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Holding The Cow By The Horns


Nigerian readers have definitely become bored with the telling and re-telling of last Tuesday’s happenings at the National Assembly, especially as the ruling party has decided to paper over the cracks that were created by the yet-to-be fully- explained palace coup in the APC. We must then move over to another issue which seems to have become a major preoccupation of Nigerians.

The Constitution has spelt out and institutionalized the federal character doctrine in the way positions and amenities are distributed among the component units of the country, but it is the PDP that raised the principle of zoning key political positions to different sections of the country to an almost ridiculous position.

Initially, it was elective positions that were at issue, until during the last dispensation when the Jonathan administration also placed the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) on the political sharing tray of the PDP.

Somehow, President Jonathan was able to convince some political opportunists from the South East, represented by the leadership of the Ohanaeze at the time, that the position of the SGF had become so important as to have qualified as a befitting reward for their massive vote for the PDP and his presidency.

That was even as the party had allocated the elective position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South West that had not voted for PDP and that would have been the situation had Aminu Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha not, with the assistance of the opposition politicians, upturned the political applecart of the party, thus making the South East get an elected position of the deputy speaker by subterfuge – just as it has got the deputy senate president this time, too.

More significantly, the Ohanaeze, led by the late Chief Raph Uwechue, was so ebullient in their gratitude to the president and the party that they went out of their way to impress on Ndigbo on how wonderful the position of the SGF had suddenly become to the effect that from that position, the SGF would bring all No Comment manners of goodies and opportunities to the zone.

Those that had demurred were shouted down by the same cabal that had gone ahead to nominate Senate Anyim Pius Anyim – one of their own. Those who had protested and reminded Ndigbo that the late Ikemba had once described the SGF as a ‘senior tea boy to the president’ were brushed aside.

Some of us who noticed that we were fighting a lost battle tried a last feeble attempt at defining the type of an SGF that Ndigbo would prefer, if the position is the one they believed was adequate for us. In my Capital Matters column in The Sun, I tried to explain what the SGF position was all about and what he does as well as the best qualifications for the position which is the doyen of the public service.

I pointed out that the position had been occupied by 16 previous high calibre public servants before the one they were reserving for the South East. I named all those 16 and supplied their public service record which showed that there was not one of them that had not reached the position of a federal permanent secretary.

With the highest sense of duty, I argued that even though Senator Anyim had once served as a senate president, the SGF is not a pure political position and thus requires somebody that has a full mastery of the public service both by training and experience. Anyim, whose stint in the public service did not go beyond the Level 12, in my contention, was not in the class of those that had served as the SGF, and that he would not be at ease with the job, as he would have many people that are senior to him working under him.

Fortunately, the South East was replete with men and women who were amply qualified, and who had service records that equated or surpassed the previous SGFs. I named at least 12 of such people from the five states of the South East. The view made a lot of sense amongst very many objective thinkers of the South East but the Ohanaeze cabalists took it as a personal attack on their vested interests and went ahead to convince the fumbling president to go ahead and appoint Anyim as the SGF, which position was the slot that he had, contempt masquerading as gratitude, zoned to the South East – the deputy speakership occupied by Hon. Emeka Ihedioha being a mere jara.

Once again, we have got to that situation where different zones are again scrambling for positions for their zones, ignoring the crucial lesson, as has been borne out by such previously zoned appointments, that zones and regions do not necessarily derive any benefits from appointments that were made on their behalf, so to speak. If any South-Easterner is aware of any special or concrete benefits that the zone derived by virtue of Anyim’s position as the SGF for the past four years, I would be pleased to be educated.

Ditto for any other benefit derived from a particular appointee from our zone. I don’t have anything against Anyim or anybody who occupied a position on our behalf or on behalf of any other zone, but the fact remains that no zone necessarily gains anything from the appointment of their ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ of the soil. I am just wondering what Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala could have done for the people of the South East with her ministerial portfolio. I am sure that many Abians would have dreamed and wished that she had the powers to ‘add something’ to their statutory allocation.

This view is not very popular but nothing will stop me from saying that the South East would prefer not to have any ministerial position if those positions could be replaced with concrete developmental activities like assuring us of better electricity supply, good federal roads and bridges, getting the Anambra oil at Aguleri to become fully operational, as well as other amenities. The ministerial and other top appointments benefit only the people appointed, their families and friends, while development facilities affect the people and have useful multiplier effects.

For instance, the only thing standing between the South East and industrial explosion is the lack of steady power supply. If that is ensured, I am sure nobody there would oppose whoever is the president, and would hardly be concerned about who the minsters are. Last week, I travelled to Port Harcourt from Aba and was appalled at the condition of the federal highway between Abia and Rivers State.

I also had the opportunity of plying a section of the notorious East-West Road and was shocked at its condition even after several millions had gone down the drain. After conferring with some of my South-South friends, it was obvious that while the Jonathan presidency might have enriched many individuals, it was a disaster for the generality of the people from his zone. Ditto for the South East that had supported all the way! Many gladiators are joining their battles in the South East over the SGF candidacy of their favourite candidates without sitting down to think of what benefits the zone had derived from the immediate past one.

Again, even the candidates they are pushing are also in the same category of not having the requisite experience for the job. Beyond the entire clamour, one hopes that Nigerians would learn to insist on going beyond zones and regions in the search for people who can deliver on particular assignments. The failure of President Jonathan to deliver in concrete terms ‘for his people’ is instructive and should be a big eye opener.

When an appointment is made as a representative of a group, the appointee would have no alternative than to implement policies that had been agreed upon for the entire polity and in the society like ours, just becomes like a man holding the horns of the cow while others milk it from underneath. I don’t remember what Ogun State people gained specially from Obasanjo’s presidency; South Southerners are where they were or perhaps even worse off than they were four years ago.

In conclusion, I insist that South Easterners should stop clamouring for appointees, we should rather start strategizing on how to get developmental facilities and infrastructures we require to better our lives and improve our circumstances.

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