Given the dynamics of the socio-political situation that played out in the country, while under colonial rule, when concerned Nigerians raised the alarm over appointments made overtly skewed in favour of the British, it is outrageous that some 63 years after independence we are still grappling with the similar obnoxious culture of nepotistic appointments. Or how else can we explain the nauseating fact that as at November, 2017 – over two years after the then President Muhammadu Buhari got into power – 81 out of the 100 political appointments he made, out rightly favoured the Northern geo-political zones as against the others?
That was then. Unfortunately, as at July 2023 it has been observed that 13 out of the 20 presidential aides appointed under the incumbent President Bola Tinubu were from the South-Western part of the country where he hails from! When the media raised concern over the appointments made then, some of the die- hard political jobbers saw nothing wrong with it. Some, as expected, said that it was too early in the day to complain about it. But whoever had doubts over where the political pendulum was swinging would have to swallow such, because as at October, 2023 it has become patently clear that Tinubu is literally fulfilling his promise, to “continue from where Buhari stopped”.
That is in terms of divisive, ethno-sentimental appointments that act as the dagger to sever whatever remains of the connecting cord of our fragile unity. Yet, two wrongs never make a right. Or do they? Both actions incidentally have violated Section 13, Sub- Section (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). It states in clear terms that the Federal Government and its agencies should conduct their affairs “to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity; and also command national loyalty”.
This clear violation of the constitution spells doom for the unity, harmony and peaceful cohabitation of the multi-ethnicity of the nation-state. That raises the burning questions. When you have one Wale Edu as the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister on the Economy, Dele Alake as the Minister of Solid Minerals, Zacch Adedeji as the Acting Chairman, Tax Reforms, Adeniji Adewale as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Services and Yemi Cardoso as the Central Bank Governor (CBN) – with all of them from the same Southwest geo-political zone, there is definitely cause for serious concern!
In fact, it goes beyond the recent joke, by an analyst, that perhaps when a meeting on the country’s economy is convened, the top-notch participants could be speaking the same language. That position should be understood as the harsh reality of the low disregard our political leaders have for our sensibilities, as a people in search of much-needed unity. It was such vile disposition, on the part of the erstwhile President Buhari-led administration that had virtually all the security and law enforcement positions in the hands of the Northerners.
That was except the Chief of Defence Staff and the then Chief of Naval Staff. Yet, serious insecurity remained the bane of development up there in the North. And it persists till this day! To underscore the imperative of equity and justice which should be reflected in political appointments, a reminder on the factors that led to the introduction of the Federal Character Principle is hereby stated. First introduced in 1979, its noble and patriotic aim was to stop the carry over mentality of imbalance from the colonialists, the outcry of which led to the quota system that had 50% of political positions going to the North, and 25% each to the South-western and the South- eastern zones.
Back then, it was meant to discourage all forms of discrimination and underrepresentation so as to encourage inclusiveness. And good enough that has been what has characterised appointments in most other multi-ethnic countries. The underlying philosophy of the Federal Character Principle was firmly anchored on inclusiveness, equal representation to give a sense of belonging to the component ethnic groups and balance the polity. Such was its significance that after the Biafra War ended successive governments right from the ’70s ensured that they sustained its cardinal principles.
Under the then Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo-led military administration, in 1979 the Constitution Drafting Committee recommended a provision in Section 14(3) which stated, in succinct terms that: “There shall be no predominance of persons from a few states, or a few ethnic, or other sectional groups in the government or any of its agencies.” What Buhari did and is being promoted under the current administration of Tinubu by ethnocentric appointments is a clear violation of the 1999 constitution. It is a travesty of justice.
It threatens our corporate existence at a time when no politician from a section of the country heads any of the top-four political leadership. The onus therefore, lies on the legislative arm of government to reverse the drift to inter- ethnic rancour and rivalry, by calling President Tinubu out and refusing to endorse appointments skewed in favour of a particular region. Under a democratic dispensation no one individual, no matter how seemingly powerful he might be, should have his wishes and caprices riding roughshod over the constitution, which remains the guiding compass for equitable governance.