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National Security Council: Non-justifiability of alienation of S/East

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Emmanuel OnwubikoPresident Muhammadu Buhari is only a month and half old as the democratically inaugurated president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but he has so far

made major appointments especially in the key security sector of the largest black nation in the world that has generated a ground swell of criticism of alienation of the Igbo speaking South East of Nigeria.

[Image: The author]

President Muhammadu Buhari appointed new Service Chiefs and a National Security Adviser, after sacking their predecessors few days back.

 The president appointed Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T.Y. Buratai as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff.

 He also appointed Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan as Chief of Defence Intelligence; Retired Major-General Babagana Monguno as National Security Adviser.

The appointments were conveyed in a statement signed by Mr. Buhari’s Advisor on Media/Publicity, Femi Adesina.

Maj.-Gen. Olonishakin (N/6901) hails from Ekiti State. Until his appointment as Chief of Defence Staff, he was the Head of the Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command in Minna, Niger State.

The new Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Buratai, hails from Borno State, and was until his appointment the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force which has its headquarters in Ndjamena.

 Maj-Gen. Buratai has previously served as Commander of the Nigerian Army’s 2nd Brigade in Port Harcourt and Commander of the Nigerian Army School of Infantry in Jaji, Kaduna State.

The new Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibas (NN/0746) hails from Cross River State. He enlisted into the Nigerian Defence Academy as a member of the 26th Regular Course in 1979 and was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in 1983.

His previous appointments include : Naval Provost Marshal, Chief Staff Officer, Naval Training Command, Chief of Administration, Naval Headquarters, Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command and Chief of Logistics, Naval Headquarters.

 Until his appointment as Chief of Naval Staff, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Navy Holdings Limited.

The new Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Abubakar (NAF/1433) hails from Bauchi State. His previous appointments include : Chief of Standards and Evaluation, NAF Headquarters; Chief of Defence Communications and Air Officer Commanding, NAF Training Command. Until his new appointment as Chief of Air Staff, he was the Chief of Administration, NAF Headquarters.

Constitutionally, these appointments and the negation of the South East implies that nearly 45 million Nigerians of Igbo extraction in South East of Nigeria won’t be represented in the Nation’s highest defence policy making body – The National Security Council. Article 25 of the 3rd schedule, in part one of the constitutions, say as follows;

• The National Security Council shall comprise the following members –

• The president who shall be the Chairman;

• The Vice-President who shall be the Deputy Chairman;

• The Chief of Defence Staff;

• The Minister of the Government of the Federation charged with the responsibility for internal affairs;

• The Minister of the Government of the Federation charged with the responsibility for defence;

• The Minister of the Government of the Federation charged with the responsibility for foreign affairs;

• The National Security Adviser;

• The Inspector-General of Police; and

Such other persons as the President may in his discretion appoint.

The Council shall have power to advice the President on matters relating to public security including matters relating to any organization or agency established by law for ensuring the security of the federation.

Apart from the implicit discriminatory tone of these appointments which are in violation of section 42(1) of the chapter four of the constitution on the imperative of avoiding discrimination of any ethnic bloc in the formulation of governmental policies, the failure to include the South East in this all important security forum amounts to alienation of the Igbo speaking population current government.

Already most learned minds observing political developments from across board have criticized the current federal administration for these manifest acts of alienation and outright discrimination against the Igbo of South East of Nigeria.

These groundswell of criticisms against President Buhari in view of emerging facts that not only that the Igbo speaking nationality has started suffering systematic marginalization under his watch in terms of strategic defence appointments but even in key economic positions the South East has been left in the lurch even as one of the most vociferous supporters of Buhari Governor Adams Oshiomhole recently insulted our national psyche by playing the role of overzealous interloper in admonishing the South East to look for projects and not appointments. 

He alongside his ilk forgot that the fundamentals of policy making influences are facilitated by key occupants of strategic insider positions in the various power configurations and political layers of authority in Nigeria. When people pontificate against respect to the constitutional principle of Federal Character representations in the allocation of political offices and decide to hide under the deceptive canopy of merit and competence they conveniently remain in denial of the fundamental reality that Federal Character principle accommodate competence and merit and importantly prevents a scenario where persons s from a segment of the society that produce the President would be picked to man strategic brats in government to the total exclusion of other component parts.

Federal Character principle allows for equitable distribution of political offices and safeguards the nation from nepotism and tribalism. Let Buhari stop creating impression that his government is a government for the Northern Nigeria and by Northern Nigerians. This is not too much a task for him to undertake since he is not the SARDAUNA OF NORTHERN NIGERIA but the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

In the book ” PUBLIC POLICY: FORMULATION,  IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION” written by RK Sapru the aforementioned point I highlighted on Policy influences vis- a – vis top public office holders and their proximity to sources of power largely determines the equitable redistribution of national wealth and sitting of projects of significant economic values. 

He wrote thus: “Official policy-makers are those who occupy the formal offices prescribed by the political community as authoritative. They are members of the legislature, local councilors, ministers, senior officials and judges”. 

This public policy expert wrote further that: “Since governments at the national level are formed usually by the leaders of the political party with the majority of seats in the legislature, it is important to understand how the parliamentary leadership is likely to behave. In the actual process of government, it is widely recognized that parliament is dominated by the executive in policy-making. Its supremacy is said to be real only in a legalistic sense. The executive, and the power within it, especially of the cabinet, is of critical value to the policy-making function of the government.”

To further adumbrate my position on the necessity of including Representatives of all affiliations in top government offices, the writer of the book cited above affirmed thus: “The bureaucracy’s political and policy-making roles have been investigated. The judiciary is also considered an important element in the policy process. The impact of judges on policy-making, and attitudes towards judicial power in the system of government.”

THE South-East South-South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which claimed to be “engaged in promoting good governance and rapid, sustainable and inclusive development” in the two geo-political zones of the country, has expressed concern about allegations that the new All Progressive Congress (APC) Federal Government, may be out to “alienate” the zones from general development in Nigeria. These persons aren’t alone because even a prominent Law professor Ben Nwabueze has expressed concern on the emerging lopsided appointments that we have witnessed so far. 

 In a letter addressed to Buhari and signed by its president, Emeka Ugwu-Oju and Secretary, Dagogo Karibi-Whyte, the group, which described the two zones as “major enablers of the Nigerian economy”, highlighted some recent events that fuelled its fears that the areas may indeed be on the road to alienation.

In the letter dated July 29, 2015, the SESSPN drew the attention of President Buhari to some “extant issues” which included the speech of the President during a visit to the United States of America, alleged lopsidedness in key appointments by the Federal Government and the threats against Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s emergence as the Deputy Senate President.

The letter, which was copied to many political leaders of the two zones across political divides, however expressed the readiness of the people of the zones to work with the rest of the country to achieve the change dream that the APC government desires.

Highlighting the causes of the fear of marginalization, the SESSPN referred to:

“(1). A recent remark by Your Excellency whilst being interviewed at the Institute of Peace, Washington DC by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Whilst responding to a question regarding the Niger Delta, Your Excellency stated, inter alia; “the states that voted 97 percent for me will be treated differently from those that voted 5 percent for me”. In other words, all Nigerians will not get equal treatment under your administration. Based on the last Presidential election results, the people of the South-East and South-South zones will of course be classified as those that voted 5 percent for you.

“(2). Whilst delivering the keynote address at the Special Dinner organised in Mr. President honour by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council on Africa to mark Your Excellency’s state visit to the USA, you singled out a prominent African entrepreneur of South-East South-South extraction for public embarrassment. Your Excellency declared that the gentleman in question was not expected at the Dinner and was probably brought to the dinner by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) while another entrepreneur whom you acknowledged his presence was expected to be in attendance being a relative of one of your key political ally. Unfortunately the in question is the chairman of a major African Banking institution that is also a member of the Corporate Council of Africa, a co-host of the dinner. As a demonstration of patriotism, the gentleman in question was instrumental to the bank being a Gold Category Sponsor of the dinner. Again, Mr. President’s comment on the CBN governor’s purported role in this matter has also exacerbated the strong rumours making the rounds that the CBN governor, being of South-East extraction, is being demonized as a forerunner for his orchestrated forced resignation as a “pay back” for the immediate past CBN Governor’s suspension by the last administration.

“(3). The recent action by your barely two-month old administration pronouncing the dissolution of the governing boards of the Federal Government’s parastatals and agencies singled only one chief executive for outright dismissal and no reason was preferred. This particular chief executive is of South-South extraction. Also, when this dismissed chief executive handed over to an executive director who happens to come from the South-East zone in an acting capacity, the handing over was reversed a few days later following instructions from Abuja in favour of another executive director from the North-East zone.

“(4). The unabated threats to illegally remove Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the elected Deputy Senate President. We believe that Senator Ekweremadu’s colleagues saw an opportunity to have a qualified candidate from the South-East South-South zone elected to the position of DSP in the overriding national interest taking into cognizance the current state of the nation.

“(5). The key appointments so far made by your administration in major national institutions such as the armed forces and other security agencies, for instance, virtually excluded Nigerian nationals of South-East South-South extraction.

“The foregoing action of Mr. President, we are sorry to state, would appear to give the impression they are the latent undercurrent of the policy thrust of the new administration. This ought not to be the direction. We are indeed surprised that the change mantra of Mr. President, which had buoyed the hopes of majority of Nigerians that things would be done differently in the new dispensation, appears already stymied in needless controversy that does not augur well for the future of our democracy. We expect you to heal and unite the nation but your recent actions and speeches seem to be further dividing the nation.

“This is why we appeal to Mr. President to re-examine the issues raised and take steps to redress them to assuage the misgivings already pervading the psyche of the people South-East South-South zones.”

For the specific purpose of maintaining public peace and equity let President Muhammadu Buhari do the needful to redress this scheming out of the South East in the National Security Council. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com, www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org. 

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