When Muhammadu Buhari took the centre stage at the nation’s Eagle Square to take the oath of office on May 29, 2015 as our country’s 4th president, one canon he fired that reverberated across the world and shook our political landscape was his statement: “I belong to nobody and I belong to everybody.” It was like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, a clarion call to action, and a reassuring hope. Even when the message was not original and the delivery underwhelming, at least we were cheery and upbeat that we were going to have a pan-Nigerian leader who would, like Nehemiah, rebuild our country and reinfuse hope in the oneness and indissolubility of this claptrap called Nigeria.
But one year after, we are beginning to ask if the president does still belong to everybody. We are beginning to ask if he didn’t sell us a dummy. We are beginning to ask if we actually heard him well, whether he did not say “I belong to myself”.
One year after, our optimism has paled. Our hope has been hit by an iceberg, sinking like the Titanic. And behold, the new Nigeria we bayed for and prayed for is fast sinking in quicksand, tilting to the cliff edge of cataclysm.
There is nothing that leads me to believe we misinterpreted Mr. President’s statement of “I belong to nobody” more than his recent appointments in the security architecture of our country. Of all the security appointments he has made so far in the security subsector, 14 of them are northerners, leaving only 3 for the South and none for South-East as if we are now Biafrans and no longer Nigerians.
For instance, the Nigerian Army is headed by the North, the Nigerian Police is also headed by the North, the Department of State Service is headed by the North, Customs North, Immigration North, Airforce North, Defence North, EFCC North, NEMA North, FRSC North, SCDC North, Fire Service North, National Security Adviser North, Nigeria Prisons Service North, National Intelligence Agency North, etc. And as if to consummate the canonization of the North as the centre piece of this administration, the President did not consider anybody from the South fit to be appointed as the Inspector General of Police when Arase, also from the North, stepped aside but another northerner, Ibrahim Idris from Niger State.
In the face of all these oddities, we find it difficult to hold Buhari by his words to be fair to all, to belong to nobody but to everybody in spite of his proselytization. No matter whatever Mr. President’s handlers may say to justify this constitutional travesty, it is difficult for any discerning mind to be convinced that our President is acting in the national interest. Some time ago the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir said at a public function that the President has not breached any part of the constitution. But that is veneering the truth.
Section 14(3) of 1999 constitution, as amended, foresaw this and made provisions to avoid irredentists from any section of the country from lording it over others in the guise of acting in the national interest. That section says “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to effect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few of other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies”.
Can we say in all fairness that the President is “effecting the federal character of Nigeria” in his appointments? In the light of this, can we say that Mr. President’s actions promote national unity and command national loyalty? Definitely not. So when we see some sections of the country agitating for freedom, it is because our leaders have not been fair to them. When we see them asking to be on their own and manage their affairs, it is because successive leaders and the present have reduced them to second class citizens in a nation they have equal stakes. That is why they cry because they have been left behind. That is why they have lost hope in our national configuration. That is why they blow pipelines and go on rampage and have the courage to lay down their lives because they cannot understand why 24 out of the 36 ministers should come from one region.
When the president won the election, there was ululation everywhere. Our appetite was wet in anticipation of the Christmas hampers on their way which was a signpost of the better days ahead. But today, where is Lai Mohammed? His voice has gone dim as he has ran out of lies. Where is Okorocha? Has he paid his workers and the pensioners? Where is Ogbonnaya Onu, our own Ugo? Where is Amaechi and Tinubu and all those “change” agents? Can their brooms still sweep clean today? Can they still afford their usual trailer loads of brooms now that it sells in dollars? We expected the goodies as promised by APC, but sadly enough, that is not so. We never heard before that a woman could lose her boiling pot of soup to another who has garri but no soup until APC came. This is one of the reasons why agitation for separation is revving up in crescendo.
It must be pointed out that the removal last month of Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, who is from the Niger Delta as the Group Managing Director of NNPC and his replacement with Dr. Maikanti Baru from the North was the climax of the northernization of Nigeria. The implication of this is that the North has taken full charge of the oil wells in Niger Delta region. Baru will report directly to the Minister for Petroleum who incidentally is the President, from the same zone. Thus, issues pertaining to oil will be discussed and decisions taken at the apex level without representation from the South. This means that the North has fleshed out Junaid Mohammed’s hogwash that the oil in Niger Delta belongs to them because 75 percent of the country’s landmass belongs to them, including the Niger Delta!
The argument by some hawks from the North that the South’s interest in the oil sector has been taken care of by the appointment of Kachikwu as Minister of State for Petroleum is neither here nor there. That position is like giving a sop to Ceberus, it is red herring. The North is in charge full stop. President Muhammadu Buhari is the president of Nigeria, not the North. He should rise, by his actions, above sectional interests to convince us that he belongs to everybody as he swore to an oath. There would have been no need for anybody to ask for the breakup of Nigeria or threaten to declare his or her republic if our leaders had been fair to us and the country.
I have been following the recent developments in Turkey, how patriotic citizens of that country heeded the call by Erdogan to resist the coup plotters. They heeded the call and trooped out en-masse, lying on the roads, unafraid of the advancing heavy military artillery. For them, it was better they die than to see their country ruled by military Janjaweeds. That was the height of patriotism! And I still imagine how many Nigerians would volunteer do what the Turkish did if such scenario were to play out here.