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Federal character delusion and crisis of character


Martins Oloja

Sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey, a terrible journey. But sorrow is at least an arrival. When the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house. But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house…”

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear…”

“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again”. (Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country).


The setting of Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country is apartheid South Africa. But it is beginning to appear that the artful author had the Nigeria’s current dispensation in mind too when he wrote that evergreen novel. First, the title of the novel is apt for the current situation in the country that showed so much promise at independence but available data pieces are beginning to portray the most populous black nation on earth as a failed state. At the moment, not a few citizens are crying for the beloved country that political leaders have ruined. We can only find some architecture in the ruins and rubbles that sun is still shinning on. It is not a fact today that the ‘sorrow’ we had under the military rule has turned to fear in a democracy after just 18 years? As Paton foresaw, has a terrible storm not blown away our house, which is why another author, Karl Maier, has actually reported that, “this house has fallen”? From the cacophony of mysterious quit notices across the land, can we rebuild this house of commotion? ‘He-he-he’, can the no-longer silent army of angry and jobless young ones and even the unborn children who have inherited “our fear” for the future of the unequal yoke since 1914 tolerate the continued the extant un-federal character nonsense? As the South African seer, Paton has noted too, the tragedy today is actually not that things ate broken. Oh yes, the tragedy is that we cannot see any glimmer of hope that things are going to be mended again in a country that used to boast of one of the best examples in a forum of federations- before they struck in 1966. And so as we join the bandwagon of even the governing party’s governors who are now crying for the beloved country, saying that poor governance system is responsible for the deadly agitation for self-determination in the country, we need to reiterate where the rains actually began to beat us, in this connection.

As I was saying last week, a constitutional body, the federal character commission (FCC) established to promote national unity and cohesion in managing our very complex diversity has failed in its legal duty to the nation: the body cannot reflect federal character even in the establishment. And that alone has been generating tension in the body. Which was there was a suggestion here last week that there was a need to allow the law to rule in the commission first before it could apply it properly in the nation’s public service.As the holy book has long established, if the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do? If the president’s men cannot advise the Chief Executive of the Federation not to appoint the Acting Chairman and Secretary of the Federal Character Commission in this complex federation then there is a crisis of character in the presidency itself.

This is the crisis that has touched off a series of fiery articles on Buhari’s unending lopsided and parochial appointments. We may be blaming so many other factors for the current crisis of confidence in the (103 years old) unequal yoke called Nigeria, the most telling factor, in this regard, has been presidential appointments into the security and intelligence and paramilitary institutions in the fragile country. Indeed, nation building is a critical assignment that is not for the parochial minded. Nor is it for the fainthearted. That is why at this defining moment in the life of the country, the security and intelligence institutions can no longer be respected and trusted to stand for the nation. There is only one reason: more than 95 per cent of security, intelligence and paramilitary appointments come from the northern region where the president hails from. It is not yet time to release graphic details. But the most significant posts are those of the National Security Adviser (Babagana Monguno, Borno state) Director General, State Security Service, (Lawal Daura, Katsina State) Chief of Army Staff, (Tukur Yusuf Buratai, Borno State) Chief of Air Staff, (Sadique Abubakar, Bauchi State), Defence Minister, (Mansur Dan Ali, Zamfara State) Interior Minister, (Abdulrahman Bambazau, Kano State) who also controls the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Prisons Service).


The Nigerian Customs Service Comptroller- General Hammed Ibrahim Ali hails from Bauchi State; the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris is from Niger State; the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede, is from Jigawa State; the Comptroller-Generalof Nigerian Prisons Service, Ja’a faru Ahmed, hails from Kebbi. Even the Commandant General of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu hails from Niger State. The Federal Road Safety Corps boss, Boboye Oyeyemi hails from Kwara State. The Chief of Defence Staff Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin who hails from Ekiti State and the Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ete Ekwe Ibas from Cross River State are the only two from the South in this dispensation. Even Olonisakin’s tenure was the other day extended by the C-in-C and that has implications.
What is more curious, most of them are Muslims in a country dominated by Muslims and Christians. At a time, there was this joke in the North that of all significant appointments the president made from the North, only three Christians were included and one of them Babachir, David Lawal, (Adamawa State) the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has been suspended from office. The second one is the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) Rev. Tor Uja (Benue State) and the third one is Boss Mustapha, Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) from Adamawa state. This is also quixotic in the extreme.

Even as security is one critical issue confronting the nation today, if there is intelligence and security chiefs emergency meeting, for instance, on the Kaduna Declaration and Quit Notices from all the geo-political zones, will there be any officer from the southern zone? Don’t tell me the Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Defence Staff will be there. They may not even be there. Note this hidden fact: the 2004 National Security Act (Section 18), which provides that the Service Chiefs should be confirmed by the Senate, does not include the Chief of Defence Staff for confirmation. This means that the CDC office is not so significant. Yes, all service chiefs are equal and important but insiders know that some are more equal and important than others. There are two grave implications here as far as peace building and conflict resolution is concerned: no one from the entire South believes, for instance, the Inspector General of Police and the DG, State Services Department when they threaten to arrest the givers of quit notice from Kaduna. More important is that the Fulani herdsmen have been killing people and occupying farms and schools all over the place because they (herdsmen) are confident that no one will arrest them, after all: the NSA, The IGP and the DG, DSS will not authorize any arrest of Fulani herdsmen. So, a significant section of the country has lost confidence in the entire security and intelligence system, even at this perilous time. What is worse, the entire Christian community in the country too continues to fear reprisals from even the security system dominated by Muslims in the country. Besides, one officer said to me at the weekend that the herdsmen obtain their arms from the same skewed security system. This is how the Buhari presidency has created fear of the unknown through parochial and very lopsided appointments that most concerned commentators including many APC stakeholders have been complaining about. Don’t tell me former President Goodluck Jonathan did so. Two wrongs cannot make a right. That was why we voted for President Buhari who told us on the day he was sworn in, that he would “belong to nobody”. That has turned out to be another fake news item,after all. There is already a crisis of character and credibility in the presidency here.


There is also a weightier matter of political leadership too that the ruling APC messed up two years ago when the national assembly was inaugurated. It may not have been in the public space for debate every day. But data collectors on the state of the nation in the context of who-is-where will tell you that one of the troubles with APC is power sharing too. How? In Nigeria today, when you look at the perking order, the PresidentMuhammadu Buhari (North West) the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki (North Central) and the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara (North East) while the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (South West). Of the first four citizens, three are from the North. This is part of the fundamental political palaver the ruling APC triggered for failing to lead well from the beginning in 2015. But the crisis of character they have exhibited is today threatening peace, security and even unity of the nation. There is no question about this: the constitution recognises only the office of the president and the vice president. The Acting President position is tenuous. There are certain decisions the Acting President cannot take when “comes to become” as the bombastic K.O Mbadiwe would have noted.And here is the thing, the buck stops on only the president’s table as long as he is alive. Even the wife of the president has complained about this power-sharing headache within the ruling party. When people began to complain about parochial appointments in 2015/2016, Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum and former IGP, Ibrahim Coomassie was the one who asked people top cool temper, noting that other appointments were yet to come. That promise too has become yet another fake promise as it has been business as usual. And the Federal Character Commission (FCC) has been complacent and complicit about this incipient malaise that has eaten deep into the country’s fabric.

As Alan Paton has noted, this fear that poor politics of alienation has triggered is a long, terrible journey. We will continue to analyse the pilgrims’ progress next week by His grace!

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