Buhari: Nepotism as the New Definition of Merit

By Jude Ndukwe

Right from his earliest appointments, Nigerians have complained about President Muhammadu Buhari’s penchant for largely looking the way of the north and his religion in choosing government officials, heads of security agencies and most MDAs without recourse to the principles of equity and federal character.

This is not surprising as President Buhari has never made his bewildering preference for appointing people of same ethnic stock and religion as he into a vast majority of national offices at the expense of the other regions and religions despite Nigeria being a multicultural, multi-religious and multiethnic nation whose unity stands precariously on the delicate ropes of fairness, justice and equity. For example, except two, heads of our military, paramilitary agencies and the police including their supervising ministries and agencies are all northern Muslims: 

Minister of Defence – Mansur Dan Ali – Northern Muslim from Zamfara State

Minister of Interior – Abdulrahman Bello Dambazzau – Northern Muslim from Kaduna State

National Security Adviser – Mohammed Babagana Monguno – Northern Muslim from Borno State

Defence Intelligence Agency – AVM Mohammed Saliu Usman – Northern Muslim

Chief of Defence Staff – General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin – South Western Christian from Ekiti State

Nigerian Army – Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai – Northern Muslim from Borno State

Nigerian Air Force – Air Marshal Sidique Abubakar – Northern Muslim from Bauchi State

Nigerian Navy – Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas – South Southern Christian from Cross River State

Nigeria Police Force – Ibrahim Kpotum Idris (March 21, 2016 – January 6, 2019) – Northern Muslim from Niger State

Nigeria Police Force – Adamu Mohammed (Currently Acting IGP) – Northenr Muslim from Nasarawa State

Department of State Services – Lawal Musa Daura (July 2, 2015 – August 7, 2018) – Northern Muslim from Katsina State

Department of State Services – Yusuf Magaji Bichi (current) – Northern Muslim from Kano State

Nigeria Customs Service – Hameed Ibrahim Ali – Northern Muslim from Bauchi State

EFCC – Ibrahim MAgu – Northern Muslim form Borno State 

Nigeria Immigration Service – Muhammed Bandede – Northern Muslim from Jigawa State

Nigerian Prisons Service – Alhaji Ja’afaru Ahmed – Northern Muslim from Kebbi State

Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps – Abdullahi Muhammadu – Northern Muslim from Niger State

From the above, there is no argument about the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has deliberately concentrated his appointments on people of the same religion and ethnic stock as he even though he and his acolytes have tried their best possible several times to justify such blatant imbalance and insensitivity to the complex nature of our country.

Before we entered the eve of elections, Buhari had said sometime in 2015 that he was at liberty to appoint those whom he can trust. It does not even matter to him if they are all from the same ethnic stock and religion as he. Hear him: “If I select people I know quite well in my political party, whom we came all the way right from the APP, CPC and APC, and have remained together in good or bad situation, the people I have confidence in and I can trust them with any post, will that amount to anything wrong?”

It is most unfortunate that having served as a Military of Head-of-State 36 years ago, Buhari’s trusted friends remain only those Muslims from the north. It also shows that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks a leader’s capacity to make friends, mentor and relate with people from diverse backgrounds. It is therefore not surprising that President Buhari has carried on with such attitude even till today. 

Unfortunately for the nation, those he trusts have turned out to be as incompetent and inept as him following the free fall of our nation into infamy, insecurity, economic hardship, social dysfunction, disunity, abuse of power, executive recklessness and brutality, injustice, and utter disregard for the rule of law.

Also, during one of his trips abroad, Buhari had alluded his lopsided appointments and projects to the voting pattern of the election that ushered him in as president saying that ‘The constituency that gave me 97% cannot, in all honesty, be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%”. The result is what we are seeing today in the heavily skewed appointments and failed policy drive of his administration.

The implication of this also is that if the constitution had not expressly stated that each state of the federation must be represented on the nation’s executive cabinet as ministers, Buhari would probably have still chosen his ministers from only one part of the country. 

Never in the history of our nation has any section of the country been so disdainfully treated by the president no matter how parochial and petty that president was. Buhari has never hidden his bias against other sections of the country and adherents of other faiths apart from the one he practices. This has caused so much disquiet, division and hate in the polity. Nothing is good enough to justify such brazen and virulent attack on the principles of equity and fairness.

Furthermore, this has put a lie to his statement of “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. Buhari certainly belongs only to his friends and close associates. Even his wife has alluded this much on several occasions. 

For the avoidance of doubt, Section 14 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expressly states inter alia: “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”. 

So, when Buhari went to Onitsha last week to claim before the revered Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, that his appointments have always been based on merit, every Nigerian of good conscience knew that that was one falsehood taken too far. “The same with the IG, that one was appointed last week. I don’t think I have ever seen him, I follow records. So, appointments in the Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies depend on individual performance after recruitment not where you think you come. At least between me and God, this is what I do”. 

If Buhari truly follows records and performance of officers of our security agencies, for example, in making his appointments, how come he ignored those still in Service only to bring in one Lawal Musa Daura who had retired from Service to head the Department of State Services? How come that when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his acting capacity as president appointed the next most senior officer, Matthew Seyeifa, after the disgraceful ouster of Daura, as DG DSS, Buhari returned and reversed the appointment only for him to bring in a Yusuf Magaji Bichi from retirement to head the agency, thereby halting the appreciable progress made by Seyeifa within that short period?  

It is the same with the Nigerian Customs Service where Hameed Ibrahim Ali, a retired soldier was drafted in as Comptroller-General of Customs. Where was merit in all these? Does it mean that these agencies lack competent people from within them to head their agencies or Buhari is only being true to type, rewarding his friends and close associates with juicy appointments to the detriment of national unity, loyalty and cohesion?

If Buhari truly follows records of people in making his appointments, how come he has severally appointed even the dead into government agencies and boards? 

Buhari’s several desperate attempts to redefine his unadulterated nepotism as merit has fallen flat on its face and Nigerians have been deceived and cajoled enough. They need a leader who can unify everyone and not one who will just reward his close associates who lack substance with lucrative offices as Buhari is currently doing even by his own admission at the expense of the nation!

—jrndukwe@yahoo.co.uk; Twitter: @StJudeNdukwe

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