I GOT this rather pathetic text message from a friend of mine, Chris, who, hitherto now, was a proud member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in South East. It was a lamentation, which could make even the heart of stone melt. It was an indication of a feeling of betrayal, which came short of expressing regrets. This budding Igbo politician, who, three months ago, rejoiced that his effort and that of other APC stalwarts across the nation kicked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) out of office, is now an unhappy man. He’s indeed, sad.
My friend had stated: “Buhari is not treating Igbo in the APC fairly. In fact, if anything, he is making us feel stupid. Our people are gleefully laughing at the few of us who believed in and worked for ‘change’ in Nigeria. They conveniently forgot that Anambra, for instance, that gave GEJ 1.5 million votes in 2011, only gave him 600, 000 votes in 2015 because we worked tirelessly to prevent rigging. Some of us are being witch-hunted. The only reason is that we are APC stalwarts. What do we have to show for our trouble?
“Now Buhari is adding to our sorrow by not considering any Igbo man worthy of being given appointment. How can I be happy? I am sad!”
Chris was reacting to the recent appointment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federal (SGF), Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Services, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly (Senate) and Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (House of Representatives). He was particularly sad that his expectation and that of many Nigerians, that an Igbo man would be named the SGF, in particular, was dashed by President Buhari. He could not understand why, out of a legion appointments in the first 100 days of the Buhari government, no Igbo man from South East has got anything in the evolving Federal Government.
Reading Chris’ message, I could not but feel sorry for him. I could understand his pain and disappointment. Nobody would be happy that after putting his all in a battle, when it’s time to share the benefit of the victory, discrimination would come in. Such development would be the worse betrayal ever. It will be like a stab in the back from a perceived compatriot. It would be like the unkind cut of Dennis Brutus, during the rebellion and treachery that took the life of the Roman ruler, Julius Caesar, who could not take the heartbreak that a trusted and close friend/associate as Brutus could not only join a coup d’état, but also stab him in the process.
While I pity my friend, I must say that I am not one bit surprise at the development. I am not surprise that in the appointments Buhari has made, the South East has been excluded, while a few positions were conceded to the South West and South South. Buhari is indirectly proving those who said that he is a northern irredentist right. He’s making the South East feel justified for not voting for him overwhelmingly in the March presidential election. Well, I do acknowledge that as president, Buhari has the power to appoint anybody he so desires. He could even appoint a goat and have his way, especially in appointments that do not require the approval of the Senate. However, what happens to morality? And what about adherence to the Federal Character principle?
That Buhari did not eventually appoint Dr. Ogbannaya Onu, former Abia State governor and a man who played a significant role in the formation of the APC and worked for its victory last March or any other South easterners, for that matter, as the SGF did not come to me as a surprise. If he had picked a South easterner for that post, I would have been shocked. Oh, yes! There’s no doubt in my mind that he is punishing the South East for standing by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in the last elections. If he says this is not the case, then there are some yet-to-be-revealed sins he is punishing the South East for. He and his aides may deny this. They may also deny that he ever said that he would not threat those who gave him 97 per cent votes and others who gave him five per cent equally. However, the truth is that the South East is an outsider in the Buhari government.
No matter the assurances the likes of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Dr. Onu, Chief John Odegie-Oyegun and others may give, no matter the expectation that the South easterners may still get their fair share in the coming appointments, what is for sure is that the appointments Buhari announced so far have made the efforts of the South easterners in APC to be in vain. And I dare say, as I did in a previous article, the way South East is treated in the Buhari government will determine whether they would embrace the APC in future or not. To say the least, appointments that excluded a whole geopolitical zone are as provocative as they are unfair. How do you explain this kind of lopsided appointments in first 100 days?: 1. Secretary to the Federal Government (North; 2. Chief of Staff to the President (North); 3. Chief of Army Staff (North); 4. Chief of Air Staff (North); 5. Comptroller General of Customs (North); 6. Director-General of Department of State (North); 7. National Security Advisor (North); 8. Chief of Defence Intelligence (North); 9. Acting Director General, NIMASA (North) and 10. Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (North); 11. Comptroller-General Immigration (North); 12. Accountant-General of the Federation (North); 13. Director General of the Nigerian Ports Authority (North); 14. Commander of Civil Defence Corps (North); 15. Chief Security Officer to the President (North); 16. ADC to the President (North); 17. Principal Secretary to the President (North); 18. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media (North); 19. Executive Chairman of the NCC (North); 20. CEO, AMCON (North); 21. GMD, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (South); Chief of Naval Staff (South); Chief of Defence Staff (South); Special Adviser on national Assembly (South) and Special Assistant to the President on national Assembly (South); Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity (South).
How would any one justify these pro-North appointments, coming at a time when these other power configuration subsists?: 1. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (North); 2. Vice President (South) 3. Senate President (North); 4. Speaker of the House of Representatives (North); 5. Chief Justice of the Federation (North). 6. President of the Court of Appeal (North). 7. Chief Justice of the Federal High Court (North); 8. Chairman of the EFCC (North); 9. Chairman of the NDLEA (North); Head of Service (North) and 10. Inspector General of Police (South). In all these appointments, there is only one Igbo man (Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu) from South South and none from South East.
I have heard the argument that President Buhari has more than 600 appointments to make and, therefore, nobody or geopolitical zone should cry marginalisation yet. This may just be, but such an argument is what Americans call bullshit. It flies in the face. This is so because when exclusive positions are filled by people from one half of the country, while a sprinkle of the positions is extended to the others, there is no justice whatsoever. Indeed, the position of ministers, which is among the 600 positions so mouthed, is a constitution matter, which guarantees all states representation. Therefore, when Buhari appoints minister from all states, he is not doing anybody any favour. He’s only obeying the constitution, whether he likes it or not. However, what is true also, is that the choice of portfolio is at the discretion of the president. There are Grade A ministries and ministers. There are Grade B ones. And there are Grade C ministries and ministers. How Buhari allocates the ministries will tell the rest of the story. Nigerians are waiting, as September is here already.
In the first 100 days, the Buhari government has also talked much about the war against corruption. This has excited many Nigerians. However, what nobody will miss is that everybody in the immediate past Federal Government has been made a thief, when probes have not been concluded. We have heard how ministers made millions from oil deals. We have heard how Jonathan, his Chief Security Officer and ex-Minister of Petroleum allegedly paid out billion of naira for mobile speech podium without evidence that the thing was ever bought. We have heard many other allegations relating to graft. The way it is going, press trial has been taken to the highest level without giving the accused the benefit of defence. Whatever happens to the principle that the accused is innocent until proved guilty? Do we now have this: The accused is guilty until proved innocent?
I am not in anyway saying that anti-graft war is not good. Certainly, not. What we should desist from is media convictions, which is what is going on today. While there were corruption people in the Jonathan government, there were also good people. This is just as we will have both good and bad people in Buhari’s government. It’s only a probe that would separate the wheat from the chaff. And while the process of separation is going on, nobody should jump the gun.
Now, the position is that Buhari never made any specific promise for the first 100 days. I do not know why the fuss. Whether it’s in first 100 days or in the four-year tenure of the government, what Nigerians want are concrete achievements. It’s interesting that the Presidency would not want anybody to forget that in three months and 10 days, the government made the sharing of Nigeria LNG funds, which helped distressed states possible. Yes, the Presidency would celebrate the order for a single bank account. Of course, we will cheer about the order to the military to end insurgency in three months. All these are the other side of the Buhari first 100 days.