PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI SHOWS HIS HAND
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After what looked like an interminable wait, President Muhammadu Buhari( PMB) in the last couple of days began to show his hand. Before now, he had only made some apparently minor changes and appointments, the more significant being the appointment of the Accountant General and the acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission( INEC). But in the last week or so he has taken some bold steps that give an indication of where he is headed to.
Firstly, the anticorruption campaign seems to have taken off. Past Governors Ohakim and Nyako (with sons) whose cases with EFCC had gone cold were revived in a dramatic manner. Then attention was moved to Governor Lamido and his sons. The three Governors and sons have been arraigned in court and all taken on bail. I am expecting many more arrests, followed by arraignments in court and then granting of bails. Already I recently read that the erstwhile National Security adviser(NSA) may have been arrested a few days after being relieved of his position. This is the sort of anti corruption drama which Nigerians have missed for some time now and which they have been asking for. There will be plenty of entertainment. Our real hope however is that, it must not end with this entertainment. We need for the cases to proceed speedily and justice served. That will give the real effect to the campaign.
In this wise, PMB will need the cooperation of the anti corruption agencies to do a good job of their assignment. They must avoid the past gimmicks of charging people with fifty two unsubstantiated and unsubstantiable counts which they subsequently reduce to two and yet can not sustain one charge successfully in court. Since Dairiye and Alamesiagha, I do not think that the EFCC has gotten any conviction of any high profile suspect. The recent drama where The EFCC could not even win a one million Naira money laundry charge against Mr Femi Fani-Kayode does not give much hope that much will be achieved in this renewed campaign. Additionally and importantly, the judiciary must buy into PMB's anti corruption crusade. If it will take four years to prosecute a suspected corruption case, then the impact will be lost. Finally PMB must find a way to reorientate our attorneys and get them to stop using undue delay tactics in frustrating the legal prosecution of the anti corruption cases. I believe that all Nigerians( including the attorneys themselves) will benefit if corrupt Nigerians are brought to book speedily.
Secondly, PMB has begun to make significant appointments and some trend is emerging. A couple of weeks ago, when some analysts said that the President was leaning more to the North of Nigeria in choosing his appointees, I cautioned that it was too early to see a trend. As at that time, the claim was that out of the eighteen appointments said to have been made only one went to the South West while the rest went to the North. But when PMB sacked the Defense chiefs this week, the case was strengthened about some emerging trends. Out of the Six new Defense chiefs, four came from the North( three from North East alone), two from the south( South West and South South). There was nobody from the South East in any of these appointments so far. The Igbo are crying foul. They can not understand why no Igbo has been appointed to any position by PMB so far.
The trend that is discernible is that PMB is making appointments based on some criteria that are known to him. There has been the suggestion that the President choose the Defense Chiefs based on merit and the President himself seems to have confirmed that through his adviser on Media & Publicity. Of course the Igbo retort that if this were so, does it mean that that No Igbo Defense professional merited any such appointment and yet two Borno Officers qualified? They are astounded by this possibility. Another related trend is that PMB may not be bothered about the federal character principle in the appointments he made and he will make during his tenure. Because if he had considered the federal character principle, he would not appoint three out of six principal Defense chiefs from one Geo- political zone, while ignoring one whole geopolitical zone in all the appointments he has made in the nearly two months he has been in office.
For me this is both good and bad. Good, because I am one of the apostles of merit-driven appointment to every office, especially in the public sector. I have always said that Nigeria can never achieve its best until it is led or served by the best. The only challenge is to ensure consistency in the application of this concept. The criteria for choosing the best must be known and must be transparently and consistently applied. The bad side is that the constitution talks of Justice and equity in dealing with all the different peoples and groups in Nigeria. The Federal character law specifies that employments and appointments in the public service should be done in a fair and equitable manner to give every section of Nigeria a feeling of belonging. So far these appointments by PMB fall much below these specifications and expectations and the unhappiness of the people of South East Nigeria can be understood.
More so, when it is realized that the Igbo constitute one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria with Men and women that can compete with the best in Nigeria, it is understandable why they are currently apprehensive of being lost in the power space in our Country. The excuse by some people, that this is the fate of the Igbo for voting Jonathan in the last election does not fetch any water. First is that not every Igbo person voted for Jonathan. In every state in the South East, some people voted for PMB. Though majority may have voted for GEJ, some others voted for PMB. If the Igbo are being ignored or 'punished' for voting GEJ, why must those who voted for PMB be also 'punished'. Secondly PMB is president for all Nigerians, not only for those who voted for him and he himself said so at his inauguration and emphasized it with his popular " I belong to nobody, I belong to every body"
Personally, I am of the firm hope that PMB will receive all these feedbacks and will make effort to assuage the concerns of the people of the South East and assure them that he has no axe to grind with the Igbo. For example if he announces Dr Ogbonnaya Onu as Secretary to Government(SGF) tomorrow, the pain will begin to ease .
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR