Outrage Over President Buhari’s Appointments

A lot of Nigerians especially from the Southern part of the country are expressing outrage and condemnation of appointments made so far by President Muhammadu Buhari. Their beef is that appointments made so far by the president lacks gender balance and regional equity. Out of the 35 key appointments made so far by the president, 75% are from the north and 25% from the south. Population of the northerners is approximately equal to the southerners. Nigerian constitution mandates political party in power to make appointments that reflects national character. In order words, office holders should be picked from diverse ethnic groups and regions that make up Nigeria in a balance and equitable manner.

It is true that appointments should be based on merit, but the lopsided nature of the appointments made so far looks terrible. It is also true that appointments made so far are just the tip of the iceberg as stated by President Buhari’s spokesman. More appointments are still in the pipeline. What is surprising so far is that no southerners has been appointed to a key position and only one woman (INEC Chairman) has been appointed to a position. It is brazen and some northerners to their credit are voicing the same sentiment. One of the enduring accusation made against Mr. Buhari before his election is that he is inflexible and a religious bigot who does not like southerners who are mostly Christians. His recent appointments have cemented that perception. Unfortunately for President Buhari, perception can sometimes become reality irrespective of his intention.

During President Buhari recent visit to United States, he specifically stated that he should not be expected to allocate same number of offices to states or regions that did not vote for him. One must ask if his current behavior has to do with his U.S. statement. If so, it is a terrible way to interpret election result. A mature leader becomes leader of the whole country after election not just the region that voted for him. I have often written against making appointments based on rotation, ethnic or religious affiliation instead of merit. It is also true that a president, political or nonpolitical office holder coming from a certain state or ethnic or religious group will not necessarily improve the lot of his or her people. The benefits of having your own people in positions of responsibilities are usually marginal. The presidency has been held for the most part since Nigerian independence by the northerners, yet the north is the least developed region of the country.

The irony is that unbalanced appointments may actually undermine the effectiveness and goodwill of a leader. President Buhari has a big agenda, especially his fight against corruption. How can he effectively fight corruption if certain regions of the country do not trust him. He will certainly be accused of witch-hunt and selective prosecution if majority of the arrest and prosecution is from the south. Appointments based on merit, gender and regional balances are largely symbolic gestures, but it makes all regions feel like they have a stake in the government. People will not cooperate with the government if they feel that they do not have any stake in the administration.

I am in total agreement with President Buhari in doing away with a system where political and nonpolitical office holders such as ministers are recommended by governors of their states. Such recommendations are usually not based on merit but loyalty and godfatherism. The president should appointment whoever he or she deemed fit with requisite qualification provided the appointments reflects the national character as mandated by the constitution. Prior selection process based primarily on recommendations from state governors has been a disaster. The end result was inefficiency, waste of government resources and unprecedented corruption that has permeated every sector of Nigeria live. Nigerians will not mind who the president appoints to positions of authority provided such appointment reflects the national character and the appointees are intelligent, hard-working and incorruptible.

President Buhari must make sure that his future appointments reflects the national character as enshrined in the constitution or he will be considered a failure by some regions even before his nascent administration gets into high gear.

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