BALANCING GEOPOLITICAL APPOINTMENTS ACROSS NIGERIA
“Our government will reinvigorate the civil service and critically review appointments, postings, placements, secondments and other related political appointments and rationalization of allocations and re-allocations of government buildings and infrastructure. This will ensure they confirm to best procedural practices, protect our historical monuments and ensure conformity with extant civil service rules and geo-political balancing.. a thorough appraisal of recruitments, promotions, placements, retirements and all staff related matters in the relevant institutions, commissions and boards will be carried out”, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, during his inauguration as the executive governor of Plateau state on May 29, 2015.
This critical issue of balancing political appointments according to the six geopolitical zones at the federal level, and the senatorial zones at the state level seems to have become an accepted norm in the pursuit of equity and fairness in governance. In furtherance to this spirit of equity and fairness in the distribution political position, some leaders take the minorities into unique consideration to give them the sense of belonging.
I have gone through almost all the speeches of Nigerian leaders and state governors especially those of today and few of the past and I have observed that this good spirit has been merely displayed on papers than in reality and practical life. It has often been said than done. And that is why the cry for marginalization, political exclusion and harassment continues to reecho after our leaders make this pledge and fail.
The 2015 general elections are over. The President and the state governors have started appointing the people they think are worthy to achieve the success the leaders desire for their domains. Mr. President has been extremely careful to appoint only Nigerians who have the interest of Nigeria at heart, like himself. This is a clear departure from the past system where political appointments are shared basically on political and regional affiliations. The “sharing” of all the political positions would have been concluded, at most, within two weeks after the swearing in ceremonies. The “anointed” politicians know their portfolios and prepare to take control immediately after the declaration of winners by INEC.
Here is a new system which has kept many guessing, including top politicians in the ruling party. Even if very few are sure to make the President's cabinet, none or very few can be sure of the portfolio they would be handling. Some who may have expected to be made ministers may end up being board members of a federal government agency. And assuredly, many would be disappointed because they would find no position in the federal cabinet, having compromised their previous positions.
Many states, especially those controlled by the ruling party, All Progressives Party (APC) are trying to mimic this laudable new trend. But the difficult question to answer is: who amongst the Nigerian politicians of today is incorruptible? Millions of Nigerian citizens and members of the international community can confidently testify for President Muhammadu Buhari. Then, a very negligible number can be counted in this category. This is the only category of people who can actualize the change which the APC brandished during its campaigns and which Nigerians have clamoured for. Can Mr. President completely do away with those who humanly facilitated his victory, though with or without soiled coins?
There has been the information going round that 36 nominees for ministerial appointments were subjected to accountability/eligibility tests. Surprisingly, only three could scale through the tests. 33 failed the tests. But no one could tell who these people who failed were, though they may not be out of the list of the politicians who may have contributed in the running of the ruling party and its landmark victory in the last general elections. And if they were because they had soiled their fingers in previous political positions, can they accept to be away from the corridors of power which most of them have enjoyed throughout their lives? Howbeit, Mr. President must be firm in his resolve in ensuring that integrity, selflessness and merit prevail in his appointments.
We can recall that during the immediate past governments, Nigerians who had serious questions to answer in terms of corruption and mismanagement of public funds were appointed by the then Presidents. They scaled through all screening exercises including those of the graft commissions, the security and the Senate. Should such continue? Some of the state chief executives and federal appointees were then in the net of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yet some of them were, against popular opinion including opposition from the hallowed chambers, appointed ministers, director generals, chairmen of boards/agencies and ambassadors.
According to the constitution, a Minister is supposed to come from each state of the federation, either by the nomination of the state governor or by the discretion of Mr. President. One thing I am not sure is the criteria employed by the past presidents since 1999 which favoured the northern minorities despite the fact that this period in question was led by the southern Nigerians. But it was clear that some percentage of the appointments were based on the discretion of the president, in consideration of factors best know to the past presidents, including giving sense of belonging and economic empowerment to the northern minorities. This was not against the constitution and Nigerians did not raise any eyebrow. This administration should, therefore, not be indifferent to the laudable gesture. This administration should extend the spirit of equity and fairness in the political inclusion and empowerment of the minorities of the South East.
The Presidential aide has revealed that the President would make up to 6,000 appointments. Can Muslims of the South East be favoured with 0.0001% of these totals? Can they be allowed to participate in the governance of Nigeria? Already, the Voice of Northern Christian Movement of Nigeria (VNCMN) in an open letter, signed by Pastor Kallamu Musa Dikwa cautioned the Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo against giving appointments based on religious or friendship basis. “Competence, integrity and fairness must be considered on issues of appointments”, the group opined.
Some states have been maintaining this spirit of empowering the minorities politically. Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai has appointed two Yorubas into his government, one as special aides on Investment Promotion and the other as special aide on Media and Communication. He has also appointed Christians as commissioners. In Lagos state, Igbos have been appointed in different political positions. In Kano state, one Chief Chris Azuka of Igbo extraction and a Christian was once appointed by a past governor. In Abia, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu, Yorubas and Hausas have been appointed aides to the governors. This is a laudable spirit that should be sustained and never discarded for the sake of national integration. A coloration to it should be added so that the Igbo Muslims can have a fair share, even the crumbs, instead of being totally neglected and perpetually doomed.
How can this balancing of geopolitical appointments favour the Muslim minority of the South East? In all these, what is going to be the fate of the minorities in the South East? No senator, no lawmaker at state and federal levels, no governor or deputy, no appointments, and therefore any hope?
*** Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity and good governance.