My favourite from the long list of speeches and presentations to mark Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary was by Hassan Matthew Kukah, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. His declaration that President Muhammadu Buhari was making it difficult for Nigerians to celebrate our diversity was authentic and thought-provoking. Kukah faulted the current composition of the Nigerian leadership “with Muslims occupying leading positions across various political institutions.”
He says the current arrangement where the president, those in charge of affairs at the National Assembly, as well as the chief justice are from the same religion, hinders celebration of diversity and betrays the principle of federal character. Kukah adds: “Reflecting federal character should be like viewing ourselves in the mirror and celebrating our diversity because the table is big enough to occupy everyone. But when you don’t have that and you put all your apples in one basket, naturally you cannot make headway, because you’re violating the Constitution and thinking that we are in a democracy.
“This President, Buhari, in my view in the last few years, has made it very difficult for us to celebrate diversity. And Nigerians will concede that a reward system that is so skewed, whether in favour of men, women, Christians or Muslims is unacceptable because when it was time to vote, all of us came out to vote.”
For me, it should about respect for the Federal Character law entrenched in our Constitution to protect that diversity. If Federal Character is reflected in all appointments, religious diversity will be taken care of. Kukah ought to have added that Buhari’s appointments into key federal departments and agencies are dominated by people from a section of the country, thus, also mocking our diversity. Nigeria’s tribal, ethnic and religious diversity ought to be our strength. But under Buhari, diversity has become our biggest weakness. The last five years have been horrendous, with our president using divide and rule as a political tactics. Buhari’s clannishness and religious bigotry is legendary. The biggest sin the Buhari administration has committed against this country is the division created with clannishness and religious bigotry. He reflects this in his appointments with so much impunity. We have never had it so bad in all our years as a country. Buhari has spent almost six years stoking our fault lines with no respect for Federal Character in his appointments.
I am not sorry to say that this is the most clannish government in Nigeria’s history. The military, para-military and key federal departments/agencies are largely headed by people from a section of this country. As a result, hatred and bloodshed across ethnic and religious divides have assumed an unprecedented dimension, with our fault lines persistently stoked. This is certainly not the Nigeria of our dream.
I always weep for my beloved Nigeria whenever I flip through the list of people heading key agencies and see that they are just from a section of the country; agencies like NPA, DPR, NNPC, PENCOM, NIMASA, UBEC, NSC, TETFund, FIRS, NCC, NBC, SEC, CAC, Customs, REA, TCN, AMCON and the rest.
Buhari needs to be reminded that Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution is very clear on federal appointments: “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.” Unfortunately, our President does not give a damn.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was apt when he said: “At no time in our history, except probably during the civil war, has Nigeria been so fractured in the feeling of oneness by the citizenry.” The ex-Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, concurred in September 2016, saying “Nigeria has never been as divided as presently, since it’s amalgamation over 100 years ago.”
Can Buhari honestly say that he has delivered on his promise of building a united Nigeria in the last five years? He was elected
President of the whole country, but has ended up being President of a section of the country. His skewed appointments largely reinvigorated the clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria.
This takes me to vice president Yemi Osinbajo’s tantrums on the so-called merit in appointments. I heard him saying for the country to attain economic growth and development, the dominant principle when appointing people into public offices should be merit rather than federal character. He said: “I need to make this point because time and time again, we get arguments around whether the appointment of persons into public institutions should be based on federal character. The dominant principle should be merit.”
If Osinbajo has nothing soothing to offer about the lopsided appointments of his principal, then he should remain silent. Buhari is abusing our Constitution regarding Federal Character. This is the truth. This Professor of Law should know better. In any case, there is no segment of this country that cannot produce meritorious manpower for federal departments and agencies.
The main reason Nigeria is sliding is because mediocre people have been appointed by Buhari to head most of these agencies. So what merit is Osinbajo talking about? Pastor Tunde Bakare captures this aptly: “No nation anywhere can survive or embark on predictable progress when mediocres are in charge…The Bible says when the blind leads the blind, they all end up in a ditch. But we’re in a nation where the blind leads the seeing.”
The lack of respect for our diversity, with skewed appointments, has also been largely responsible for the clamour for Nigeria’s breakup by some people. However, I disagree with these breakup campaigners. Separation is not the way forward for Nigeria. I often laugh when these people and groups go about canvassing for disintegration. I don’t want to mention names so as not to confer any importance on them. They noisily present the fantasy gains of disintegration as if it is magic and paint an impending state of Eldorado.
It’s so difficult to phantom how a break up will solve all the problems of the new countries that will emerge. Are they saying that once Nigeria breaks up, there will be food on the table for everybody in the new countries? So, when we break up, corruption will be history, and there will be quality security, healthcare, education and housing for all in the new countries? That our roads will be paved, and that democracy and Rule of Law will reign? There will be no more inter-ethnic hostilities?
Arguing that all our problems will be over once Nigeria breaks up is preposterous. That is, to borrow the words of Pastor Adeboye, trying to solve the problems of Nigeria as if it is a simple equation. Every God-fearing Nigerian must rise and bury this break up campaign by extremists. Let us all shift our struggle towards appropriate restructuring of Nigeria, with substantial devolution of powers to the federating units, resource control, and a centre with not more than five items.
The struggle for restructuring should be for justice and equity in Nigeria and not for balkanisation of this great country. It should be a struggle for true federalism, constitutionalism, freedom, Rule of Law and not setting brothers against brothers. It should be a struggle to convince all Nigerians about restructuring and strive to make others share the convictions. The approach and language must be civil, respectful and harmonious.
I am in support of a united Nigeria where everyone enjoys justice, equity and peace regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender. This is why I have teamed up with decent people pushing for the nation to be restructured without hate speeches and reckless words, such as “break up”.
Let us all learn from the tragic story of Republic of South Sudan. Prior to the country’s independence, the late John Gerang’s Sudanese People Liberation Army and other so-called freedom fighters regaled the people with stories of prosperity and justice once it became an independent country. They got the independence, but few months after, South Sudan became worse than what it was in the bigger Sudan. Massacre, hunger, disease, poverty and malnutrition now pervade the land, no thanks to a gruesome fratricidal war that cropped up few months after independence. Suddenly, they are no longer brothers. This is food for thought for all of us this morning.
Yari Should Respond to Sleaze Allegations
The former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, is yet to respond to the sleaze allegations against him by incumbent Governor Mohammed Bello Matawalle. It’s already 10 days since this allegation was made and Yari is still wordless. A massive N107 billion was allegedly stolen from the state’s treasury by the previous administration headed by Yari. Matawalle who made the allegation in a tweet shared on October 1, said a committee set up to probe financial mismanagement in the state made the discovery. He promised to ensure that the stolen money is recovered. Since Matawalle says he has all the facts and figures, he should just hand over the case to the EFCC and stop unnecessary social media campaign. Zamfara’s money must be recovered.
Yari’s tenure was riddled with malfeasance. I remember that a Federal High Court in Abuja had in 2017 ordered forfeiture of N500 million and $500,000, suspected to be bribe given to Yari by the consultant engaged for the Paris Club refunds by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. The EFCC in an affidavit alleged that the N500 million was diverted to offset Yari’s personal loan obtained from a mortgage bank. It also alleged that another firm, Gosh Projects Limited, got $500,000, which was allegedly used for the purchase of building materials for Yari’s hotel project in Lagos. The sums had already been recovered from the two firms, before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba gave the forfeiture order. Matawalle must also recover the N107 billion stolen.
John Enenche, Please, Relocate to Baga
Many will never forget Joseph Goebbels who was Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. His job was to dish out fantasy progress stories for Hitler, particularly during the World War ll. He did this to the detriment of the Germans. The manner the current Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, General John Enenche dishes out stories about the “progress” of the military in the war against Boko Haram leaves me wondering whether he worked with Goebbels during those dark years of Germany.
His stories of how the military “neutralised” scores of terrorists are never ending. What about those videos of aerial bombardments of forest, resulting in the “neutralisation” of hundreds of Boko Haram fighter? We hardly see the dead bodies. That is why the “neutralised” terrorists repeatedly come back to hunt down our soldiers and civilians. Enenche recently issued one of those strange statements on the situation near Lake Chad, after he alleged that ISWAP fighters and some of their leaders had converged on some structures concealed under the thick vegetation of the area, preparing to launch an attack: “The ATF dispatched a force package of Nigerian Air Force fighter jets and helicopter gunships to engage the location. The attack aircraft scored devastating hits on the settlement, killing several terrorists and destroying their structures.”
That was Enenche. The “neutralised” terrorists are back in Baga killing people. He often leaves me wondering if the terrorists have fighters running into thousands. This man has reduced his Public Relations job to propaganda. Nigeria doesn’t deserve this. The military must genuinely kick out Boko Haram. As for Enenche, he should relocate to Baga since it is now the safest in Borno State.