President Muhammadu Buhari's appointments have torn northern socio-political groups apart.
The appointments, which southerners believed have favoured northerners, are also causing a bit of an internal uproar in the north. President Buhari recently approved the appointments of six people, including Babachir David Lawal from Adamawa state as the secretary to the government of the federation and Abba Kyari from Borno state as his chief of staff. These recent appointments make the total number of his appointments 30, with only seven of them coming from the southern part of the country and the rest from the north.
The Punch reports that while socio-cultural groups and people from the southern region of the country have been united in their outrage over the appointments, northerners have been split over the issue. The chairman of the Northern Elders Council (NEC), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, was critical of the president’s appointments. However, the convener of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen , Junaid Mohammed, said he was not in favour of zoning in the giving of political appointments.
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Yakassai, in a telephone interview with The Punch yesterday, Friday, August 28, 2015 said the president’s appointments had so far favoured the section of the country where he got the most number of votes during the election. Yakassai said: “If you look at the voting pattern, zone by zone, you will see that Buhari is compensating the zones that favoured him. It depends on the angle from which you look at it. If you are a patriotic Nigerian, you will see it from the patriotic angle, if you’re a parochial Nigerian, you will see it as right. We (NEC) are for Nigeria because if you read the oath of office that Buhari subscribed to as president, he said he would do justice to all manners of people without fear or favour. You just judge for yourself whether he has adhered to the content of that oath of office.”
The former special assistant to the former president Shehu Shagari also dismissed suggestions that Buhari was more concerned about appointing competent people to offices than making appointments based on sentiment.
“In Nigeria today, we have competent people all over the country, no doubt about it. It is a matter of choice; you can get them from all over the country. We have people with university education and working experience all over the country. So, we are not in dire need of competent people because they are everywhere.
Mohammed, however, voiced his fears, saying allowing key political positions to be held by some certain sections of the country could endanger the unity of the country.
“I’m not and I’ve never been a believer in zoning or rotation in giving key political appointments. I also believe that it is not in the national interest to zero in certain key appointments to certain sections of the country because it allows for further division of the country.
“Thirdly, I believe that if there had existed a so-called northern agenda, I would know about it because I’m smart. I don’t believe that any Nigerian whether Buhari, Olusegun Obasanjo (former President) or anybody could hoodwink 170 million people. And if that agenda existed, certainly, Nigerians would know and knowing Nigerians for who they are, they would kick against it.
“So the talk of a northern agenda or a Buhari’s agenda which is pro-north is utter nonsense. If there is a perceived lopsidedness in any appointments, the political situation must be looked at closely to ensure that justice is done. But in this, you also don’t look at immediate appointments; you look at previous appointments made over the last 16 years where a particular section of the country was deliberately marginalised.
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“There was a policy of disenfranchising the north, marginalising the north and especially among Ibo political appointees, there has been a deliberate attempt to go out of their way to offend, disgrace and undermine northern political interest. When some of us were talking about this, I don’t remember a single Igbo voice supporting us, and most people in the south did not say anything. I don’t know what Buhari’s intentions are but one thing I know from his track record of over 45 years is that Buhari has never been caught making appointments on the basis of primordial sentiments.
“Those who were in the army would testify and those with who he worked as governor and in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the committees he headed as a serving officer. Nobody can come out to say Buhari showed primordial, religious or any other sentiments other than merit sentiments which are the most important on his mind.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the pan-Northern socio-political group, Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, has urged all Nigerians to be patient with Buhari. He said that it is too early for the president to be accused of running a northern agenda.
“We still have other appointments like ministers, parastatals and boards that have yet to come. Let us wait before judging him. It is too early to do so.”
Contradicting this opinion, the president of the group’s youth wing, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, who spoke to a newspaper, described the situation as worrisome. He said: “It is unfortunate the way the situation is, because one becomes worried. We must be seen to be nationalistic than being sectionalised. “I am beginning to feel uncomfortable because the complaint is that the appointments are seen to be lopsided. I also do not think that is the intention of the government.”
In the south, Buhari has been accused of running a northern government. A leader of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, described Buhari’s appointments saying: “I am getting worried now; the whole thing is getting me worried. I want to see the clearer picture of what the President is planning to do. The step the President has taken in his latest appointments is worrisome. “I want to see how the President will form his cabinet in September. What he has just done concerning the appointments of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and others are a source of concern to me.”
Also, the national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said Buhari’s appointments would give him the identity of a sectional leader. He said the president “may unwittingly be acting out the 97 per cent versus five per cent Freudian slip in Washington by concentrating most of his strategic appointments in his corner of the country.
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“That may cast him in the mould of a sectional leader who is not seeing the whole country as his constituency. The “we” versus “them” which this pattern suggests can only further polarise a badly divided country which the map of the last election presented. What is required at the moment is leadership that is able to rise above the frays and bring all sections on board.”
The Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Youth Council, also lambasted the president, describing him as “an unrepentant tribalist and anti-Igbo.” In a statement signed by the group’s national president, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, and public relations officer, Obinna Adibe, Ohanaeze accused Buhari of deliberately excluding the south-east from all the political appointments he had made so far.
The statement read in part: “We stand to condemn this glaring hatred for Ndigbo by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. We recall that apart from several other appointments, Buhari’s government has also appointed Service Chiefs and in a similar manner, he sidelined the South-East zone. As if that was not enough, the long-awaited position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has come at last and this government deemed nobody from the South-East qualified enough to occupy that position, which was earlier zoned to Ndigbo. Where is the justice; where is the equity; where is the one Nigeria? How long will Ndigbo be pushed to the walls? Tribalism has never paid Nigeria and this period will not make any difference”.
You can read more reactions from other prominent ethnic groups here.