President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of some of his administration’s most key officials Thursday set off a firestorm of condemnation, with critics characterising the nominations as overwhelmingly lopsided, lacking in gender balance and regional equity.
Mr. Buhari named Babachir David Lawal, from Adamawa State, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Abba Kyari, from Borno, as his Chief of Staff.
He appointed Hameed Ali, a retired colonel, as the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service, curiously finding no career customs official suitable for the post.
He also named Kure Martin Abeshi as the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigration Service.
Messrs. Ali and Abeshi are from Bauchi and Nasarawa states respectively.
A former Senator, Ita Enang, from Akwa Ibom, was appointed senior special assistant to the president on Senate affairs, while Suleiman Kawu of Kano, who is a former House of Representatives member, was named the president’s senior special assistant on House of Representatives.
The six officials brought to 29 the total number of frontline administration staffers who will handle the economy, energy, defence and other important sectors of governance for the nearly 100-day-old Buhari administration.
In all, the president has yet to appoint a single female, a marked difference from Mr. Buhari’s immediate predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, who had women in all major segments of government.
That has angered not a few pro-democracy and gender activists across the country. But what has alarmed critics more is the apparent lack of regional balance in the appointments, a failing Mr. Buhari has been vigorously criticised for in the past.
Details tabulated Thursday by PREMIUM TIMES show that Mr. Buhari has appointed by far more officials from Nigeria’s northern region where he comes from, in violation of federal character law.
Under the Third Schedule of the Constitution, the government must ensure “the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government”.
The posts referred to include those of the Permanent Secretaries, Directors-General in Extra-Ministerial Departments and parastatals, Directors in Ministries and Extra-Ministerial Departments, senior military officers, senior diplomatic posts and managerial cadres in the Federal and State parastatals, bodies, agencies and institutions.
PREMIUM TIMES chart shows that only 25 per cent of the president’s appointments are from the south while an overwhelming 75 per cent are the north.
Also, Mr. Buhari’s North West geopolitical zone, has the largest share of 43 per cent, while the South East for instance, has no appointee. (See chart below).
The appointments have sparked anger across the land, with some critics now referring to Mr. Buhari as Nigeria’s most provincial leader ever.
“Buhari is the most provincial leader Nigeria has ever had,” said Ikechukwu Amaechi, a former editor of Daily Independent and Editor-in-Chief of The Niche, in a post on his Facebook wall. “He is not fit to be President of Nigeria. How can he continue appointing top officials of government from the north? Customs, Immigration bosses, SGF, Chief of Staff all from the North?”
“If I am President Muhammadu Buhari, I would have appointed a South Easterner as SGF,” said Sunday Akoji, a public affairs commentator. “If I am Baba, I will not appoint five people from the north into sensitive positions in one day and throw one worthless carrot called SSA on National Assembly Matters to the entire South.”
The president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Gary Igariwey, told PREMIUM TIMES he would comment on the appointments Friday.
A former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, slammed the president for not considering an Igbo for any political appointment so far.
“I don’t understand what is going on,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview Thursday. “It appears Buhari has some messages for various people.
“I don’t know what to say. If it (appointment) is only for the North, it is okay.”
Yinka Odumakin, the spokesperson of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, said Mr. Buhari’s action poses grave danger to Nigeria.
“It is not healthy for a plural society,” Mr. Odumakin, who was once Mr. Buhari’s spokesperson, told this newspaper. “There are competent people across the nation. When you do this there can’t be a balance. We need constructive surgery, not bulldozing.”
Even for many of the president’s ardent supporters, Thursday’s announcement was one too many in a string of appointments that have become increasingly skewed.
A PREMIUM TIMES columnist, Ademola Bamidele-Olateju, who had all along backed the president, wrote on Facebook, “These all northern appointments don begin worry me. I’m getting disillusioned. It can only get worse from here.”
“These last set of appointments by Buhari are too brazenly and unacceptably lopsided in favour of the North that I can no longer defend his actions. Not this one,” Okechukwu Nwanguma, the National Coordinator at Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, posted on Facebook.
Mr. Buhari has come under consistent criticisms for his actions as Nigeria’s leader so far. In his administration’s brief tenure, he has drawn fire for his delay in forming a cabinet, and for appearing not to be in haste to fix a nation faced with gargantuan, multifarious problems.
His previous appointments too were considered disproportionate for a nation that holds together six geopolitical zones, 36 states and a federal capital territory, 774 local governments and over 250 different ethnic nationalities.
Yet, the president’s response has been anything but heart-warming, critics say. In fact, during his visit to the United States in July, that indifference approached something of defiance when he openly told Americans and Nigerians he should not be expected to offer equitable treatment to Nigerians who barely gave him votes.
President Buhari received the least number of votes in the South East and South South, the political stronghold of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.
It is not clear whether the appointments are in demonstration of that conviction.
But as controversy over past appointments grew last week, a former governor of Kaduna state, Balarabe Musa, urged the president to respect the federal character law.
“Those who are complaining that President Buhari is favouring the North in appointments have a strong case,” Mr. Musa told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Akogi said the president has no excuse for the latest appointments.
“Don’t you dare throw the competence of the appointees in my face. Baba got this one wrong! From Baba’s body language, it is becoming obvious that he no longer “belong to everyone and belong to no one,” he said.
See full list of the president’s appointments till date:
Appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari to date:
1. Aide de Camp to president: Lt. Col Abubakar Lawal, [Kano State, North-West and husband to President Buhari’s foster daughter].
2. Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the president: Femi Adesina, [Osun State, South-West].
3. Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity: Garba Shehu, [Kano State, North-West].
4. State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant (Presidential Matters): Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure, [Jigawa State, North-West].
5. Accountant General of the Federation: Ahmed Idris [Kano State, North-West].
6. National Security Adviser: Babagana Monguno [Borno State, North-East].
7. Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonishakin, [Ekiti State, South-West].
8. Chief of Army Staff: Tukur Buratai, [Borno State, North-East].
9. Chief of Naval Staff: Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, [Cross Rivers, South-South].
10. Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, [Bauchi State, North-East].
11. Chief of Defence Intelligence: Monday Riku Morgan [Benue State, North-Central].
12. Director General, State Security Services, SSS: Lawal Daura, [Katsina State, North-West].
13. Acting Chairperson, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Amina Zakari, [Jigawa State, North-West].
14. Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA: Habibu Abdulahi [Kano State, North-West].
15. Special Adviser, Niger Delta Amnesty Office: Paul Boroh, [Bayelsa State, South-South]
16. Acting Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency, NIMASA: Baba Haruna Jauro [Yobe State, North-East].
17. Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission:Umaru Dambatta [Kano State, North-West].
18. Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS: Babatunde Fowler, [Lagos State, South-West].
19. Director General, Budget Office of the Federation: Aliyu Gusau, [Zamfara State, North-West].
20. Group Managing Director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Emmanuel Kachikwu, [Delta State, South-South].
21. Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, [ Adamawa, North East]
22. Chief of Staff to the President: Abba Kyari, [Borno, North-East].
23. Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service: Hameed Ibrahim Ali, [Bauchi State, North East].
24. Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service: Kure Martin Abeshi, [Nasarawa State, North-Central].
25. Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate): Ita Enang, [Akwa Ibom State, South-South].
26. Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives): Suleiman Kawu, [Kano State, North-West].
27. Director, Department Of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Modecai Baba Ladan. [Niger, North-Central].
28. Managing Director, Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, Ahmed Lawan Kuru. [Kano].
29. Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission,Mohammed Kari [North-West]
29. Executive Director AMCON: Kola Ayeye 
30. Executive Director, AMCON: Eberechukwu Uneze, 
31. Executive Director, AMCON: Aminu Ismail, 
32. Group Executive Director, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, 
33. Group Executive Director, NNPC, Isiaka Abdulrazaq, 
34. Group Executive Director, NNPC: Dennis Nnamdi Ajulu, .
35. Group Executive Director, NNPC: Babatunde Victor Adeniran, .