Federal appointments and complexities of the Nigerian state
CONSEDERING the coalition of alliances and political forces that brought him back to power this time in his fourth attempt by election, President Muhammadu Buhari probably did what he had to do in his long-awaited appointment of his personal aides and part-choices of heads of key national departments and agencies (DAs).
He took 89 days (nearly three months) of strategic navigation.
The President’s mandate
Irrespective of whatever anyone, including the Alhaji Tanko Yakassis or the Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeifes might say about justice, fair play, balance or national spirit, there are acute realities and challenges brought about with the way Buhari was elected that must not be wished away.
For example, one of the realities of these times is that the North is back in power after 16 years (ignore the less-than two years rule of late Umaru Musa Yar-Adua).
Based on the change agenda that a greater number of the electorate signed to, Buhari with a clear
mandate and strong national impulse and impetus, would be expected to strive to be his own man and work for all.
But, he comes from somewhere – the North. Granted, the President’s election was made possible by the two largest enclaves of the country (Hausa/Fulani North West and North East, and Yoruba South West) coming together for the first time to lead fighting for control of the centre –which they won.
Conceivably, the party with which they assumed power (All Progressives Congress) would be expected primarily to be a sort of sharing platform between the two principal partners based on the mentality of the average Nigerian politician that the winner takes the lion’s share or takes it all.
In this respect, while the South West APC would be asking for more appointments or complaining that it has not got enough, their Northern counterparts having given Buhari the big votes would be saying “how many votes did you bring on board” or “what did you bring to the table.”
Here lies the basic plank on which Buhari has to perform with or without his inclination to be
President of everybody. He had made it clear that he “belongs to everybody (but) belongs to nobody.”
Appointments and being fair to all
In effect, it might just be inappropriate to judge the appointments he has made so far on the basis of being fair to all. On the contrary, his insistence to consolidate with his star concerns about improving the economy, and fighting terrorism and endemic corruption seem to rate higher.
It is indeed needless for spokesmen of government to engage in the damage control of saying that there are many more appointments to be made or that appointments will be balanced up.
After-all, one of the cruel realities of the exercise is that the South East, one of the three major legs on which the Nigerian state stands is left squarely out with nothing so far: President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker, in that other are gone, and that they got Deputy Senate President by default.
Another reality is that key principal aides of the President (Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chief of Staff (COS) is gone.
Headship of the treasure departments of government also called “cash points” or “blue chip” agencies (Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and Controller-Generals of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) have all gone, and, justifiable outrage ensued.
Granted, there are well over 500 federal government departments and agencies still there to share. But the “big” ones are gone.
But, the bottom-line of what Buhari has done with his appointments is that, credible Nigerians of proven integrity can only be found in the North, and none or only one or two in the South.
Anyhow, based on the Buhari government disposition to prune down as a strategic means for cutting cost, an expected merger of agencies and departments might produce other enlarged
“treasure” outfits for sharing among other parts of the country.
In any case, and based on Buhari’s anti-corruption stance and stern, no-nonsense approach, all outfits, whether blue-chip or not are to work for good governance and not to serve personal interest.
Buhari’s stake for integrity and credibility
The appointment of Dr. Babatunde Fowler as the new boss of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), for example, was a stone that kills many birds.
At the personal level, the very educated and well informed professional in the field of taxation and tax collection whom former Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu brought into his administration to change the face of taxes in Lagos can be counted upon to perform like a star in revenue collection in Abuja.
On political considerations, and taken along with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and House of Representatives leader Femi Gbajiabiamila, the South West has not done too badly even though APC politicians of the zone may be feeling reduced to “second partner” and cheated has the North has “hijacked all the plum posts.”
Here, the reality is that Buhari must perform, and be seen to have performed with his good governance for all to see in the first term (four years).
If this turns out not to be so, chances are that the South West would become open again for future political realignments.
Buhari’s replacement of Mustapha Chike-Obi, son of the late mathematician Prof Chike Obi and pioneer head of Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) with Alhaji Ahmed Kuru had provoked varied reactions from the public.
But with a background in robust professionalism and profound respect and acclaim among industry players, Kuru’s appointment has been hailed as square peg in a square hole.
He had done well in the banking world, particularly during the bridge period, lifting the Enterprise Bank from the nadir.
He is likened to Dr Emmanuel Ukachukwu Managing Director of NNPC in the area of competence despite coming from a leaner side of the industry than Ukachukwu who is from the international oil consortium, Mobil.
And about Ukachukwu, forget Nigeria’s so-called “cash-cow” -oil -and its managing body, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
It is striking that the oil producing area of Niger Delta or his Delta State home don’t really regard his appointment as their allotted slot anymore than that the President put up a credible and competent hand out there to serve Nigeria in the oil sector.
Known to have spent greater part of his life in London and around Europe and America, he is rather regarded as a Diaspora appointment.
Remembering the great Col. Hammed Ali (rtd)
For sure, the trio of Babachir David Lawal (SGF), Alhaji Abba Kyari (COS) and Controller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (CS) Col Hammed Ali (rtd) are, or will constitute a kitchen cabinet for Buhari.
Of these three, Ali probably best illustrates what may have played the most in the President’s mind in making his choices of persons to work with.
Now clocking 60, Ali had retired from the Army under the Babangida regime following disagreements some linked to criticizing the annulment of June 12.
Coming from Bauchi but spending most of his life in Kaduna, Ali, a staunch follower of Aminu Kano talakawa (down-trodden) school of politics, reporters would readily remember him as even more ascetic in his life-style, and hateful of corruption and corrupt men than Buhari, one of whom was often used to describe the other.
He had served under Buhari as administrator of Kaduna State and can be recalled to have walked out a Bauchi delegation from his office for asking for “community” assistance.
Reporters can readily recall the unsmiling former Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the main northern elders’ political cum social group driving to ACF meeting in his old 504 peugoet, exactly like Buhari who rode an old revolution peugoet in Kaduna in those days.
During former President Olusegun Obasanjo era, especially middle and towards the end of his second and final term, Ali as ACF Secretary along with other northern elders fought hard for the North to regain the presidency.
He had insisted that power should revert to the North at the end of Obasanjo’s reign in 2007. He backed Vice President under Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar for the presidency in 2007 and 2011. He had backed any northerner considered as capable of making a strong bid, including Buhari.
Ali is the embodiment of Buhari’s zero-tolerance for corruption, and avoiding anti-corruption pretenders as well as the President’s ultimate play for the North’s desire to take their turn to control the Presidency.
On the whole, the appointment exercise so far seems to have drawn more approval despite the fury of outrage even in the South. Some had expected it to be so. In any case, until Buhari concludes his appointments, especially those of Ministers, most appear to decide to watch and wait.
Some people see the President as in-charge. Others consider it as a welcome change from the past: politicians share positions and offices for private gains, not appoint competent qualified people:
“What concerns me, I can drive in here and get fuel,” said a petrol buyer. “Let there be light when I get home and water to drink. Let them give us roads; let them make sure the Naira gets up in value so we can buy things in the market. We are talking of democracy dividends, not empty politics of where people come from.”
Appointment of INEC “Acting” chair
By far, the appointment that has drawn greater uproar and attracted the worst opprobrium is that of the “Acting” National chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Hagyya Amina Zakari.
Making it into substantive chair for Zakari seems likely to draw out more strident public protests. Others appointments due for confirmation by the Senate might easily sail through. Not this one. The road will likely be torturous for her in Senate.
Dr. Ismail Igbani acted for Prof. Maurice Iwu. Zakari‘s albatross is that her departing boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega had handed over to Aminu Wali only for Buhari to overrule with a directive, indicating intentions that won’t stand the test of purity and propriety.
To save himself more troubles the President had better look for someone else, especially a Professor.
In recent times, a tradition has been laid for the INEC Elections Chief Returning Officer to be a Prof. Looking for a credible lady of that ranking status (if the slot has been reserved for women) has come to be accepted as sine quanon. She has to receive polls results from Vice Chancellors of Universities and egg-heads.
It must be done urgently, along with reconstituting the INEC board where only four out of 13 national commissioners are preparing for Bayelsa and Kogi governorship election in November and seven others next year.