Wing