Let’s Re-Define Nigeria’s Concept of Federal Character, By Charles Anyiam
…my counsel to the presidency in that regard is that competence and probity must never ever be sacrificed at the altar of political, ethnic, religious or any such other silly expediencies. Nigeria’s quest to be restored to her rightful place as part of the comity of the first-class nations is intrinsically more important than all of those other mundane considerations. Nigeria is sure bigger than all of us.
Nigerians of today are an interesting bunch. And I may add, miserably misguided. Misguided by the same people who they look up to for leadership. That is why last Thursday’s announcement of new appointments into the Buhari government sadly exposed the fault lines in our calculations as Nigerians.
In my piece of August 22, I almost predicted the rash of reactions that was to trail the announcement. Suddenly, all the predators and agents provocateurs whose stock-in-trade has come under threat of extinction with the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President came firing with all the guns blazing. Questionable characters such as the thuggish Edwin Clark; foxy Alex Ekwueme and hawkish Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the grand master of subterfuge, and such other shadowy individuals and organisations now found their voices and led the way in drumming up accusations of parochialism and lopsidedness in the appointments. The rest has been a bandwagon effect, occasioning a cacophony of garbled voices of protestations against the appointments.
Central to the murmuring and grumbling about Buhari’s announcement has been the ethnicity of the appointees. Some of those already crying wolf have even invoked the constitution to support their angst against the appointments. Add all this to those who are still dazed from the pummeling that the former ruling party suffered as it was dislodged from the seat of power plus those who harbour a morbid fear of the man, Buhari and his well-known penchant for discipline and accountability as a leader, and you immediately have a veritable platform for all those who have been spoiling to commence a jaundiced campaign of calumny against his person and all that he represents.
What is funny as it is sad though, is that this level of paranoia engendered by these strident voices of dissent is that they are obviously not borne out of love for country but largely informed by the “what-is-there-for-me?” mania that has become part of the Nigerian mind-set since corruption became the middle name of many a Nigerian.
To the appointments themselves, most of them represent positions of those who will be working very closely with the President such as his Chief of Staff, Secretary to Government of the Federation while the others are for the headship of highly sensitive government agencies that had in the past inexorably become conduits for stealing and graft. And as part of his election promises to the Nigerians, I believe that he owes us a duty to jealously guard those positions to ensure that anyone holding any of those posts are persons of impeccable character who he could personally vouch for. To me, that is what masterful stratagem for laying the groundwork for the war on corruption is all about.
As for the argument that competent and upright Nigerians abound in all the geo-political zones of the federation who could have earned the call-up from the President to fill these positions, I want to remind all of us that the threat which corruption poses to the development and redemption of the country has hit red alert. I think it is therefore both naive and irresponsible on the part of anyone who truly appreciates what time it is and the deep trouble that Nigeria faces as a nation to either begrudge or second guess the President and his desire to start from the known to the unknown, especially when it comes to picking those he will have man those highly sensitive areas of his government apparatus coupled with the overarching need to plug all the loopholes for malfeasance. By training, Buhari is a soldier. And soldiers understand the art of warfare and how best to out-maneuver the enemy.
What bothers me exceedingly is that the majority of Nigerians having been lured into a parlous state of insensitivity have earnestly not grasped the enormity of the weight that corruption has placed on the fragile shoulders of the nation. Many of us have come to accept it as a way of life. Others are quick to tell you that it has come to stay, and that every Nigerian is corrupt. Not to talk of such stupid statements such as “there is corruption in every country” which is nothing short of a cop-out and a resolve to tread a path that only leads irredeemably to destruction. Whether we accept it or not, Nigeria’s notoriety for corruption is world renowned. We can therefore not afford to pussy-foot about it. It is time for us to forget our differences as a people and support any effort aimed at changing this dangerous trend, and to be seen by the rest of the world to be doing something about it with the ultimate aim of ridding ourselves of that inglorious label.
We must remind ourselves that President Buhari returned to power largely on the promise to fight off corruption. If we the people are serious about killing this thing, we must ignore the ranting of the the corrupt minority among us who are now shamelessly flashing the ethnic and gender cards in order to camouflage their real intention which is to keep the people blindfolded while they continue with their looting and the mortgaging of the future of our youths and generations unborn. Members of this group are that unconscionable. And Buhari knows it. This is the same group that flashed the religious and Boko Haram card during the electioneering campaign.
I also know that with these appointments, Buhari understands too well that the buck stops on his desk. He understands that if any of his appointees are found wanting, he, Buhari will be held solely responsible. From his antecedents, President Buhari looks like a man who understands the art of power. And how to use it. I will therefore be surprised that he ever will shy away from wielding the big stick whenever the occasion demands it. Meanwhile, the rabble-rousers among us will have us believe that Buhari is a northern irredentist. Really? But in their chicanery, they forgot to tell us that there are still lots of positions to be filled – cabinet, ambassadorial, board memberships of prime government agencies – which I am sure that in filling them, the presidency will exercise equity, fairness and a sense of unity. I do not for a split second believe that Buhari is as naive as his accusers. However, my counsel to the presidency in that regard is that competence and probity must never ever be sacrificed at the altar of political, ethnic, religious or any such other silly expediencies. Nigeria’s quest to be restored to her rightful place as part of the comity of the first-class nations is intrinsically more important than all of those other mundane considerations. Nigeria is sure bigger than all of us.
I have heard all the crappy arguments about federal character. For purpose of full disclosure, I am an ardent believer in that much maligned concept which I agree is part of our constitution. Albeit, there is nothing in that same constitution that sanctions or compels the President to fill up public offices with nit-wits or persons with doubtful loyalty as was the case in the last eight years when all you needed was to belong to the right club or cult, get yourself a funny-looking hat, a red cap or a palm wine drinker’s cap to be appointed to a position of importance. All in the name of federal character. The result was confusion across the board. We were all witnesses to that horror.
Personally, I know of a story of one those “political” appointees (name withheld) from the immediate past administration who showed up in my adopted home town, Los Angeles not too long ago with wads of cash and went spending the greenback like a drunken sailor – buying up prime real estate, automobiles, etc. It was rumored that that on his first date with a certain washed-up African American female entertainer (name withheld), he doled out $5000 USD for her to shop, just to impress! And the landscape is replete with such shameful tales all over the world. Stories like that are part of the foolishness that has made Nigeria an object of odium around the world.
That’s why I think that we as a nation must re-think the concept of federal character vis-a-vis competence, accountability, character and integrity. That is subject for another day.
Of those who have been shouting the loudest, none has taken the time to congratulate Buhari on the excellent choice of Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu to head up the NNPC team. And we can already feel the wind of change blowing like a gale through that cesspool of monumental corruption.
I believe in this presidency, and I am almost certain that this administration will not disappoint. That is my story. And I stand by it.
Finally, it is time to think Nigeria. And not “what is there for me?”.
I rest my case.
Charles Anyiam is Editor-In-Chie of The African Times-USA.