A President Smaller Than Nigeria -By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Filed under: National Issues |
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu


Injustice has always been at the bottom of Nigeria’s problems. The noise about fighting corruption cannot mask the gravity of the injustice and inequity taking centre-stage on the national stage today.

The powers-that-be in Nigeria take great pleasure in describing the country as the “Giant of Africa.” A towering giant is not expected to have a very small-minded leader. A giant with feet of clay is an object of derision. A little mind can hardly ever make great things to happen. If ever Nigeria is to reach the range of its potential, the country must enjoy a leadership as large as her ambition. Obviously the country has become a butt of jokes across the globe because of the lack of quality in the headship of the dear country. The late leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, had once described Nigeria as a “big-for-nothing” country.

Crude nepotism is now being brandished as merit or competence in Nigeria. The recent political appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari are a pathetic slap on the face of integrity in governance. Femi Adesina, Buhari’s Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity has had a very tough time trying to convince astonished Nigerians that the President will in due course balance his lopsided appointments tilted too dangerously towards his northern constituency. There is the proverb that says: “A freeborn given the job of a slave should at least do the job with the work ethics of a true freeborn.”

Injustice has always been at the bottom of Nigeria’s problems. The noise about fighting corruption cannot mask the gravity of the injustice and inequity taking centre-stage on the national stage today. Nobody raised eyebrows when Buhari in the first instance appointed Lt. Col. Muhammed Lawal Abubakar as his ADC, Malam Lawal Kazaure as his State Chief of Protocol (SCOP) and Abdulrahman Mani as his Chief Security Officer (CSO). When other appointments came almost entirely from the North many critics instantly dubbed Buhari a President of Northern Nigeria. In the Buhari scheme of sectional governance, Ahmed Idris got appointed the Accountant-General of Federation while Mordecai Ladan became Director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

It was President Buhari’s tacky appointment of Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari as the acting Chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on June 30 that raised the decibel of objection to his wretched impunity. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) immediately demanded the removal of Amina Zakari who Buhari nominated hours after INEC former Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, had handed over to Ahmed Wali. Buhari who knew all along that Jega would be leaving office by June 30 did next-to-nothing but had to wait for Jega to hand over to one of the national commissioners only to reverse it immediately, thereby injecting bad blood into the commission.

According to the PDP, “The situation in INEC since the PDP government reformed and granted it operational autonomy has been peaceful, but Tuesday’s untidy overruling of Prof. Jega and appointing of Mrs. Amina Zakari as acting chairman which, we gathered was influenced by personal relationship with the Presidency and one of the new governors of the North West, ostensibly to pave the way for the APC at the electoral tribunals, has completely eroded public trust in the commission…her appointment is a clear case of nepotism. We ask, if they trusted Prof. Jega and commended him for conducting free and fair elections, why would they not trust him on who to hold forth in the commission until a substantive Chairman is appointed, rather than appointing someone who is retiring from the commission in the next three weeks? With the prevailing record of Mr. President on appointments, it is unlikely that a substantive INEC Chairman will be appointed in the next one year. Is there a hidden agenda? Has Mrs. Zakari been handed a script to act given that we have cases in the tribunals in addition to the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa?”

As further proof that he did not care a hoot about the feelings of diverse Nigerians, Buhari appointed his Daura kinsman Lawal Musa Daura as the Director-General of the Department of Security Services (DSS) in replacement of Ita Ekpenyong. As if to add Daura insult to Katsina injury, Lawal Daura was actually recalled from retirement to head the DSS.The hope that President Buhari would rise up to the largeness of the Nigerian nation in making future key appointments was dashed when he named Babachir David Lawal, from Adamawa State, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Abba Kyari, from Borno, as his Chief of Staff; Hameed Ali, a retired colonel from Bauchi, as the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service; Kure Martin Abeshi, from Nasarawa, as the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigration Service; Ita Enang, a former Senator from Akwa Ibom and the only southerner, as Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Senate affairs; and Suleiman Kawu, a former House of Representatives member from Kano, as Senior Special Assistant on the House of Representatives.

Thus far, President Buhari has made 30-odd appointments with no appointment whatsoever coming from the South-East geo-political zone. It is as though the old General is still fighting the Biafra War! It is also a case of zero score in gender sensitivity as Buhari is as yet to appoint a single female into his team. Nigeria is getting ever so smaller with this exclusionism. The Constitutional demand that the government must guarantee “the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government” is only observed in the breach by this regime. Buhari’s unrelenting promotion of only his native North totally violates the Federal Character principle of the Nigerian Constitution. Buhari has given 75 percent of the posts to the North while a measly 25 percent has been offered the South, with Buhari’s North-West geopolitical zone taking the largest share of 43 percent.

My friend Ikechukwu Amaechi, Editor-in-Chief of The Niche, has carpeted Buhari thus: “Buhari is the most provincial leader Nigeria has ever had. He is not fit to be President of Nigeria. How can he continue appointing top officials of government from the North? Customs, Immigration bosses, SGF, Chief of Staff all from the North?”

The whimsical appointments have put the country on edge. How does one explain the appointment of a retired soldier to lord it over career Customs officials? The immigration boss ought to be still under suspension, yet a new one was appointed in his place. A soldier who played a heinous role in the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa has been elevated to high office. A disgraced ex-banker was given the principal key to Aso Villa. It is all so messy.

Some lily-livered excuse has been put up that Buhari is only interested in merit and competence over Federal Character. If distinction is only domiciled in the North, why would a pupil from Anambra State need to score as much as 139 marks to get admitted into the so-called Unity Schools when a pupil from Yobe State is only expected to score just two (2) marks? Why is merit not extended to the school admission policy?

It is a great pity that Nigeria has been reduced to the smallness of the little mind. Great leaders all over the world preach inclusiveness. A complex country such as Nigeria cannot survive without the accommodation of all the ethnicities. The parochial preaching of dividing Nigeria into “97 percent and 5 percent” as per voter-support is crudely reckless. Remaking the heavily endangered Nigerian democracy as Northern conquest, or what Chinweizu calls “Caliphate Colonialism”, definitely cannot stand because oppression has never triumphed throughout the history of the world. For now, there is no country. Someday, Nigeria will have a leader large enough to fulfill her destiny.

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu writes from Lagos.