Buhari’s appointments: Between facts and fiction

Echoes of marginalisation over appointments


The outcry over perceived skewed appointments in favour of the North against the South by President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to reverberate across the country even more than six years into his administration. FELIX NWANERI reports


The framers of Nigeria’s constitution were wary of the domination of major ethnic groups over minorities, which informed the inclusion of the Federal Character Principle in the nation’s law book.


The provision is meant to give equal opportunity to all ethnic nationalities and prevent tribal or regional domination of the Federal Government or its agencies in a country that is made up of diverse ethnic nationalities, numbering over 350. Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which provides for the principle, states: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”


This provision, however, seems to be only on paper as the leading ethnic groups have continued to dominate the political space, especially appointments into strategic government institutions.


As a result, the Federal Character Principle, which ordinarily was meant to protect the minorities, has only ended up shielding the majority ethnic groups’ lack of will of competitiveness and open-mindedness.


While administrations before now were accused of lopsided appointments in favour of one section of the country or the other, particularly where the president at a particular time hailed from, it was hope of a new dawn, when President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015.


The President captivated many Nigerians with his inaugural speech then with his pledge to serve the people without external influence and to run an inclusive government.


“I would like to thank the millions of our supporters who believed in us even when the cause seemed hopeless. I salute their resolve in waiting long hours in rain and hot sunshine to register and cast their votes and stay all night if necessary to protect and ensure their votes count and were counted.


I thank those who tirelessly carried the campaign on the social media.


“At the same time, I thank our other countrymen and women who did not vote for us but contributed to make our democratic culture truly competitive, strong and definitive. I thank all of you.


Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” Buhari said on May 29, 2015.


It was however doubt by the time the President made his first key appointments. Many viewed them as skewed in favour of the North against the South and in turn eroded the goodwill his party enjoyed on its way to power.


Despite the misgiving and nepotism tag on Buhari by the opposition during his first term, he was re-elected during the 2019 presidential election.


Again, it was claims of skewed appointments by the time the he reconstituted his kitchen cabinet. Since then, it has always been cries of nepotism any time Buhari makes any key appointment in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government.


The military and paramilitary agencies are not left out.


First term appointments


President Buhari’s key appointments during his first term include: Aide de Camp to President, Lt. Col Abubakar Lawal (Kano State, North-West); Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the president, Mr. Femi Adesina (Osun State, South-West); Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu (Kano State, North-West) and State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant (Presidential Matters), Lawal Kazaure (Jigawa State, North-West)


Others are Accountant General of the Federation Ahmed Idris (Kano State, North-West); National Security Adviser, Maj. General Babagana Monguno (rtd) (Borno State, North-East); Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. General Abayomi Olonishakin (Ekiti State, South-West); Chief of Army Staff, Maj. General Tukur Buratai, (Borno State, North-East);

Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (Cross Rivers, South-South); Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Sadique Abubakar (Bauchi State, North-East); Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshall Monday Riku Morgan (Benue State, North Central) and Director General, State Security Services (SSS), Lawal Daura (Katsina State, North-West) Acting Chairperson, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mrs. Amina Zakari, (Jigawa State, North-West), who was later replaced by Prof Mahmood Yakubu (Bauchi State, North-East); Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Habibu Abdullahi (Kano State, North-West); Special Adviser, Niger Delta Amnesty Office, Brig. General Paul Boroh (rtd) (Bayelsa State, South- South);

Acting Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency (NIMASA), Baba Haruna Jauro (Yobe State, North-East) and Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Umaru Dambatta (Kano State, North-West). Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler [Lagos State, South- West); Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Aliyu Gusau (Zamfara State, North-West); Group Managing Director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu (Delta State, South-South); Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal (Adamawa State, North- East); Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, (Borno, North-East); Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) (Kaduna State, North-West) and Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Kure Martin Abeshi (Nasarawa State, North Central).


Others were Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu (Nasaraawa State, North Central); Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom State, South-South); Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Hon. Suleiman Kawu (Kano State, North-West); Director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Modecai Baba Ladan (Kano State, North-West); Managing Director, Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON); Ahmed Lawan Kuru (Kano State, North-West); Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission: Mohammed Kari (North-West). Out of these 30 major appointments, 23 went to the North with 19 states, while the South’s 17 states got seven.


Second term appointments


While most of the first term appointees returned when President Buhari reconstituted his kitchen cabinet after his inauguration for a second term in office on May 29, 2019, some of them have been relieved off their appointments along the line.


But each time any of the aides was dropped, and a replacement announced, cries of skewed appointments and nepotism always rent the air.


Some of the positions that have seen new occupants include Aide de Camp to President, Lt. Colonel Yusuf Dodo (Katsina State, North-West); Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor (Delta State, South-South),; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Farouk Yahaya (Sokoto State, North-West), who replaced late Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru (Kano State, North-West); Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Zubairu Gambo (Kano State, North-West)); Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao (Osun State, South-West); Chief of Defence Intelligence, Major General Samuel Adebayo (South-West); Director General, Department of State Services (DSS); Yusuf Bichi (Kano State, North-West).


Others are Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari (Borno  State, North-East); Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, who is presently on suspension (Kaduna, North-West); Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh (Kaduna State, North-West); Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Muhammad Nami (Niger State, North Central); Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze (Anambra State, South- East); Chief of Staff to the President (Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Kwara State, North Central) and Comptroller-General, Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa (Sokoto State, North-West).

Other appointments the President had so far made in his second term are Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba (Yobe State, North-East); Auditor General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu (Edo State, South- South); Executive Secretary, Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Dr. Ogbonnaya Orji (Abia State, South-East); Chairman of Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), Abudulrasheed Bawa (Kebbi State, North-West) and Commandant- General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Abubakar Audi (Nasarawa State, North central)


Composition of Nigeria’s power house


Besides appointments of the key aides and heads of agencies and commissions, there are six critical positions that influence governance in all aspects of the nation’s life.


These positions are: President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).


These positions cut across the three arms of government – executive, legislature and judiciary. Unfortunately, two out of the country’s six geopolitical zones are missing in the power equation. They are South-East and South- South.


In the executive, President Buhari is from Katsina State (North-West), while Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is from Ogun State (South-West).

The two chambers of the National Assembly (legislature) are headed by Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State, North-East (Senate) and Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State, South-West (House of Representatives).


The head of the nation’s judiciary, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) is Justice Muhammad Tanko (Bauchi State, North-East), while the SGF is Babachir Lawal (Adamawa State, North-East).


The fears


Ordinarily, where the appointees comes from would not have been an issue, but because the various ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria view each other with suspicion, President Buhari has continuously come under fire for skewing his appointments in favour of the North.


The President hails from Katsina State in the North-West. Critics of the president are of the view that his mode of appointments, not only negates the Federal Character Principle, but runs contrary of his oath office to serve as president to all Nigerians. Others have gone to the extreme by accusing him of promoting a Northern agenda aimed at Islamising the country.


However, members of another political said they are not surprised with the mode of appointments given a statement credited to the President during a question and answer session with journalists in the United States on July 22, 2015.


He was quoted to have said: “Going by election results, constituencies that gave me 95 per cent cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me five per cent.


I think these are political realities. While, certainly there will be justice for everybody but the people who voted, and made their votes count, they must feel the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place.”


Buhari justifies appointments


Despite the cries of marginalization and criticisms that his administration has strived to foist Northern hegemony on the nation through favouring the region in key political appointments, particularly in the security agencies, and allotment of projects, President Buhari came out last week to dismiss such claims.


He told critics, who accuse him of nepotism and lopsidedness in appointments as well as execution of projects, that all decisions about policies, projects, and appointments by his administration have been guided by equity and inclusiveness.


The President spoke through the SGF, Mustapha, in Abuja, at the maiden edition of the Progressives Youth Conference organised by the APC youth wing, with the theme: “The Future is a Decision,” there is no part of the country that has not been impacted positively in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, and economic support initiative based on peculiarities of the regions.


His words: “So far, all the policies, initiatives, projects, and even appointments by this administration have been guided by equity and inclusiveness.


There is actually no part of the country  that has not been impacted positively in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, and economic support initiative based on peculiarities of the regions. What an area lacks in one aspect is compensated for in another.”


South alleges ethnic agenda


Thoughithasbeenreservation, mostly in the southern part of the country over appointments by the President, the suspicionheightenedwiththosemaderecently, particularly the service chiefs.

Many had thought that the South- East would be considered for the position of Chief of Army Staff, but again, the position went to the North-West, thereby shutting the zone out of the headship of the country’s security architecture.


However, it has always been the view of most political leaders of southern extraction that Buhari’s appointments since the inception of his administration have always portrayed sectional tendencies as well as negates the Change mantra, which the APC sold to Nigerians during the campaigns.


Those who hold the belief made reference to the President’s recent on Arise Television, in which he made reference to the people of the South-East in the civil service to justify his neglect of the zone as regards appointments.


Responding to a question on how do he plans to include more people from the zone and the South in general in his government, especially inthesecurity services and MDAs, Buhari said: “You look at the military or the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, people have been there for over 10 years.


They have gone for training in Zaria, Abeokuta and all over Nigeria.

They have risen through the ranks, and served under all circumstances. Are you saying that they cannot get the office because of their region? These positions are earned. When reminded that the recent appointment of Chief of Army Staff would have been opportunity, the President averred: “Do you know where he (Lt. General Yusuf) was serving before he was appointed?


In the military, only those who are always with the troops lead the troops. You can’t just pick anybody from the generals because of seniority. You put somebody who has been in the mill, who has suffered and fought wars with the soldiers. Soldiers would want to be led by someone they know that faces the war front with them.


“You’re saying someone who had gone through military and police training all his life should not be appointed to lead the military or police department he works with just because we must balance appointments? What are you saying?


The system didn’t restrict anyone from joining the military or the police, and if you decided not to join, we will not force you but you too will not force us to bring someone who is not qualified in training and experience when it comes to leadership of these institutions just because we want to balance some appointments.”


The Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for instance, which has persistently maintained that the APC-led Federal Government has failed to be fair in the distribution for appointments is of the view that the injustice of the Federal Government under the leadership of President Buhari is partly responsible for the growing agitations and insecurity in the South-East.


According to the group, it was most unfortunate that the President has chosen to sideline the people of the South- East in his recent appointment of service chiefs and even in the appointment of an Inspector General Police.


Spokesperson of Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia said: “It is unjust and unfair to sideline the South-East in the security architecture of the country. Injustice promotes insecurity; it promotes all forms of crisis and problems.


With injustice, there is no peace anywhere. “What is happening in the South- East today in form of agitations is as a result of injustice.


So, we the elders are put in a great dilemma because the younger generation is attacking us and we have been telling them to hold on, believing that the President would have a change of mind.


“We thought that the President would be concerned about the level of injustice, agitations and crises we have in the South-East and would try to ameliorate these things but unfortunately, he is not thinking towards that direction.” The apex Igbo body reiterated the position last week in reaction to Buhari’s claim of running an inclusive government.


Ogbonnia argued that the lopsidedness is not just in favour of the North but the Fulani extraction, a development, which he said gives great concern to other northerners.


He also pointed out that Buhari did not hide his disdain for the South-East after his emergence in 2015, when he said those who gave him 97 percent would not be treated the same way as those who gave him five per cent.


His words: “True to his pronouncement, his administration has been skewed against the South-East that didn’t give him much electoral support in 2015. But even when the zone supported him in 2019, the trend did not change.


So, he can’t say his appointments and policies have been fair and inclusive. I disagree with him on that.”


Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, which has equally been critical of Buhari over his appointments, also expressed the same view on his claim of running an inclusive government. National Publicity Secretary of the proup, Jare Ajayi, said the administration has been most unfair in terms of appointments and policies.


“There has never been an administration in this country that is as unfair and alienates certain parts of the country as that of President Buhari. For Buhari to claim he is fair shows he is unaware of the feelings of the Nigerian public. It seems certain English words connote a different meaning to the President,” he said.


President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, who also spoke on the issue, said if the President was right in his claims, people would not complain about his administration.

He notedthatBuharihasbeensonepotistic inallhispoliticalappointmentssomuch thateveryimportantorganisationinNigeria is headed by a northern Muslim.


“The president is not just nepotistic inhisappointmentsand policies, healso has an agenda which favours what he wants to protect. I don’t want to say he lied, but the data is there for everybody to see. Nearly all appointments, even in somestateswheretheFulanipopulation is insignificant like in Nasawara and Taraba, are taken by the Fulani.


“There is nepotism in Buhari’s government, which has never been experienced in Nigeria before now. So, let him change. Nigeriansdon’thatehim; itishis policies that Nigerians don’t like. It is his policiesthatarecreating alltheproblems we are having today. It is his policies that are making people say they areno longer interested in this country.”


A chieftain of Ohanaeze, Chief Chekwas Okorie, who also agreed that President Buhari’s appointments have not been inclusive said: “Quite frankly, appointments have not been inclusive and that is why there is protests and agitations across the country, and Nigerians from across the various zones cannot be wrong at the same time.


“Even when the President was confronted on that in a recent interview, he made reference to the civil service, which cannot be compared to political appointments though it is his prerogative in that regard. But when it comes to projects, it would be wrong to say that the South-East and the South- South by extension have not benefited from the Buhari administration.


“The two zones have never had it good since after the civil war, when compared to the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).


The Eastern coastal rail line and the sea ports in the zones are being revived; work on the second Niger Bridge is ongoing and we have a completion date not the campaign rhetoric. Today, we have a proper international airport in Enugu unlike before. So, it is a matter of you win some and you lose some.”


The Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu, on his part, said Buhari should prove that he is the president of all Nigerians by being fair to all.

His words: “I won’t say that the President lied by saying that he is running an inclusive government but he should be mindful of the fact that agitations in the South-East are as a result of his marginalization of the zone.


There is no one from the zone in the leadership of the nation’s security architecture and that has been decried by leaders from all sections of the country.


“If the President really wants to run an inclusive government as he said, he should address exclusion of Ndigbo from administration. There should be equity and fairness in all his appointments if he wants to be the president of all Nigerians before we can believe him.”


Between good governance and balancing


While the South continues to allege skewed appointments by the Buhari administration, a political school is of the view that what should be paramount to Nigerians is good governance and not ethnic balancing in appointments.


Members of this political school, mostly die-hard supporters of Buhari, only fell short of labeling those criticizing appointments by the President as ethnic jingoists.


Apart from pointing out that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan appointed persons from the South, where the hail from as close aides, they argued that those appointments rather than impact positively on the lives of the people of the region, ended up creating demi-gods. Interestingly, holders of this view cut across the three zones of the South.


Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, for instance, disagreed with his kinsmen that Buhari has not been fair to Ndigbo. Ngige, who described Buhari as a friend of Ndigbo and absolved him of any blame in the ongoing violence in the South-East, maintained that the President has been fair to the zone, especially in the areas of appointments and infrastructure.


The minister, who spoke during a recent emergency stakeholders’ meeting of the Association of Eze Ndigbo in the 19 Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja, wondered why Ndigbo are complaining of being sidelined in appointive positions when indeed, they had previously produced persons that were appointed Chief of Army Staff, Senate Presidents and Inspectors-General of Police.


”There is no maltreatment. We are in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is composed of a minister per state. But we have one extra ministerial slot. So, the South-East is effectively represented to ensure justice is done to our people. We are there to talk when there is no justice.


“People can say that we are not honoured with appointments of Inspector- General of Police, Chief of Army Staff and Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF). These are positions we have enjoyed before. We had two Inspectors General of Police – Ogbonnaya Onovo and Mike Okiro. We had an SGF, Senator Pius Anyim.


“We had four Senate presidents. Twice, we produced Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker, Ike Ekweremadu and Emeka Ihedioha. They were in charge of federal budgets for eight years from 2007 to 2015. That is the rule in the National Assembly.


So, if you now talk about appointments, it becomes a matter of perception. I won’t blame them. Perception and reality are in the same line. “A lot of people don’t understand how government works.


A lot of them don’t understand that I, as a member of FEC, can influence things that will come to my state, my zone or any other area and where we think things should be sited or done in Nigeria. For me, those people perceiving that are ignorant. I don’t want to use the word mischievous.


“But much more important, propaganda against the government by the elite in the South-East should stop because it is that propaganda that provokes the troubles that we are now noticing.


People have been brainwashed and the separatists jumped on that foundation to now shout from the rooftops that we will give you Biafra and when we give you Biafra, all these things will disappear.


“There is no country that does not have its own problems. We have economic problems here and that is why we have unemployment and of course, we have a youth bulge in our population. About 60 per cent of them are youths and a lot of them are unemployed.


So, the government is devising ways to tackle that. It is a work in progress.” No doubt the discontent over the appointments will continue to grow, but President Buhari has an opportunity to win back the peoples’ confidence through whatever actions his admiration will take in its remaining two years in terms of appointments and projects.




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