Buhari moves to calm outrage over ‘lopsided’ appointments

President Muhammadu Buhari black

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria

Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria

Nigerian presidency swiftly moved to calm nerves on Friday as angry reaction trailed Thursday’s appointment of two key kitchen staff of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The accusation which was especially from the Southern part of the country accused Buhari of “Northernisation agenda.” Social Media was also awash with the Northern Agenda of Buhari.

So far, out of the 42 appointments made by the President, 35 are occupied by northerners and this has drawn some concerns.

The President who hails from Katsina state, Northwest Nigeria, had appointed his long time political associate, Engr. David Lawal as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF and former banker, Alhaji Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff.

The new SGF hails from Hong Local Government Area of Adamawa State while the COS hails from Borno State in the Northeast of the country.

In the appointment which was announced by Femi Adesina, spokesperson to the President on media and publicity, the President also announced four other appointees- Col. Haeed Ali (retd.) Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Kure Martin Abeshi (Nassarawa, North Central) as Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service; Senator Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom, South south ) as Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters on Senate and Hon. Suleiman Kawu (Kano, North West) as Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives).

Only one of the six appointees is from the Southern Nigeria, a fact which attracted instant criticisms and uproar across the country immediately the appointments were made public in a statement by Adesina.

Critics who backed up their criticisms with analysis of the appointments made by the President since he was sworn- in argued that Thursday’s series of appointments run against expectations that the President will select his Chief of Staff and SGF from either the South-south or the South east part of the country which are not yet represented at the top level of the executive branch of Federal Government.

“We stand to condemn this glaring hatred for Ndigbo by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. We recall that apart from several other appointments, Buhari’s government has also appointed Service Chiefs and in a similar manner, he sidelined the South-East zone,” Ohaneze Youth Council, a socio-political group representing the people of South East Nigeria said in its reaction to the appointment in a statement signed by its President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, and the group’s National Public Relations Officer, Hon. Obinna Adibe.

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The group which added that the appointments were totally unacceptable to Ndigbo as they were made in violation of the principle of federal character, which is enshrined in the Nigerian constitution also lamented that the expectations that someone from their part of the country will be appointed as the SGF was dashed.

“As if that was not enough, the long-awaited position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, has come at last and this government deemed nobody from the South-East qualified enough to occupy that position, which was earlier zoned to Ndigbo. We are indeed shocked by this turn of events, which are totally at variance with Mr. President’s earlier stand that he was for nobody but that he was for everybody.”

While other groups and individuals from the South east had spoken in similar manner, the criticisms of the appointments have not been limited to that part of the country.

Farooq Kperogi, a Northerner and a University teacher based in the United States of America noted for instance that of the 36 appointments the President has made so far, 27 are from the north and only 9 are from the south.

“There are competent and credible people in every part of Nigeria if Buhari looks hard enough. Buhari may well pleasantly disappoint some of us his early critics after all his appointments have been made, but he is inflicting needless self-injury on himself to allow his administration to be defined as regionalist this early,” the University teacher added.

Prof. Akin Oyebode, a constitutional lawyer, has also warned the President that he risked being accused of trying to foist northern hegemony on the country if he continues to make appointments which are clearly in favours of the Northern part of the country as he is presently doing.

The Professor of Law who spoke on a television programme said while he recognized that the president has the prerogative to appoint whoever he feels comfortable with, the country’s constitution makes a case for federal character principle to be a determinant in making appointments.

In a move aimed at calming angry nerves, Adesina said on a radio programme on Friday that the President will make amends by the time he appoints ministers in September as he is aware of the federal character principle.

The Presidential spokesperson who argued that those appointed into various offices so far were selected on merit, added that it would be unfair for the President to be blamed for positions that were filled as a result of elections, like those of the National Assembly and appointments made as a result of seniority like those of the acting Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission and that of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“By the time more appointments are made, it will balance out. The President is trying to get the very best of Nigerians. The issue of key positions and no key positions should not be the issue. He gave a deadline of September for the appointment of ministers ‎and he will keep to it,” Adesina said.