Federal Character And Buhari’s Appointments

The most consequential letter in the last few years must be Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar’s recent open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.  In the letter, the former military Governor of Kaduna State, after a brief excursion through recent Nigerian history, recalled the President’s pledge during his first inaugural speech in 2015 in which he swore to “belong to everybody” and “to belong to nobody.” In the letter, Colonel Umar urged: “Mr. President, please belong to all of us.”

We wish to add our voice to the colonel’s supplication and urge the President to do the needful and correct the impression that he belongs to a section of the country. Without doubt, the President Buhari government has never paid any attention to the sensitivities of Nigerians on matters of fairness, equity, balance, in the distribution of appointments or projects.  It is one of the riddles of the administration because the President is experienced and is expected to be conscious of Nigerian history.

The Federal character clause in Section 14 (3) of the Constitution  eloquently states as follows: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.” The President should be mindful of this constitutional provision and uphold it.

Early in the administration, the issue arose on the utter omission of the South-East and the South-South geo-political zones in Buhari’s appointments. We recall that Chief Nnia Nwodo, President General of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, drew attention to the fact that nobody from the South East has been found worthy to be ministers of Defence and Interior, Chiefs of Army or Navy or even Commander of Civil Defence or Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, not to talk of the National Intelligence Agency or the Department of State Services. The defence that those occupying the positions were appointed on merit raised the question as to whethet the Buhari government was suggesting that nobody in the South-East and the South-South has merit.  It is worth pointing out that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is managed by a board that has Northern Nigeria in the majority and has only one person from the South-East and one from the South-South.

As at February 2019, Bauchi State alone had 10 positions, which included, among others, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Executive Secretary of TETFUND and the Chief of Air Staff.

Recent appointments into the NNPC, however, have not assuaged the feelings of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) which grieves over the paltry share of appointments even when 95 per cent of the oil wealth flows through its territories.  In the latest appointments, the group has pointed out that since 1999, out of 11 group managing directors of the NNPC, seven were from the North while only four were from the South.

Yet, there was a time the GMD was appointed from its area, being the chief hosts of the oil activities.  The Forum, named the past GMDs as Jackson Gaius Obaseki, Funsho Kupolokun, Abubakar Yar’Adua, Muhammed Barkindo, Shehu Ladan, Austin Olusegun Oniwon, Andrew Yakubu, Joseph Dawha, and Ibe Kachikwu.  But even worse was the almost total exclusion of the South-South in the top management of the corporation. The top management officers of the corporation, according to the Forum, are Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Accounts, Umar Ajiya; Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Yusuf Usman; Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services, Farouk Garba Sa’id; Chief Operating Officer, Refining and Petrochemicals, Mustapha Yakubu; Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser, Hadiza Coomassie; Group General Manager (GGM), International Energy Relations, Omar Ibrahim; GGM Renewable Energy, Kallamu Abdullahi; GGM, Governance, Risk and Compliance, Ibrahim Birma; and GGM, NAPIMS, BalaWunti.

The rest include Managing Director (MD), NNPC Shipping, Inuwa Waya; MD, Pipelines and Products Marketing,(PPMC), Musa Lawan; MD, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, Mansur Sambo; MD, Duke Oil, NNPC Trading Company, Lawal Sade; MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company, Malami Shehu; MD Nigeria Gas and Power Investments Co. Ltd., Salihu Jamari; MD, NNPC Medical Services, Mohammed Zango; and Director Dept of Petroleum Resources, Sarki Auwalu. Although the list is not exhaustive, PANDEF is calling for a drastic review of the appointments to reflect the federal character principle as enshrined in the Constitution.

We believe that Col. Umar’s intervention is a patriotic one that should not be ignored. It might not be a surprise if the brigade of defenders of the administration would descend on him, but the truth is that Umar is concerned about the President’s legacy, a legacy the President should also be concerned about. Therefore, let the President use the remaining years of his second term to demonstrate that he belongs to all Nigerians in terms of appointments and distribution of projects.

Daily Sun Editorial

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