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Has Buhari lived up to his statement of belonging to everybody and to nobody?
“HAVING just, a few minutes ago, sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”
This was the famous statement with which President Muhammadu Buhari began his presidency on May 29, 2015. He had been a Military Head of State in 1983, after a coup d’etat that ousted then President Shehu Shagari.
It was later reported that the line “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” was not original to Buhari, and may have been culled from a speech delivered by the French World War II veteran, Charles de Gaulle in 1958.
Three years on, and with only one year to another general election, Nigerians are divided on whether Buhari had lived up to his promise of belonging to everybody and belonging to nobody.
One of the many allegations against the Buhari-presidency is that of lopsidedness in appointing heads of government.
Most prominent of the critics was the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), who, in September 2017, accused Buhari of fueling inequality in the country, thereby contributing to increasing insecurity in the land.
“The inability of the government to address the inequitable situation in the country has provided breeding ground for violent reactions, protests and agitations, which exploit the grievances of different segments of the country,” the Catholic Bishops wrote.
“We insist that merit and ability should be the primary criteria in making appointments and genuine needs the criteria for the distribution of amenities. We urge the government to be always sensitive to the multi-religious and multi-ethnic configuration of the nation.”
In November of the same 2017, BusinessDay did a fact-check report, stating that 81 out of 100 appointees of President Buhari are Northerners. Even governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as well as state chairmen of the party had at various times complained about the lopsidedness in Buhari’s appointments.
But the presidency has always insisted that there is no disparity or inequality in Buhari’s appointments. It went as far as releasing what it claimed was a list of all the people that had been appointed into several agencies of Government as at November 2017.
The list showed that more people had been appointed from Ogun State, home State of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, than Katsina, Buhari’s own state. However, further scrutiny showed that the list released by the presidency was not accurate as many senior appointees were omitted.
Nevertheless, Osinbajo has at different forums maintained that more southerners and Christians have benefitted from the Buhari Presidency, in terms of appointments, than Northerners.
ONE-SIDED ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN
President Buhari has also been accused of prosecuting a one-sided anti-corruption campaign. Many Nigerians say that only members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were being prosecuted for corruption, while those who are seen as corrupt, but are members of the APC or among the Federal Executive council, have been apparently forgiven.
A perfect example is the case involving Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who was accused of abuse of office and corruption with regards to the situation of internally displaced persons in the North East.
Lawal was indicted by both the Senate and a fact-finding panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbjo. Both bodies recommended Lawal’s removal and possible prosecution, but it took about six months of public outcry for Lawal to be removed from office and replaced by Boss Mustapha, whom, according to unconfirmed reports, is Lawal’s relative.
Till date, no charge has been brought against the former SGF. On the contrary, he is believed to be spearheading Buhari’s re-election campaign in Adamawa State.
Similarly, Ayodele Oke, former head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who was sacked alongside Lawal, over allegations of corruption and money laundering, is yet to be prosecuted.
Attempts to arrest Oke were unsuccessful, as men of the DSS and NIA prevented EFCC personnel from gaining entrance into his residence. Curiously, Buhari has remained silent despite the fact that the trio of the EFCC, DSS and NIA are all agencies under the presidency.
During an interview in 2016, President Buhari, reacting to allegations of selective corruption prosecution, said: “Do you just grab people along the road and take them off to court for trial just because you want to create a semblance of balance?
“First, there has to be an accusation which must be properly investigated, and when a prima facie case has been built, you prosecute.
“If any of my backers or party members has anything established against them, let’s see whether I will shield anyone from prosecution.”
All the above criteria have been met by Babachir Lawal and Ayodele Oke, yet there seem to be a lack of will to prosecute them.
Many Nigerians say the Buhari administration has not been fair in the appointment of women into key positions in his government.
Though this has been a major characteristic of the previous administrations, former President Jonathan was praised for appointing more women into positions of authority than any other Nigerian President.
At the coming of the APC and its change slogan, many thought it would mean better days for Nigerian women in terms of a more robust representation at the centre.
Out of the 36 ministers initially appointed by President Buhari, only six were women. They became five after Amina Mohammed resigned to take up the appointment of Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations.
The other woman in the federal capital territory is Winifred Oyo-Ita, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. Aside the cabinet members, the two other women occupying top positions in the Buhari government are Patience Oniha, Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO) and Hadiza Usman, Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
But the women say this not enough. Three days ago, The Conference of Nigerian Female Parliamentarians (CONFEPA) paid Buhari a courtesy visit at the Villa.
Among many other things, the women complained of marginalization by the male folks.
“Nigeria has gone through five elections since 1999. However, the political transformation is still male-dominated. The story of women in decision-making is yet to change for the better. Women are still very much marginalised in politics,” said Elizabeth Atevie, leader of the group.
“Currently, many African and European nations are daily finding ways to include more women in governance. Some have elected or appointed women as heads of state, prime ministers, heads of foreign ministries and other key positions of decision-making. It will not be out of place, Your Excellency, for women to be given such opportunities in our dear nation.”
Perhaps, the women actually meant that President Buhari belongs to the men and not to the women.
As Buhari begins the last year of his first term in office as a democratic President and having presented himself for re-election, many Nigerians are yet to be convinced that he truly belongs to everybody and to nobody.