By Sunny Ngwu
On his recent obviously successful visit to the United States, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was showered with the accolade of “a man of integrity” by the most powerful leader on planet earth, President Barrack Obama.
But to this writer, conspicuously missing in President Buhari’s integrity are the components of fairness, equity and statesmanship as evidenced by the appointments he has so far made in his short stay in office.
A casual glimpse through his appointments displays an overwhelming and unacceptable preponderance of northern elements in a dicey and sensitive federal contraption like Nigeria with a sprinkling and tokenish representation of the South West and South-South while completely and spitefully overlooked is the South-East (Ndigbo) with a vibrant population, the second largest among the country’s ethnic groups.
Such a glaring partiality and favouritism go a long way to betray the president’s innate disposition as an archetypal northerner moulded in the image of and trained in the school of their foremost leader, late Sir Ahmadu Bello, which does not compromise the dominance of the North over other sections at all cost.
The situation has become an embarrassment to his Igbo supporters as they try in vain to explain away the president’s disregard of their people in his early appointments. Indeed, the usually articulate and smooth-talking Governor Okorocha of Imo State for once sounded unconvincing while speaking to journalists on the issue last Monday in Owerri.
Other Buhari protagonists put forward the feeble excuse that the president’s appointments so far are for his kitchen cabinet for which he is constitutionally given the freedom to pick those he knows so well and believes in. Someone likened it to the convention and practice of allowing top officers to choose their personal staff including drivers.
Maybe. But that he could not find any Igbo to confide in his first 25 appointments though he has been a military head-of-state, speaks volumes.
Again the other alibi that he has thousands of more appointments to make from which all sections of the country are bound to benefit, does not impress, in fact irritates.
Because, such appointments as ministers or heads and membership of boards of parastatals and agencies are regulated by the federal character principles. In otherwords, the equitable distribution of these posts to all sections of the country is a constitutional imperative.
That is why President Buhari’s appointment of members of his inner circle is a reliable insight into his mindset.
But it has to be conceded that this writer’s admiration for Buhari is well-known among those with who he regularly engages in discourses and debates on national issues.
They would therefore be surprised by this piece with, perhaps, a chuckle of victory.
Their feelings notwithstanding, President Buhari has openly displayed a vengeful spirit by overlooking the Igbo obviously because of his overwhelming rejection by them at the last presidential election. It has to be said, though, that the margin of that rejection was over-bloated by the prevalent electoral “corruption”.
Besides and truly, the Igbo were among his most vocal critics before, during and even after the last election especially in radio phone – in programmes and the social media.
The case of the pirate Radio-Biafra was simply outrageous as the one-man anchor said unprintable things not only against the president but against his ethnic group and indeed other ethnic groups he considered opposed to his utopian agenda.
Furthermore, the label stamped on Buhari by the opposition as a Muslim extremist and a boko-haram supporter appeared to have stuck in the Christian-dominated region and obviously influenced the people’s presidential electoral choice.
But these cannot be justifications for the president to take actions that strongly lead to the conclusion of vindictiveness despite the frenzied efforts of his supporters to sweeten the mess.
The danger in perceiving Buhari’s administration as decidedly pro-north is that it could encourage a southern solidarity against the north which would surely heat up the country at these bad times.
It is therefore incumbent on President Buhari to take a deliberate action to rectify the lopsidedness by appointing many southerners, especially the Igbo, in important positions, to assuage frayed nerves.
Meanwhile, a list of important positions in both political and public services reveals a ratio of 80:20 in favour of the north. Such statistics are unacceptable and have to be rectified now.
Buhari came into office with immense goodwill internationally and locally based on his antecedent as upright in the public offices he has held as well as non-tolerance for shoddy deals.
But given the protests trailing his lopsided appointments, it should be clear to Buhari that there cannot be integrity without equity; that the war against corruption cannot work amidst lopsided distribution of political favours.
He has to act fast lest he loses his Igbo sympathizers – and they are not many – including this writer.