Francis Moses writes on the rising public angst over perceived lopsided appointments by President Buhari
With over 37 days gone into his avowed 90 days to re-engineer Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari is drawing flak for something altogether unexpected by Nigerians: His appointments since assumption of office. Dillydallying over his ministerial list reportedly likely to be in the cooler till September, by which time the 90days would have elapsed, Nigerians are beginning to pay more attention to the man and his style. So far, he has made nine political appointments. But the heat started generating with the appointment of Amina Zakari as Acting Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission INEC.
Of the nine appointments, eight are from the North, while one is from the South. They include; Director-General of the State Services, Lawal Daura, Katsina State. Acting Chairman, the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari, Jigawa State. •Director, the Department of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Mordecai Danteni Baba Ladan (North) •Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, Kano State .Chief Security Officer, Abdulrahman Mani; (North) •State Chief of Protocol, Mallam Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure; (North) •Aide De Camp, Lt.-Col. Muhammed Lawal Abubakar, Kano State •Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu; (North) .Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, South-West. Apart from the social media which is awash with. However for the Peoples Democratic Party PDP the appointment of are nepotism in practice, they flout the Federal Character principle as enshrined in the Constitution, whereby the ethnic nationalities in the country are made to rehave a fair share of the appointments by the Federal Government The Party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Olisa Metuh, told journalists at a news conference in Abuja that the appointment of the acting chairman on INEC for example did not follow due process.
Mr. Metuh stated that the delay in the Cabinet formation of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, was adeliberate ploy to railroad lackeys into office, saying that they “lacks direction and focus on how to govern the country”. However in rejecting Zakari, the PDP claimed it was privy to the fact that the INEC chairperson has a strong relationship with President Buhari and a very prominent of the All Progressive Congress North-West governor. The party alleged that Zakari is collaborating with the ruling party to post Resident Electoral Commissioners of its choice to Kogi and Bayelsa states ahead of the forthcoming governorship elections in those states. The PDP raised the alarm of alleged moves to use the period of Zakari’s stay as head of the commission to tinker with electoral personnel and materials for the two states in favour of the APC. According to Metuh, President Buhari, in appointing Zakari, failed to take into cognisance the moral call to detach himself from the operation of the electoral body thereby completely eroding the independence of the commission.
He pointed out that the issue at stake was not that of Zakari’s competence or performance in office but that of “nepotism and her closeness to the President and some key APC leaders, which calls into question the independence of the electoral body under her.” While rejecting the PDP allegations, the Presidency said Zakari’s appointment was based on merit. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement recently, said that President Buhari followed due process in appointing Zakari to head the commission in acting capacity. Metuh however insisted over the weekend that with Zakari’s appointment, the commission has been stripped of its independence and can no longer command the confidence and respect of the citizens and all other critical stakeholders in the nation’s electoral process. He said, “We however find it astonishing, discouraging and disheartening that the spokesperson of the President will address Nigerians and lie to the entire citizenry that Zakari never had any relationship with the President or an APC governor in the Northwest. This is the height of deception coming from the respected office of the President of our dear country.
“We ask, is the spokesperson of the President, oblivious of the public fact that the Acting Chairman of INEC was once a staff of Afri-Project Consortium, a company well associated with the President? “Is he by any means feigning ignorance of the fact that Mrs. Zakari also worked in the past as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Social Development and later, that of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Federal Capital Development Authority, then under a current APC governor of the North- West? Metuh further said, “Whilst the PDP might not be opposed to Mrs. Zakari becoming one out of the numerous national electoral commissioners to be so appointed, we completely reject her being an executive chairman who takes major decisions in an independent electoral commission while having a strong relationship with the President and a prominent APC North-West governor.
His words “Indeed, never in the history of Nigeria have there been an executive chairman of the electoral body with such strong rehave lationship with the president of the country.” In his assessment of the situation a Federal legislator faults the appointments on the basis of the Federal Character principle. Representing Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State in the House of Representatives, Hon. Linus Okorie, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, to respect the federal character principle as enshrined in Section 14 (3) of the constitution of Nigeria.
To buttress his argument, he cites Section 14 (3) of the Constitution which states that “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 a 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 State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.” Okorie accused President Buhari and the APC of having violated the constitutional provision on all the appointments they have made since their assumption of leadership of the federal government on May 29 2015. He noted with particular interest, the pronouncements of the APC lawmakers de-emphasizing the federal character principle.
Okorie also tackled Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who he said before now acted as an erudite opposition lawmaker and quintessential respecter of the rule of law and constitutional provisions, but is now leading the upturn of the constitution. “Gbajabimila’s current personal ambitions cannot justifiably account for such a dramatic somersault that seeks to turn Nigeria’s constitution on its head merely to justify a position which is clearly against the spirit and letter of the constitution” Okorie said.
The Lawmaker remarked that without any of iota of doubt, the principle of Federal Character enshrined in the nation’s constitution is now under threat in the current dispensation, recalling that the few appointments already made by President Muhammadu Buhari do not reflect federal character. He however advised that it would be in the best interest of the nation and its constitution if Buhari redresses the error in the course of subsequent appointments, and quickly too. He faulted Gbajabiamila’s view that the House of Representatives is not an agency of federal government and that its principal officers’ positions are elective and not by appointment. “Clearly, this cannot be interpreted to exclude the national assembly’s principal officers’ positions.
All of us, including my respected colleague, Hon. Gbajabiamila, have a duty not to encourage or allow the Constitution to be desecrated or abused by people who are desperate for power,” said Okorie. In addition to the appointments were also the elections of Dr. Bukola Saraki from Kwara State, North central and Barr. Yakubu Dogara from Bauchi State, north east as Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives. Meanwhile the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity who is incidentally the only southerner in the appointments, Mr. Adesina over the weekend refuted the claims that Buhari was acting a northern script against the rest of the zones in the country. According to him, the president received a national mandate and was going to pursue it as such. His words “The president does not have a northern agenda. He has a national agenda. He got a national mandate and that is the way he is going to exercise that mandate. I have already said it and I still maintain that”.