The Presidency yesterday said President Muhammadu Buhari is aware of federal character and expressed the belief that there will be balance by the time he makes more appointments in September.
The appointments, announced on Thursday, had sparked reactions, with reports of complaints in some quarters that they tilted in favour of the North.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, assured Nigerians that Buhari’s political appointments will balance out soon.
Adesina spoke on a radio programme, Political Platform, on RayPower 100.5FM, monitored by our correspondent in Lagos.
While admitting that appointments are Buhari’s prerogative, the presidential spokesman also said that nobody can fault the fact that those that have been named so far ?were appointed on merits.
He also said it would not be fair to blame the President for positions that were filled as a result of elections, like those of the National Assembly and appointments made on the basis of next in command, like those of the acting Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission and Chief Justice of Nigeria.
He assured all stakeholders that the President would keep to his promise of appointing the remaining aides and ministers ?in September.
Adesina 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 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 gave a deadline of September for the appointment of ministers, ?and he will keep to it.”
The President’s Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, also issued a statement yesterday urging critics of the President’s appointments to be patient with the administration over political appointments, adding that the appointments made so far constitute less than five per cent of the total that would be made.
Besides, he said, the people so far appointed by the President are mostly people acting as his staff or unofficial advisers, many of whom had been working with him in official capacities.
The statement reads: “Our brothers and sisters and fellow countrymen should bear with the new administration as it takes its measured steps towards an effective take-off.
“These appointments are just beginning. The ones down so far, apart from the security services, are mostly of people acting as unofficial advisers or staff of the President.
“They are mostly men and women who have been doing things for the President and the positions are being formalised.
“Statistically, the appointments don’t amount to five per cent of what is to come. There will be ministers, heads of government departments, federal boards and ambassadors.
“At the end of the exercise, no part of the country will be left feeling left out.”
Reacting to the appointments, a faction of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) had described them as an insult to the Igbo race whose members he said were not appointed into any top office.
The group, in a statement signed by its Director of Information, Uchenna Madu, said the actions of the president since he assumed office had shown that he is not a lover of Igbo people.
“The latest appointments and previous ones since Buhari’s administration should be an eye opener to Ndigbo that Buhari is not seeing Ndigbo as part of Nigeria.
“These appointments have further confirmed the fact that the present administration is against Ndigbo, despite the massive support some Igbo leaders like Gov. Rochas Okorocha, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Senator Chris Ngige and Rotimi Amaechi, among others, gave to Buhari and the APC during the last general election. This is an insult to our people.”
In the same vein, the Ohaneze Youth Council (OYC) expressed concern over the President’s latest appointments, saying it was regrettable that no south easterner was included in the appointments.
In a statement signed by the organisation’s President and National Public Relations Officer, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro and Hon. Obinna Adibe respectively, the group said the appointments were totally unacceptable to Ndigbo, adding that they violated the principle of federal character enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
OYC said: “We stand to condemn the continuous exclusion of Ndigbo by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Before this time, he had appointed Service Chiefs without looking the way of the South East. To make matters worse, the position of the SGF, which was originally zoned to the Ndigbo, has been denied the region.
“We are indeed shocked by this turn of events, which are totally at variance with Mr. President’s earlier stand that he was for everybody and for nobody.”
However, another Igbo group, Ndigbo Unity Forum (NUF), voiced its support for President Buhari.
The Chairman of the group, Mr. Augustine Chukwudum, who is also president of the Southern Nigeria Peoples Mandate, called on the Igbo, in an interview with our correspondent, to support the President for him to achieve his aim of transforming the country.
NUF said: “We have been watching all that have been happening in the past few weeks, all the talks about the president marginalising Ndigbo.
“We want to use this opportunity to inform them, if they are not aware or not enlightened enough, that the President has not appointed his cabinet. I don’t see where the marginalization of Ndigbo has come in.
“Some Igbo leaders are just making noise for nothing. After all, those people who are condemning Buhari should be ashamed of themselves.
“We want Ndigbo to have a rethink of what is happening now. He has not done anything wrong to them.
“As president of Ndigbo Unity Forum, I still maintain that Buhari has not done anything wrong to my people. Let Ndigbo count their teeth with their tongue.”
Commenting on the appointments in a media briefing at the end of the 55th National Conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) yesterday, its president, Austin Alegeh, said he was convinced President Buhari was committed to the country’s growth.