Who Owns National Assembly And Interior Ministry?
On Sunday May 29, our country will be celebrating yet another Democracy day. This year's anniversary is unique because it marks the first year of President Muhammadu Buhari's ascension to office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with some of us having mixed feelings, pessimistic that the history of flux that marked those dark years after independence and military dictatorship might unfortunately continue to assail the future.
We were, however, hopeful just a bit, that things would change for the better with President Buhari, more hope came our way with Mr President's inaugural speech at his swearing-in at the Eagle Square Abuja on the 27th of May, 2015, when Mr President said he is for "everybody" and for "nobody". Now, barely a year after, the ugly side is already a step ahead showing that things are as they were if not worse off. Many people are being kicked out of jobs without explanation.
Just last month the bureaucracy of the National Assembly was in disarray with the sudden "appointment" of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, as the Acting Clerk of the Federal Parliament. The appointment rekindled the rivalry and age-long battle for supremacy between Sani-Omolori and now acting Clerk of the National Assembly Mr. Benedict Efeturi.
The appointment which was announced on April 20, 2016 by the Chairman of the National Assembly Service Commission, Dr. Adamu Fika, shattered the fragile peace in both National Assembly’s bureaucratic and political structures as it was accompanied by mixed feelings. Dr. Fika had in the appointment letter, said Sani-Omolori was to replace Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa who proceeded on terminal leave on May 14, 2016. Fika in his congratulatory message said Sani-Omolori's appointment was an acknowledgement of his hard work and dedication to duty. Probably, Benedict Efeturi is probably not too dedicated to duty, perhaps he was not hardworking in the the eyes of Adamu Fika. Well, this is not new in Nigeria, it fits well into the mould of what is happening at the Ministry of Interior. The Efeturi experience stands quite unique in several respects, it is not strange because he is from Isoko, a Southerner and a Christian. When the story was told, we demanded to know WHO OWNS NATIONAL ASSEMBLY?
It is an open secret that the root of Sani-Omolori’s appointment by Dr. Fika and its rejection by the leadership of the National Assembly including every Nigerian was based on religious and tribal politics. Both Fika and Sani-Omolori are from the North. They are also Muslims while Efeturi is from the South (Isoko) and a Christian. Promoting religious sentiment above rules in a national institution like the National Assembly in the 21st century Nigeria is unfortunate.
Just last week Emmanuel Ladi Ogundele another Christian from the South West was announced as the Acting-Comptroller-General of Prisons. Rtd. Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, the Interior Minister and the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Interior, Abubakar Magaji orally confirmed Ogundele as the new Comptroller General but three days later his junior colleague Mohammed Jafaru (of equal rank) was appointed as Comptroller General of Prisons.
Another qualified professional has been short-changed simply because of ‘accident of birth’. Ladi Ogundele has impeccable record in service, never been issued a query. Highly educated and Alumni of the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies. Now the point is not to eulogise Ogundele but simply to say that some person or persons must be toying with the destiny of this nation, more importantly, that there are deliberate attempts to thwart President Muhammadu Buhari’s nation-wide posture of fundamental human rights "belongs to everybody and nobody" .
We all know that at some future date, Ogundele was bound to leave the Prisons Service for someone else. That he was removed and his junior colleague from the Northern part appointed gives room for spurious but legitimate speculations. After all, all comptroller generals under the Ministry of Interior are all from Northern extraction. Comptroller General of Customs, Comptroller General of Immigration, Director-General Civil Defense and now Comptroller-General of Prisons.
I am not in position to question their competences or qualifications but I am tempted to raise issue of national concern, particularly on matters of Federal character in appointment to public offices. It is easy to justify certain appointments by locating suitable appointees within certain states. The truth however is that Nigerians still think in geopolitical and States in making an appointment.
One point now seems obvious, the general pattern of appointments emanating from the Ministry of Interior leaves much to be desired and is a matter of concern to many well-meaning Nigerians. A situation in which all the major policy making institutions in the Ministry of Interior are headed by people from the Northern extraction can neither be defended nor excused.
Once our faith in these institutions are destroyed, all our admonition's of patriotism and loyalty will reduce to nothing. People are not expected to be loyal to an entity in which they perceive a deliberate policy of marginalization of some for the benefit of a privileged group. The Interior Ministry should see itself as an instrument for promoting national unity and not a veritable tool of destruction. We hope that these episodes will not tamper with the solid foundation of national unity upon which Nigeria rests.
Ijebu Afoke Dickson is a social commentator from Delta State.