President Muhammadu Buhari has come under fire by Southern groups over what they described as “lopsided” appointments of heads of the various security agencies in the country. They said the pattern of the appointments by the President did not reflect federal character and the diversity nature of the country. Findings showed that 14 of the nation’s 17 security agencies are currently being headed by Northerners. The majority of them were appointed by President Buhari. Only three security agencies are headed by Southerners, a situation the groups tagged as “worrisome.”
The Minister of Interior, Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), under whose purview are the Prisons Service, Immigration Service, Fire Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, hails from Kaduna State. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, is from Borno State. The National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.), is also from Borno State. Also from Borno State is the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
The Minister of Defence, Brig.-Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (retd.), hails from Zamfara State, while the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, is from Bauchi State. The acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, hails from Niger State. Also from Niger State is the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu. The Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Musa Daura, is from Katsina State.
However, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, is from Ekiti State in the South-West. The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede, is from Jigawa State, while the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), is from Bauchi State.
The Controller-General of the Nigeria Prison Service, Alhaji Ja’afaru Ahmed, is from Kebbi State, while the Federal Road Safety Commission boss, Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi, is from Kwara State. Nevertheless, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, is from Cross River State.
Also, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, who was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan, is from Oyo State. But the Comptroller-General of the Federal Fire Service, Joseph Anebi, also appointed by Jonathan, is also from the North.
The Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Sani Didi, from Kaduna State, was also appointed by the former President in 2010. Expressing concern over this situation, the Secretary General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Joe Nwosu, said the appointments so far had not reflected the federal character as embellished in the country’s Constitution. He said:
“We have been crying out loud since the first appointments — of the ministers were made — when out of the 36 ministers, 24 were chosen from the North. Now that other Nigerians are complaining, it means we are not alone.”
“As a tribe, we have had a long history of marginalisation from governance in Nigeria.The President said the appointments were made on merit, so are we now saying that only the Northerners have merit? Where is the federal character which we talk about in Nigeria?”
The spokesperson for the Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Victor Borubo, said the appointments suggested the President was “tribalistic” and not “interested” in the country’s diversity. He said:
“Personally, it is an issue that has troubled me greatly and the President has not shown any sensitivity to it — the issue of the Constitution that people from all the states of the federation should be appointed in such positions.”
“But the President is not showing interest in diversity and this has led to the loss of confidence in his administration. I think this is why different agitation groups are springing up across the country.”
Whether the President could perhaps change some of the appointments to reflect federal character if he is petitioned by the different groups in the country, Borube said, “I do not think so. He does not strike me as a listening President. If he were, we would not have got to this level. He does not really respond to issues. He carries on as if nothing is happening. We are going through a lot of pain today because the President is a tribalist. What he needs to do right now is to save the country.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the mostly Northern composition of the leadership of the country’s security agencies was “very” dangerous and could lead to the heating up of the polity. He said:
“The pattern of the appointments today has not shown enough sensitivity to the diversity of Nigeria. When you have the IG of the Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and Minister of Defence, the Minister of Interior and the NSA appointed from a section of the country, what that means is that when the apparatchiks are meeting, it is a section of the country that is being represented; it means that the views of other sections are not accommodated, that is very dangerous.”
“That kind of arrangement is a situation from which genocide germinates because there is no balance in the security architecture of the country. This is not healthy for the polity. When you look at the table today, especially at the composition of the heads of the security agencies, I don’t think everybody is comfortable.”
The spokesperson for the Ijaw Youth Congress Worldwide, Mr. Eric Omare, said the situation was worrisome and unhealthy for the country. He called on the President to make changes to reflect federal character. Omare said:
“The style of the President’s recruitment is worrisome. When you appoint people from only one part of the country, it gives room for concern. For instance, we have a security challenge in the Niger Delta and we expected he would appoint someone from here who knows how to deal with it. However, he didn’t do so.”
“We are not surprised because looking at the background of the President, he does not really know the country he is governing. Look at the people around him; there is no diversity. It is worrisome and we call on him to make changes with immediate effect.”
The spokesperson for the Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Kunle Famoriyo, said the President’s action suggested that he was promoting a Northern agenda. He added the situation depicted that the President was only comfortable in working with and for the Northerners. Famoriyo said:
“It is very clear to everybody that the appointments of the heads of the security agencies tend towards the North. It is clear to everybody the appointments are Northern agenda than being pan-Nigeria agenda. This is clear for everybody to see.”
“Does that mean there is no person from the South-West, South-East and the South-South that is qualified and educated to hold any of those key positions? One is not happy that what is supposed to have national character is not having it. That is the issue that must be looked into.”
Famoriyo, however, urged President Buhari to make his appointments reflect national character so that he would not be labelled as a Northern President as against being Nigeria’s President. He said:
“That is what the President should do. He should make sure that all the appointments he will make henceforth have national character. Even the issue of the ambassadorial appointments too, some people have kicked that they tend to be favouring a particular region.”
“Whichever way you look at it, there are many qualified and educated personnel in the South that can hold these positions. The handwriting on the wall that the President appoints those he is comfortable working with and those people happen to be Northerners.”
Efforts to get the reaction of presidential spokesmen did not yield positive result as of the time of filing this report on Friday. But earlier in the life of this administration, the Presidency had, while reacting to similar allegation of lopsidedness in Buhari’s appointments, assured agitated persons that the President would balance his federal appointments.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had while reacting to the criticism that came after Buhari made six appointments, with five of them from the North, promised that the President would respect federal character as stipulated by the constitution. Adesina had said:
“Nobody can fault the fact that the persons appointed were appointed on merits. In terms of the spread, the President has prerogative to appoint and he knows there is federal character.”
“I am sure that there will be balance in the future. These are still early days. At the end of the day, we will have a balance. By the time more appointments are made, it will balance out.”
The presidential spokesman had asked Nigerians to disregard talks of key or no key positions, as the President has the interest of Nigerians at heart.
“The president is trying to get the very best of Nigerians. The issue of key positions and no key positions should not be the issue,” he had said.