President Muhammadu Buhari is a very frank man. And frankly he appears to be telling Nigerians to their face that he can afford to alienate a significant portion of his constituency and still leave a legacy that is truly rational and national.This could prove to be a gross error of judgement and ill-advised.
The actions and utterances of Mr. President are all pointing to the fact that the sections of the country that did not vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) are in for a barren 4 years and possibly beyond. The speculations were rife on it for quite long before the President proved the pundits right by stating that much in faraway USA.
For whoever missed the rather ill-starred statement, when President Buhari was asked by a white journalist how he intended to deal with issues in the Niger Delta, particularly Amnesty, bunkering and inclusive development; he said: “Going by election results), constituencies that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%. 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. I think this is really fair.” If there is anything that should have been left unsaid about governance in a pluralistic environment, even if it were the policy, it is this one.
Those who claim the President was stating the obvious or shunning people angling to reap where they did not so, argue amiss. In Presidential and constitutional democracy as Nigeria claims to be practicing, the whole country is the President’s Constituency; and once he or she emerges, the President leads the entire country and leads for the good on the entire country. Some of the people conveniently gloss over this reality to make the matter worse.
Besides, is he going to take only 5% of Nigeria Delta resources to run the country?
Come to think of it, in the 2015 Presidential election, the number of registered voters was 70,383,427. This means that having won with 15 million votes, less than 20% of the registered voters actually wanted Buhari to be President and over 12 million wanted Jonathan to return, while over 140 million Nigerians never voted at all, probably for lack of interest, age limit, and other forms of technical disenfranchisements, including INEC’s refusal to make permanent voters card available. So, only clusters of 15 million Nigerians will now decide the thrust of national development, which the President has inadvertently admitted in foreign land that it would be based on patronage, despite the fact that less than 3 million Nigerian voters separated him from the former President in a country believed to be over 170 million.
Starting with the appointment of service chiefs, which should be the most apolitical, the South East may have been deliberately sidestepped also, and it is about the only Zone that is not represented in the National Council of State. President Muhammadu Buhari appointed new service chiefs: Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T.Y. Buratai as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff. Others include Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff; Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan as Chief of Defence Intelligence. The president also appointed Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.) as the new National Security Adviser taking over from Sambo Dasuki who was out of office a week before.
The names of the other categories of appointees are: Director-General of the Department State Services, Lawal Daura, Katsina State; Acting Chairman, the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari, Jigawa State; Director, the Department of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Mordecai Danteni Baba Ladan (North); Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, Kano State; Chief Security Officer, Abdulrahman Mani; (North); State Chief of Protocol, Mallam Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure (North); Aide De Camp, Lt.-Col. Muhammed Lawal Abubakar, Kano State; Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu; (North); Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, South-West.
As many thought that one slot had at least reached the South East, another ‘good’ reason was once more found within 72 hours why Callistus Nwabueze Obi, earlier appointed as the Acting Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), should hand over to Haruna Baba Jauro (North). Although the Acting Director General is expected to be in charge until a substantive Director General is appointed, it appears that the policy being interrogated precludes a South Easterner from acting so that the caterpillar won’t grow into a butterfly. Hmmm.
The two other latest appointments, expectedly, have maintained this policy of exclusion. President Buhari appointed Abdullahi Muhammadu as the new Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps barely a week ago, to take over from the former Commandant-General, Ade Abolurin, who retired after two-term tenure.
The APC did not even put the South East in the remotest equation in the distribution of principal officers in the House of Representatives where there are two APC Members from Imo State. Protest by the two Reps did not even move the APC to at least concede Deputy Whip to the South East in the House of Reps fell on deaf ears.
Therefore, while the APC have only allocated Boko Haram to the South East, the only position that has come to the South East so far, actually came courtesy of the PDP Senators and some patriotic APC Senators who considered and elected Senator Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President. Even at that, they have deployed all forms of intimidation and mudslinging in a futile attempt to run him out of office. They claim the position belongs to the APC, but the same APC was frank enough to defend Section 50 of the Constitution when Tambuwal defected to its fold with PDP’s speakership mandate.
The position of the Constitution is that any lawmaker can emerge Speaker or Senate President or their Deputy. Ironically, APC are Speakers in Plateau and Benue where PDP are majority in the Houses of Assembly. The question will always remain, why is it right to APC in Tambuwal’s case and in Benue and Plateau, while it is now termed as “greed”, “coup”, and “abomination” in the case of Ekweremadu? The answer is simple: he comes from one of the zones that gave the President the proverbial “5% votes”. This is certainly not how to belong to nobody and belong to everybody
So also, unlike what mostly obtained under Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, where development of nation Nigeria was based on equity and justice, APC Federal Government is going strictly on political patronage or selective justice as is the emerging trend in present dispensation. APC and Buhari should be driven by patriotic mindset carefully aimed at enthroning social justice and even development.
In building a nation, the leader rises above sentiments and divisive policies. In the US for example, President Barack Obama appointed Chuck Hagel, an erstwhile Republican Senator and opposition Party topnotch as the US Secretary of Defence. In 1864, when the US was divided by civil war, President Abraham sacrificed a fellow Republican and his first term Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin to pick Andrew Johnson of the Democratic Party from the South to demonstrate that the country’s unity far outweighs every other consideration.
In a democratic dispensation too, efforts are made by winners to woo those who may not have supported them, in view of the next election. The continued marginalization of the South East Government is only confirming the fear of many people from the Zone that there is nothing for them in the All Progressives Congress (APC) Government. The South East has been told in unmistakable terms that it has no share in the APC government. This policy, if sustained, can only reinforce a sense of alienation and belief that their political future is only guaranteed in the PDP.
Postscript: “When all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, what portion have we in David? And what inheritance have we in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel”.