Salisu: Another Presidential Faux Pas

Nigerians are once again left to grapple with one of those unpopular decisions of Aso Rock. The deluge of criticisms that trailed the "unpardonable" pardon of the former Governor of Bayelsa, Alamieseigha, is yet to die down, and now we have another brewing crisis from the Presidency. This time around, Mr President has decided to engage in another integrity crisis rocking his administration by appointing the disgraced former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, as a member of Governing Council of one of the nation's learning citadels, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). And as usual, his media handlers have been trying (though in vain) to justify this embarrassing action.

Salisu Buhari became a popular figure when he resigned his post as the first Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Fourth Republic, in 1999, over the falsification of his academic qualifications and age. That same year, the court found him guilty of forgery and perjury and rightly sentenced him to some terms of imprisonment with an option of fine, but he was later to receive a presidential pardon from the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It is against this backdrop that most Nigerians have opposed his latest appointment. However, the Presidency would rather dismiss this clamour because, according to its spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, there had not been a "protest from the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) and concerned university". Nothing could be more arrogant and arbitrarily than this . Abati has not realised that the issue is too delicate and important to be left in the hands of ASUU and the concerned institution alone. Nigerians cannot leave the issue that borders on our public morality to few individuals.

In any case, Nigerians do not hate the ex Speaker or are unwilling to forgive him-after all, he had apologised to the them soon after that shameful farce. But the issue at stake is far beyond remorsefulness and forgiveness. It is about laying a legacy of integrity and honesty to the Nigerian youths and generations yet unborn. And that is why Nigerians are enraged. Indeed, It is like a slap on the over 150million people of this country, if the Presidency could not find a more credible character other than Salisu Buhari to be appointed into such a delicate position. It is hard and difficult to accept this subtle statement (as this appointment seems to suggest ) that Nigeria has become a country so morally bankrupt that it is incapable of choosing highly reputable persons to man its tertiary institutions. It appears only that the Presidency allowed party politics to impede its sense of reasoning in the said appointment. Perhaps, if it had beamed its searchlight beyond party sentiment, it would have discovered that there are a-thousand-and-one-Nigerians with better pedigree and antecedents to handle the job.

The appointment has equally exposed the many internal contradictions inherent in this part of the world. Whatever informed the appointment of the ex-Speaker, who possess such a controversial profile, into the university whose mantra is "to restore dignity to man" remains incomprehensible. Those who advised Mr President on this appointment did not equally tell him that one of the duties of the Council is to determine the worthiness (both in character and in learning) of the students before they are awarded their degrees. And Salisu Buhari would also partake in this exercise? Where did Aso Rock place public morality in all of this? What becomes the orientation and psyche of the students of this institution in terms of sustaining the academic standard of the university, knowing that they now have a member of the Council who once cooked up his academic certificates to get into power? What kind of message is Aso Rock trying to pass to the country's future leaders by this appointment? These questions beg for answers.

Meanwhile, it is never too late for Mr President to rethink this ill-informed decision and toll the path of honour and good reasoning. The nation's image would be better for it, if the ex-Speaker is replaced with more credible individual who is not only "fit for the job" but also fit in character and integrity to handle the job.

Barrister Okoro Gabriel

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Articles by Okoro Gabriel Bryne