We are into the fourth month since Muhammadu Buhari was sworn-in as the President of Nigeria after keenly contested elections. For any fair and objective
analyst, this period is too short to make an informed assessment of Buhari’s performance since taking over. It would therefore seem that a few of the criticisms trailing some of his policies and pronouncements may have come too early in the day.
He needs some time to settle in and put structures of government in place to be able to function and implement his party’s programs. This is an undeniable fact and no matter how much one “hates” his administration, it would not change this.
However, the journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with a step. The first few steps could have profound effects and consequences on the final destination to be arrived at. One therefore has to measure his every step in order to ensure he arrives in one piece.
So far, some of the signs emerging from Buhari’s administration are too ominous to be ignored. It is one thing to have good intentions but another thing entirely in the way the intentions are being pursued. This is the predicament of Buhari’s administration.
One of the first major assignments undertaken by Buhari since taking over is the appointment of some key office holders. And as to be expected, the spread and character of his appointments should give colour to his intentions. Here, Buhari has disappointed not a few, who have been his strong supporters. Out of 35 (more than 75%) key appointments, only 9 went to the entire South while the North, his region, took the rest. Particularly worrisome is the fact that the entire South East region has none of the appointees so far! How on earth can any fair-minded person justify this?
To make matters worse, some “patriotic” Nigerians are claiming that these appointments are based on merit. It may very well be. But if this line of argument is expanded further, it would mean there are more people with merit in the North than in the South and stretched further, would portray the South East region as lacking people with merit; and nothing could be farther from the truth.
This is an indefensible blunder on the part of APC and Buhari’s government. It shows total disregard and insensitivity to a region with abundant human resources. To compound what is already a bad situation, some of the appointees, without regards to modesty, have joined in singing “merit based appointments” mantra. Would it not make sense for the beneficiaries of these lopsided appointments to desist from making inflammatory statements and face their new jobs instead of adding to the already tensed atmosphere? Are they to sing their praises of merit?
This issue has generated a lot of bad blood that it would take more than just verbal assurances from the APC leadership to calm nerves. They have to act fast.
It is very tempting to conclude that the reason for ignoring the South East is based on the support or none of it during the elections, but such a position would be weakened by the fact that there are strong APC supporters such as Rochas Okorocha, Ogbonnaya Onu, Chris Ngige and a few others with their supporters in that region.
It may therefore not be correct to assume that support base is the factor playing against the South East. If one takes a look at what the South-West has got so far, it is a far cry from the enormous sacrifices the region invested in Buhari’s emergence. What is the reason for Buhari’s posture of “merit is only to be found in the North” stance? As in every misguided step, this one too, is open to all manners of (mis)interpretations. One of such is the accusation that Buhari is a tribalist whose only pre-occupation is the north first, the north second and the north again. All other regions are insignificant.
Secondly, people had also accused him of being a religious fundamentalist. Considering the religious background of those appointed so far, it would appear that he is unwittingly giving credence to this accusation placing the number of Muslims against the Christians in the appointments so far. Nigeria has not yet arrived at a stage where these considerations would play little or no role in the reactions of the citizenry; indeed you ignore these factors at your peril. As a father, you have to factor in these facts.
I have deliberately refused to mention my region, South-South, as also being a victim of these skewed appointments; reason being that “we have just vacated the seat” but did not take advantage of the seat while it lasted. This appears to be the thinking in government.
My personal view is that Buhari may not be displaying tribalistic and religious tendencies in his appointments. He seems to be driven by fear of the unknown and consequently of failure. The fear of appointing people he does not know and who could give his administration bad image appears to be the driving force holding his Ministerial list up to moment. But is this justifiable? No. President Buhari does not need to know everyone he has to work with. He only has to give them benefit of doubt and wait for them to falter. The power to hire and fire lies with him. If you appoint somebody and he is not measuring up to your desired standard, there is no reason why he/she should not be fired. To skew Federal appointments in favour of your region and people you know is certainly not the best way to dispel this fear.
The level of condemnation trailing this exercise alone is enough to send a message to President Buhari. He has to drop the toga of a northerner and wear Nigeria. Recently, the agitation for Biafra republic has taken another dimension as there have been a lot of converts among the youth who see the injustice inherent in the composition of Nigeria as unacceptable. Everyday, the ranks and file of Biafra converts appear to be swelling. If Buhari ignores this time-bomb, then it would be very unfortunate. It is not enough to send security personnel to quell restiveness; he has to take a further step of running an inclusive government so that people from all the regions would have a sense of belonging, even if this may be imaginary.
The second shocker that is bound to further erode public goodwill is the denial of some of APC’s campaign promises by the party. Alhaji Lai Mohammed is quoted to have said that during the campaigns “all manners of literatures emerged” which were not traceable to their party. One of such literatures talked about Buhari’s promise to publicly declare his assets within 100 days of assumption of office.
In the opinion of Lai Mohammed, only those promises embedded in APC’s manifesto and its constitution are the ones the electorates should hold the party accountable to. This line of defence is not only lame but without morals. If APC did not repudiate those “literatures that emerged” during the campaigns but quietly enjoyed the benefit(s) that went with them, it becomes honourable for the party to take responsibility for the promises made therein. You do not take advantage of a document that is not yours during campaigns only to issue late disclaimers when you are being held to take responsibility for them. It would mean that APC took undeserved advantage of Nigerians using fake documents.
To hold on to the opinion expressed by Alhaji Lai Mohammed above would be to suggest that people may have given more respect to the party than it is currently showing itself to be worthy of. How can APC deny a document that they did not tell the public was not from their secretariat right from when such document was made public?
To continue to take out items from the checklist of campaign promises made before the elections as being fake, is to say the least, fraudulent. These late denials are already costing the APC enormous amount in squandered public goodwill, just as the unpopular appointments are. In truth, goodwill is one asset that no party dare toy with. A party must be seen to command enormous goodwill otherwise nobody would trust it to keep whatever promises they may make, no matter the beautiful language used. As it stands, APC is stuck with every document ascribing one campaign promise or the other to it but which they did not politely repudiate earlier.
If the APC is not worried about what happens in 2019, then they are damn mistaken. It will come as a surprise to them that 2019 is the day after tomorrow. That in effect means the day of reckoning is nearer than they may delude themselves to believe. This party can’t afford to disappoint Nigeria and Nigerians. Sometimes I pity the party for the huge expectations placed on it. Much as it is not possible for them to meet all of it, it makes sense to come close. The consequences of disappointment are too dire to be contemplated; in fact better imagined than experienced.
In view of the urgent need to pull this country from the brinks, it becomes really important that APC retraced its steps now and reconnect with Nigerians by exhibiting trustworthy character and doing what is right in the eyes of the electorates.
For me, Buhari’s competence to get Nigeria back in the right path is not questionable. I would therefore not be shaken or distracted by these apparent breaches until there are more evidences that Buhari has turned his back against Nigeria in favour of his region. The choice is his to make.