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Many questions over Tinubu’s appointments


Whether it is by commission or omission, the indices show that the South East geopolitical zone is trailing far behind once again in terms of numbers in the appointments so far made by President Bola Tinubu. The development has reinforced the feeling of marginalisation in the zone. Many critical observers believe that the President has not only adopted the template of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari but even improved on it in terms of further scheming out the South East.

President Tinubu’s handlers insist that the appointments are based on experience and competence, and the president’s belief that the appointees can help the administration achieve its ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’. But critics say it is a pattern based on ‘Reward and Punishment’, reward for his geopolitical zone and political allies, and punishment for those in opposition. The concept was established by Buhari even though many criticized it as that would not enhance national cohesion and unity. Many observers argue that in developed democracies, the president sees the country as his constituency immediately after the election.

  Since the emergence of the APC government in 2015, the concept of “Reward and Punishment” has been entrenched in its governance structure.

In the last general election, it was common knowledge that the South East by political choice were mostly ‘ Obidients’ , supporters of Mr Peter Obi, the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate. The support was demonstrated in the voting pattern during the February 25 presidential election.

In fact, what is currently playing out may have been revealed by Tinubu, who during the electioneering campaigns, told ‘Obidients’ that they would labour in vain, and that when he grabs power, the ‘Obidients’ would be fed “Agege bread soaked in water”.

In the estimation of many critical observers, Tinubu’s appointments since May 29 when he was inaugurated suggests that he is making good that ‘threat’.

A casual overview of Tinubu’s appointments so far indicate that he is toeing the style of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, who while in office favoured his ethnic group in appointments.

Facts don’t lie

It is not in doubt that so far, Tinubu’s appointments tilt largely in favour of the South West, his ethnic origin.

These include; the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun; the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Yemi Cardoso; Zacch Adedeji, acting chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); Taiwo Oyedele, chairman, Tax Reforms Committee; Tope Fasua, Special Adviser on Economic Affairs, and Bisoye Coker-Odusote, acting director general of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

Also, the Chief of Army Staff, Inspector-General of Police, and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service. In other words, everything that has to do with the economy of the country under the administration is controlled by the South West. Thirteen out of the 20 first sets of personal aides are from the South West.

The situation is unlike the South East that has only five ministers confirmed by the Senate.

The North Central geopolitical zone with six states has nine ministers, the South West with six states has 10 ministers, the North West with seven states has 10 ministers, the North East with six states has 8 ministers, the South South with six states has 7 ministers, and the South East with five states has five ministers, one from each of the five states in the region. It remains the only region of the country that did not get an additional ministerial slot.

Reward and punishment

Section 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution says: “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 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.”

The constitution goes further to say in section 147 (2) – (3) of the constitution: “(2) Any appointment to the office of the Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.

“(3) Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14 (3) of this Constitution. Provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid, the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.”

Tinubu met the basic criteria of appointing one minister per state but analysts wonder why the South East is the only region of the country that did not get additional slot. They wonder whether the number of ministerial slots assigned to respective regions had to do with the votes they gave the president. Comparing the vote contributions of the zones and ministerial slots allocated to them tends to support that assertion.

For instance, the North Central with six states contributed 20 per cent to Tinubu’s votes and were rewarded with 10 ministerial slots, the South West with six states contributed 25 per cent votes and got 10 ministers, the North West with seven states contributed 30 per cent votes and has 10 ministers, the North East with six states brought in 13.5 per cent votes and has eight ministers, the South South with six states contributed 9.1 per cent votes and have seven, while the South East with five states contributed 1.5 percent votes. In this case, it would seem the zone was punished with five ministers, one from each of the states in the region, which by virtue of the constitution they must get.

Analysts observe that the immediate past administration of President Buhari equally ‘punished’ the South East for not voting him massively.

In July 2015, Buhari appeared at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP in July 2015, when he was barely two months in office and told Dr Pauline Baker, the President Emeritus of The Fund for Peace: “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents that for example, gave me 97per cent [of the vote] cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5 per cent. I think these are political reality”.

Buhari’s marginalisation of the South East continued into his second term

Ide Goddy Uwazurike, a lawyer who is President of Cultural Credibility Development Initiative (CCDI), said in June 2019, “The facts of the northernisation of Nigerian government speak for itself. Let me put it bluntly, the president can meet with two or three top officials of the Federal Government to discuss Nigeria’s affairs and their language of communication will be Hausa, which is the primary language all of them have in common. So they will meet and discuss in Hausa how to handle this country. It doesn’t make sense; it was never the intention of anybody that this country should be governed on such a parochial level.”

Uwazurike believes the Tinubu-led government is toeing the same path as that of Buhari, and urged the president to retrace his steps.

He said: “The 1999 Constitution enjoins political governance to maintain federal character. In other words, the president or governor must ensure equitable representation of the different parts of the country or state in appointments and positions; this is mandatory, not optional. This provision is there to avoid tribalism, parochialism, and nepotism. It is there to ensure that all parts of the country are carried along; it is different from the federal character provision of one minister from each state. Buhari pioneered this penchant for disregard of the constitution. It is sad that President Tinubu is embracing the same infamous disregard for the constitution. I hope he makes a u -turn.”

MBF, Tanko, Afenifere,

others speak

Leaders of several socio-political organisations and political actors across the country, including the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Afenifere, and a former presidential candidate expressed diverse views on the matter.

President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu,  rejected the position of Tinubu’s loyalists that the president’s appointments are based on competence. He insisted that there are competent people in every part of Nigeria not just the South West.

He blamed former President Buhari for initiating the nepotism template, which he said, would further divide the country.

He said, “Tinubu is responding to what Buhari did when he was in office. Buhari appointed his kith and kin and the North did not care. Today, Tinubu is in office and he is appointing his own brothers. Every section of the country will believe that when it gets to their turn, they will play thesame game. It is unfortunate; such development will keep dividing the country. You cannot build a nation that way; you build a nation on equity, justice, and fair play. There are qualified people everywhere in Nigeria not only in Yorubaland.”

Dr Tanko Yunusa, spokesperson of the Labour Party 2023 Campaign Organisation, who was presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in 2019, agrees that Buhari laid the foundation.

He said: “President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appointing his friends and cronies to sensitive positions is not an issue; it is expected. It would be news if he had done something different. Former President Buhari did the same thing. What you are seeing now is nepotism raised to power two.”

But National Publicity of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Mr. Jare Ajayi, submitted that the charge of nepotism levelled against President Bola Tinubu is not tenable.

According to him, the administration adheres to the constitutional provision of ensuring that government appointments at federal level are evenly distributed across various parts of the country. This is reflected firstly in having ministers appointed from all the states of the federation and second in the allotment of what are considered as ‘key’ ministries or parastatals.”

Last line

President Tinubu may feel that he has met the provisions of section 147 (2)-(3) of the 1999 constitution in appointing at least one minister from each of the 36 states of the federation. However, many critical observers believe that what is fair is fair and that building a nation demands inclusion and giving every section of the country equal sense of belonging.

Moreover, there is still section 14 (3) of the constitution that warns against the structure of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs taking the semblance that it is dominated by people from a particular part of the country.

Credit: Daily News

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