Is President Buhari an absentee leader?
There is one issue that Nigeria leaders seem to always and inevitably fail to tackle appropriately. They struggle to manage the diversity of this great nation well.
Over the years, it is probably only President Olusegun Obasanjo, during his second coming; who had been really mindful of making sure that his political and public appointments; adequately and conscientiously addressed the issue of Nigeria’s diversity.
In this country and with politics being a major industry; there would always be one ethnic group or the other complaining about marginalisation. In the event, reflecting federal character in appointing public and political officials would remain a bugbear for a long time.
On a personal note, I have, for the most part, always been a supporter of meritorious appointments; which eschew state of origin or the ethnic content and religious character of the appointee. I am still, in fact, very dubious about what we now call rotational presidency; always arguing that if a leader does well and his sterling performance is quite evident for all to see; it won’t matter if that president came from the imaginary Kutuwenji, as distinct from the town on the western rail-line.
But having over the years not been able to reach this Eldorado; the argument that each of our political and ethnic zones should have a crack at who becomes the president; is compelling as it is an efficacious political imperative.
But in matters of appointments, I am mindful of Chapter 2, Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which says; “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 to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there that shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.”
The problem with the Buhari administration is not the accusation that it has largely populated government and political establishments with his kith and kin from the northern part of the country.
The biggest issue, as I see it; is that the president and the president’s men do not give a fig about it at all. Despite the empirical evidence, this government has given complaints of marginalisation by other geo-political zones; except those in some corners of the north, a short shrift.
It just continues to plough on, unwilling to pay attention to the constitution which has; in the wisdom of those who put it together; stipulated what a government must do not to fall foul of its federal character provisions.
What has lit the fire of this political tinder again are the recent happenings at Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency; NIMASA, one of the agencies under the Ministry of Transportation, headed by Rotimi Amaechi; a man who, by all accounts, is a darling of President Muhammadu Buhari; having been a key figure in his election in 2015 and re-election in 2019.
Dr Dakuku Peterside, director general of the agency was unceremoniously removed and Bahir Jimoh appointed to take over from him. It is the president’s prerogative whether or not the appointment of the director general should be renewed; so he’s absolutely within his powers to let Peterside go after one term.
But there are two things wrong here.
First the minister, Amaechi, said he wasn’t aware of the removal of Dakuku and the appointment of a new person; to steer the affairs of the agency. Amaechi said: “I am not aware. As of yesterday, when I spoke to the DG of NIMASA; he was in the office and they had a board meeting and he was present at the meeting. I am not aware that he has been removed. We spoke around 3pm to 4 pm. I should know if he has been sacked. If I am the minister of transportation, I should know.”
Obviously he didn’t know; even though it has transpired that he didn’t recommend Peterside for a second term at NIMASA. This speaks volumes about the way those Nigerians call “the cabal” (I swore never to use this bastardised expression); who have taken absolute control of the hiring and firing of appointments in the Buhari administration use their power.
They take no prisoners.
Logic would have dictated that the minister should know when a major appointee of an agency; under the purview of his ministry would be let go. But so much for thinking this government is logical. It lives by its own set of rules, different from the prescribed norms.
Secondly, appointing Bashir Jimoh from Kaduna State to replace Peterside; throws a monkey wrench in the federal character principle in that ministry. By so doing, it means the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Shippers Council, Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA; as well as NIMASA, all agencies under the ministry of transportation; are now headed by people from the northern part of the country.
This is hardly what the framers of the constitution envisioned and wanted to promote by inserting the federal character principle.
Some supporters of the president and the administration have argued that putting a round peg in a round hole; is the most important principle in all appointments. This is a very convenient argument because it presupposes that; only in one part of the country can you find capable hands for federal appointments. It negates the federal character principle. The argument also fails to recognise that this is the modus operandi of this government.
While there have been pretences here and there that the government wants to be fair to all ethnic and geopolitical zones in the country in its appointments; there has been no pretence in the second term of the Buhari administration. At the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, the president replaced its chairman Babatunde Fowler; a southerner with a northerner Muhammad Nami and at the Assets Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON; Edward Adamu, a northerner, replaced Muniz Banire as chairman. This means both the managing director of the agency and its chairman are from the north.
Further, the president has stuck to his policy; by ensuring the predominance of appointees from northern Nigeria taking charge of the security architecture of this country. Nigerians wouldn’t have been worried if the end result of this dominance has brought peace and stability to Nigeria. It hasn’t and much as Nigerians, across the board, have asked for some changes to be made; this government has turned deaf ears to all entreaties.
We continue to live in fear even though we’ve been told that our security agencies have decimated the insurgents. The latest is that in a matter of days, insurgency would be completely defeated by the military. Pie in the sky, if you ask me. The law of diminishing returns has truly set in and a rejig of the security apparatus is needed.
The examples of nepotism that have become the hallmark of this government are just too numerous. While other governments in the past have had their challenges in this respect too; the attitude of President Buhari to harnessing Nigeria’s diversity to foster unity and encourage a sense of belonging; leaves much to be desired. It makes you wonder sometimes whether the president is truly aware of what is going on in his administration.
Is he an absentee president? I really wonder.