President Muhammadu Buhari has ruffled feathers even among his ardent supporters with his lopsided appointments that tilt acutely to the Northern part of Nigeria where he comes from. His latest, appointments of five officials – 4 from the North and only 1 from the South – has increased the tension among Nigerians. Buhari’s ardent supporters upset by his apparent show of insensitivity to the sensibilities and diversity of our great country have no idea who they are hero worshipping or they were simply engaged in the game of wishful thinking.
The offending appointments are Engr. Babachir David Lawal from Adamawa State as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Mr. Abba Kyari from Borno state as his Chief of Staff; Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd.) as the new Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service; Mr. Kure Martin Abeshi, Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service; Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate); and Suleiman Kawu as SSA on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives). Only Enang is from the South.
Buhari is clearly set in his ways. Anybody expecting him to act differently must do more than cheer leading. For a crab to walk straight home, strong guard rails are required.
Here is an excerpt of the speech by Brigadier Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, of the Nigerian Army, when Buhari was overthrown in 1985:
“The Nigerian public has been made to believe that the slow pace of action of the Federal Government headed by Major General Muhamadu Buhari was due to the enormity of the problems left by the last civilian administration. Although it is true that a lot of problems were left behind by the last civilian government, the real reason, however, for the very slow pace of action is due to lack of unanimity of purpose among the ruling body; subsequently, the business of governance, has gradually been subjected to ill-motivated power play considerations… Any effort made to advise the leadership, met with stubborn resistance and was viewed as a challenge to authority or disloyalty. Thus the scene was being set for systematic elimination of what, was termed opposition.”
Against this background I wrote and published the article below on June 30, 2015.
President Buhari Motions Towards A Supreme (Military) Council Command Executive Structure
The reason why in a democracy, cabinet members are either elected and/or confirmed by the legislature is to ensure they are accountable to the people. The contours of what is emerging from President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), initial moves to constitute his team appears he would constitute a military rule era type “Supreme Military Council ” decision making structure, which I would call the Super Supreme Executive Council (SSEC), for lack of better name, made up mostly of his close Northern and or ex-military allies, not confirmed by the senate, and solely answerable to Buhari.
At face value it sounded prudent when he hinted he would reduce the number of ministries and ministers, keep the Petroleum Ministry under the Presidency, but then who benefits or loses, when ministers are mere space warmers, and the positions lost from shrinking numbers of ministries reappears in the presidency, where hiring would be unhindered by the civil service rules? Who are likely to lose their jobs when ministries shrink or are likely to be hired when the position migrates to the presidency? Is it Madu, Muyiwa or Musa? Your guess is as good as mine!
My apprehension was further stoked with the recent rumored appointment of Col. Hamidu Ali (rtd), a former military administrator of Kaduna State, as his Chief of Staff. (Ali was named the boss of Nigerian Customs Service by Buhari yesterday). Previously rumored qualified top contenders were former governors Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
The other signs that the SSEC model is already in full throttle is the reported delay, till September, for ministerial appointments, and the rationale from the presidency that “Mr. President is reluctant to build on a rotten foundation he inherited from the People’s Democratic Party administration. You cannot even begin to imagine the situation we have met on the ground; almost everything is in a state of decay. There is absolutely no way the new government can hope to achieve anything long-lasting without first building a new foundation,” the source said. This sounds more like a good reason to quickly constitute an executive body, rather than delay. Except perhaps there is a body already in place, preferred and more relevant to Buhari’s parochial and agenda, such as the envisioned SSEC.
To attenuate absolute power of the presidency, the constitution recognizes the need to have each State’s interest represented at the cabinet by a minister. Diminishing the influence and effectiveness of these officials, through executive contraptions may be in violation of the spirit of the constitution. I therefore call on the National Assembly to be prepared to check, this dictator before he destroys our hard won democracy!.
He declared himself a “converted democrat”. I am not feeling it!
Edward Oparaoji is a professor of pharmacy and chairman, Nigerian-American Leadership Council, a Washington DC Based think-tank. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.