SINCE his inauguration in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment has continued to generate controversy among Nigerians who accuse him of marginalisation and disregard for Federal Character policy and those who believe his administration is fair to all.
Though he swore to “belong to everybody” and “belong to nobody, many Nigerians think he has not lived up to his promise.
Nigeria is a diverse country, comprising multi-ethic groups in the North and the South. The framers of the constitution recognised this diversity and enacted Federal Character Commission Act.
The Act seeks to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of the proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.
The Federal Character clause in Section 14 (3) of the Constitution states as follows: “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.”
But the Act is observed in breach under Buhari, and with a detached temperament.
According to public records, the Southeast and Southsouth have marginal representation in Buhari government, while the North takes majority appointments.
In June 2020, some Southern leaders dragged President Buhari before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court over alleged marginalisation in appointments made by his administration since 2015.
According to them, the present composition of the government of the federation, and most of its agencies especially as regards the composition of the security and quasi-security architecture do not reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria but rather there is a predominance of persons from a few states and sectional groups dominating the opportunities and threatening national unity and integration.
Despite public condemnation and request that the president follows laid-down rules regarding appointments, Buhari in 2015 in an interview with BBC Hausa explained the reason behind his appointment, saying he nominates people he could trust, and who had worked with him for years.
He also said the Constitution allows him complete control over his closest officials’ choice and made it clear the appointments also served as a reward for those who remained loyal to him for years, who refused to be lured by power or material wealth.
By this statement, the president confirmed his disregard for Federal Character Act.
A 2017 BusineessDay report entitled: “81 of Buhari’s 100 appointees are Northerners” showed 81 of Buhari’s appointments are either from the northeast, North-west or North Central since he became president.
The Presidency, in its response to the report by Buhari’s senior media adviser, Femi Adesina published a list, which showed that 82 of the 157 appointments made by President Buhari were from the South, and 75 from the North.
The Presidential spokesman said the government’s list “put the lie” to the “mischievous” claims about Buhari’s appointments, adding: “It is, indeed, false for anyone to say that President Buhari’s appointments are lopsided”.
However, a Fact Check by Premium Times on the list released by Adesina, said it contained several omissions and errors.
Appointment into Military, NNPC, Court of Appeal
The President appointment into the country’s security service over the years has been condemned widely.
Top appointment into the country’s security service by President Buhari since 2015 favours officers from the northern part of the country.
Te President appointment into the leadership cadre of the Nigerian security services, between 2015 and 2020, only two of the eight security chiefs were from the South: the chief of defence staff (South West) and the chief of naval staff (South-South).
The remaining six, including the heads of the army, air force, police, national intelligence agency and state security service, were all Northerners.
Also, as of April 6, 2021, a regional analysis of the heads of security agencies conducted by The ICIR, including paramilitary and antigraft agencies based on their state of origin shows that 12 out of 16 of them (75 percent) are from the northern part of the country, while just four (25 percent) are from the southern part of the country.
These agencies are Defence, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Airforce, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Nigeria Correctional Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, and Nigeria Customs Service.
Others are Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Federal Fire Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Also, the president’s approval of the list of Justices of the Court of Appeal released in 2021 reflects staggering inequality, with 61 per cent of jurists coming from the North versus 39 per cent from the South.
The judicial appointment also once more brought to the fore the issue of his preference of northerners in key government positions.
Buhari’s appointments into the top management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries shows an uneven geographical spread of senior appointments.
An analysis carried out by The ICIR, revealed a geographical imbalance within the ranks of the corporation.
Out of 40 senior management positions within the NNPC ranging from chief operating officers and managing directors of its subsidiaries to general managers’ roles in the corporation, 24 are occupied by Nigerians from the North while those from the South head 16.
The total representation comprises two from North-East, two from North-West, one from North-Central, one from South-South and one from the South-West.
The list is as follows: Chief Operating Officer (COO) in charge of refineries Mustapha Yinusa Yakubu (North-Central); Chief Financial Officer in charge of Accounts and Finance Umar Isa Ajiya (North-West); COO, Gas and Power Yusuf Usman (North East); while COO overseeing ventures and investments is Adeyemi Adetunji (South-West).
Others are COO in charge of Upstream Tombomieye Adokiye from South-South; COO, Corporate Services Mohammed Abdulkabir Ahmed (North West), and corporation’s legal adviser Hadiza Coomassie from North-West.
The position of the COO, Downstream, which Ndupu Lawrencia vacated from South-East, who retired early in the year, is yet to be filled.
The South-East has no representation in the internal board of the NNPC, which is saddled with running the day-to-day activities of the corporation. Yet, the region has two oil-producing states -Imo and Abia.
Condemnation of Buhari’s appointment over the years
Late Yoruba activist, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with BusinessDay on appointment made by Buhari said various agitations to end the entity called Nigeria are directly linked to issues of Buhari’s appointment.
Describing the scenario as unfortunate, Odumakin said Nigeria was fragile because of appointment made by the president
Odumakin also said other regions are marginally represented when discussing national security issues.
“We have not run an inclusive government in the last two-and-a-half-year or so and that is evident. And when you look at Nigeria, when they hold meeting of the 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 country section. This is why Nigeria is so fragile at the moment”, he had said then.”
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had in 2018 after appointment by the Buhari-led government into different federal agencies in a statement accused the president of unduly favouring Muslims from Northern Nigeria in federal appointments.
CAN President, Samson Ayokunle described the recent appointments as lopsided and against the spirit of a united Nigeria.
The CAN statement had read, “Mr Buhari on September 1 appointed Abbas Umar as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, on September 13 he appointed Yusuf Magaji Bichi, from Kano State to replace Matthew Seiyefa from Bayelsa who had been operating in an acting capacity since Lawal Daura was sacked in his absence; and on September 14, he also appointed Zainab Ahmed as the acting Finance Minister to replace Mrs Kemi Adeosun who resigned as a result of her failure to participate in the NYSC programme and for parading a forged NYSC Certificate of Exemption.
“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 state or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
Also, in 2018, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote an open letter to President Buhari, urging him not to seek re-election, citing, among others, his “nepotistic deployment bordering on clannishness”.
Col (retd) Abubakar Umar, former military governor of Kaduna State in his own open letter said to Buhari that his nepotism could tear Nigeria apart.
The former military governor had said: “Nigeria has become dangerously polarised and risks sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments, which continue to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others.”
One of Buhari’s staunchest critics, Farooq Kperogi described recruitment into his government as “Arewaization of appointments”, and many Nigerians who follow Kperogi agreed with him.