When President Muhammadu Buhari made his first set of appointments in July 2015, not a few Nigerians saw the appointments as divisive and heavily tilted in favour of the North and against the South. Indeed, many pointed out that the appointments violated the Federal Character Principle.
To be clear, section 13, subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “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 command national loyalty”.
But despite this provision, there were those who did not see anything wrong in the appointments. The president did not violate any constitutional provision; he had the right to choose whomever he wanted to work with, they had argued. Moreover, they said, it was too early in the day to cry out. They said those who criticised the president’s appointments were too hasty in their judgment and argued that the president needed time to carefully consider those he wished to work with so as to make the right choices.
“I think we should allow the Buhari administration find its feet. The administration is studying the situation of the country, because the APC met a totally broken-down infrastructure and system in the country,” Alfred Ononugbo, a special assistant to Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, had said at a press conference in Lagos.
However, when subsequent appointments unrepentantly followed the same trend, such that at the end of the day all major security and law enforcement positions, with the exception of the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff, went to Northern Muslims, these diehard Buhari supporters stuck with the old maxim: see no evil, say no evil.
While some prominent members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) continue to evade the question regarding whether or not President Buhari’s appointments are skewed in favour of the North, BDSUNDAY research shows that out of 100 political office holders appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari since he came to office in 2015, 81 are Northerners. This is excluding ministerial positions which are statutory according to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. This is not to say that Buhari has made only 100 appointments since 2015; 100 is the number that our intensive research was able to track.
Some pundits contend that it was Buhari’s obvious and apparent inclination towards regional preferences in appointments, encapsulated in his self-professed ‘97 percent-5 percent’ principle, that led to an escalation of ethnic and regional grievances in the country, manifesting in the self-determination agitations and calls for restructuring and ‘true federalism’.
But others are looking at 2019. They say given everything that has gone down so far, not even a repeat of the famous “I belong to nobody, I belong to everybody” mantra, which endeared him to even his political opponents in 2015 when he took over Nigeria’s seat of power, would save Buhari and his ruling APC in the next round of elections.
Yinka Odumakin, spokesperson of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, said the various agitations to end the entity called Nigeria are directly linked to the issues of President Buhari’s appointments, lamenting that when discussing national security, certain sections are not represented, a scenario he described as unfortunate.
“We have not run an inclusive government in the last two-and-a-half years or so and that is evident. And when you look at Nigeria, when they hold the meeting of Security Council today, apart from one or two nominal people, the whole people there are all from a section of the country. If you look at other appointees, every agency that bears arms is headed by people from a section of the country. This is why Nigeria is so fragile at the moment,” Odumakin said.
“If Buhari wants to contest the 2019 presidential election, he has the right to contest and Nigerians have the right to make their feelings known. If the president refuses to amend his pattern of appointment, then Nigerians have the right to look elsewhere for a president. Nigerians are not idiots. That is why we still insist that restructuring Nigeria must take place before 2019. The National Assembly may not be listening to the issue of restructuring now but they will when the demand gets tough,” he told BDSUNDAY.
Chido Onumah, coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (ACMIL), said the constitution provides that the president of the country should do everything necessary to ensure there is national cohesion and unity, and that no group, religious or other forms, is seen to be dominating others.
“The president has a duty to ensure that he is not perceived to be sectional or seen to be representing one group against the others, and so on. The president has a constitutional duty to ensure that no group is marginalised. I think the word ‘marginalisation’ is even used in the constitution. It is a constitutional matter; and going by the statistics you just gave me now, it means that the President in breach of the Constitution,” Onuma told BDSUNDAY.
According to him, some of the agitations in the country today are tied to the president’s appointments, whether rightly or wrongly, saying that the arguments in some quarters that Nigerians should be asking whether those appointed are qualified are baseless.
“There is no part in Nigeria where you cannot find qualified Nigerians. Looking for qualified people from only the North does not help us as a nation. Nigeria is not just about economy and GDP; it is also about politics, social cohesion, national unity and all that. For you to grow the GDP you have to have a country. It is the individuals who live in the country that make up the country. And so, we have to come together and agree how we can work together in peace and harmony,” he said.
Igho Akeregha, president, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), who said he has followed very keenly the appointments made by President Buhari since assumption of office as well as the reactions by cross-sections of the Nigerian population both in Nigeria and overseas, noted that almost all sensitive political appointments made by the president, including those on the strategic institutions and security, have left a wide gulf between the North and the rest of the country, women and men, as well as Christians and Muslims.
He said President Buhari’s appointments, which are “sectional, unacceptable and an act that would promote division”, have encouraged acrimony and denial of a sense of belonging to certain sections of the federation.
A government that claims to be fighting corruption, he argued, must as a matter of fact respect the laws and run away from tilting towards executive lawlessness which is not an attribute of democracy and democratic norms.
But Debo Adeniran, executive chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), thinks differently.
Adeniran said that in making his appointments, President Buhari was probably concerned with picking the people knew who could deliver on his electoral promises to Nigerians, arguing that the question that should therefore be asked was whether those appointed were qualified or not.
“You can’t say that you are leaving a qualified person that you know behind because he or she is from your zone and go for a person that is being recommended from a far land without the experience you are looking for. Nepotism cannot be removed entirely from Nigerian politics because there are people who want to impose their own candidate on the president. Many of the officials like Babachir and Malami who are causing problem for the president now were imposed on him by certain people,” he said.
He, however, observed that the president could silence his critics by justifying his appointments through aggressive performance, saying that woeful performance is the primary reason most Nigerians take into cognisance the state of origin of the president’s appointees.
100 Buhari appointees and their geopolitical zones
Name Portfolio State/region
1. Tukur Buratai Chief of Army Staff Borno/North-East
2. Babagana Monguno National Security Adviser Borno/North-East
3. Abubakar Lawal Aide de Camp Kano/North-West
4. Femi Adesina SA, Media and Publicity Osun/South-West
5. Garba Shehu SA, Media and Publicity Kano/North-West
6. Lawal Kazaure State Chief of Protocol Jigawa/North-West
7. Ahmed Idris Accountant General Kano/North-West
8. Abayomi Olonishakin Chief of Defence Staff Ekiti/South-West
9. Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas Chief of Naval Staff Cross River/South-South
10. Sadique Abubakar Chief of Air Staff Bauchi/North-East
11. Monday Morgan Chief, Defence Intel Benue/North-Central
12. Lawal Daura DG, State Security Services Katsina/North-West
13. Mahmood Yakubu INEC Chairman Bauchi/North-East
14. Hadiza Bala Usman MD, NPA, Kaduna/North-West
15. Paul Boroh SA, Niger Delta Amnest Bayelsa/South-South
16. Dakuku Peterside DG, NIMASA Rivers/South-South
17. Umaru Dambatta Chief Executive, NCC Kano/North-West
18. Babatunde Fowler Chairman, FIRS Lagos/South-West
19. Aliyu Gusau DG, Budget Office Zamfara/North-West
20. Maikanti Baru GMD, NNPC Bauchi/North-East
21. Babachir Lawal SGF Adamawa/North-East
22. Abba Kyari Chief of Staff Borno/North-East
23. Hameed Ali CG, Nigerian Customs Kaduna/North-West
24. Kure Abeshi CG, Nigerian Immigration Nasarawa/North-Central
25. Ita Enang SSA, National Assembly Akwa Ibom/South-South
26. Suleiman Kawu SSA, National Assembly Kano/North-West
27. Modecai Baba Ladan Director, DPR Kano/North-West
28. Ahmed Lawan Kuru MD, AMCON Yobe/North-East
29. Mohammed Kari Insurance Commission Bauchi/North-East
30. Ibrahim Magu Acting Chairman, EFCC Borno/North-East
31. Abike Dabiri SSA, Diaspora Ogun/South-West
32. Abdullahi Muhammadu CG, NSCDS Niger/North-Central
33. Winifred Oyo-Ita Head of Service Cross River/South-West
34. Aishah Ahmad Deputy Gov. CBN Niger/North-Central
35. Mary Ekpere DG, NCWD Cross River/South-South
36. Dikko AbdulRahman Chairman, BoI Borno/North-East
37. Ahmed Dangiwa MD, Federal M. Bank Kaduna/North-West
38. Melville Ebo ED, Federal M. Bank Anambra/South-East
39. Dankane Abdullahi ED, Federal M. Bank Kebbi/North-West
40. Alex Okoh DG, BPE Edo/South-South
41. Ibrahim Goni CG, National Park Niger/North-Central
42. Nasiru Ladan DG, NDE Niger/North-Central
43. Saliu Alabi DG, MINILS Benue /North-Central
44. Jeffery Barminas DG, RICT Adamawa/North-East
45. Haruna Yerima DG, NISER, Borno/North-East
46. Mohammed Tukur Secretary, FCC Adamawa/North-East
47. Shettima Abba Chairman, FCC Borno/North-East
48. Tunde Erukera ES, CPP Kogi/North-Central
49. Umar Gambo Jibrin ES, FCDA Bauchi/North-East
50. Muhammad Abdallah CEO, NDLEA Adamawa/North-East
Name Portfolio State/region
51. Garba Abari DG, NOA Yobe/North-East
52. Sule Kazaure DG, NYSC Jigawa/North-West
53. Jelani Aliyu DG, NADDC Sokoto/North-West
54. Bayo Onanuga DG, NAN Ogun/South-South
55. Ibrahim Idris IG of Police Niger/North-Central
56. Ghaji Bello DG, NPC Gombe/North-East
57. Saleh Dunoma MD, FAAN Not confirmed
58. U.S.A. Sadiq Dir, Security, FAAN Not confirmed
59. Rabiu Yadudu, Dir Operations, FAAN Kano/North-West
60. Salisu Daura Dir, Maintenance, FAAN Katsina/North-West
61. Rahimatu Aminu-Aliyu ED, Federal M. Bank North
62. Julie Okah DG, NAPTIP South-South
63. Bello Rabiu COO, NNPC Kano/North-West
64. Henry Ikem-Obih COO, NNPC South-South
65. Bello Gusau ES, PTDF Nasarawa/North-Central
66. Isiaka Abdulrazaq CFO, NNPC Kwara/North-Central
67. Isa Inuwa COO, NNPC North
68. Saidu Muhammad COO, NNPC North
69. Babatunde Adeniran COO, NNPC South-West
70. Chidi Momah Secretary, NNPC Not confirmed
71. Modecai Baba Ladan Dir, DPR Niger/North-Central
72. Eberechukwu Uneze ED, AMCON Imo/South-East
73. Aminu Ismail ED, AMCON Kano/North-West
74. Ishaq Oloyede Registrar, JAMB Ogun/South-West
75. Chidi K. C. Izuwah DG, ICRC South-East
76. Bolaji OwasanoyeICPCSouth-West
77. Lenrie Aina National Librarian Ogun/South-West
78. Charles Uwakwe NECO Not confirmed
79. Umaru Maza Maza Chair, REA Kebbi/North-West
80. Damilola Ogunbiyi MD, REA Lagos/South-West
81. Sanusi Ohiare ED, REA Kogi/North-Central
82. Fola C. Akinkuotu MD, NAMA South-West
83. Sani Abubakar Mashi DG, NiMet Katsina/North-West
84. Abdulsalam Mohammed Rector, NCAT Kogi/North-Central
85. Akinola Olateru Commissioner, AIB South-West
86. Abubakar Rasheed EO, NUC North
87. Abdulkadir Umar ES, PPPRA North
88. Elias Nwalem RMAFC Ebonyi/South-East
89. Marilyn Amobi NBET South-East
90. Faisal Shuaib ES, NPHCDA Nasarawa/North-Central
91. Umaru Ibrahim NDIC Kano/North-West
92. Uja Tor Uja NCPC Benue/North-Central
93. Isa Pantami DG, NITDA Gombe/North-East
94. Patience Oniha DG, DMO Edo/South-South
95. Nnenna Akajemeli CEO, SERVICOM Imo/South-East
96. Folashade Joseph MD, NAIC Kogi/North-Central
97. Cecilia Gaya DG, ASCON Adamawa/North-East
98. Luci Ajayi ES, LITFMB Edo/South-South
99. Lanre Gbajabiamila DG, NLRC Lagos/South-West
100. Usman Abubakar Chair, NRC Katsina/North-West