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No Longer A Laughing Matter – Bala Dan Abu


Shock and frustrated expectations seem to have defined these early hours of the Buhari presidency. Those who thought the man was here to be the typical politician, one who will lay critical national issues on the table for debate, negotiate with all the key political stakeholders and then take decisions that will ultimately bear, even if it is the fragments, of alternative viewpoints must be doing a re-think by now. His recent set of appointments came as the most expressive statement that Buhari’s style of play in the political arena is certainly not going to follow familiar rules.
The shock of the appointments has taken the smiles away from the faces of most Nigerians. Many of those loud and praise-singing voices in and outside the All Progressives Congress, APC, Buhari’s party, including that of our very dear Lai Mohammed, one of the country’s best publicists, have gone silent. It is no longer a laughing matter, even for party leaders like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Odigie Oyegun, Dr Ogbonanya Onu who was a leading name on the list of those in contention for the job of Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, and Chief Bisi Akande. They all seem to have lost their voices, and for obvious reason. The case in question is exceedingly sensitive and whatever opinion an interested party volunteers on a matter such as this could have hurtful consequences on either side of the divide.
The main plank of the argument of those who have criticised the appointments, and they’re mainly online and television channels debaters, is that the appointment are lopsided in favour of the North. Babachir David Lawal, the new SGF, Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff, Hammed Ali, Comtroller General of Customs, Kure Martin Abeshi, Comtroller General of Immigration and Sulaiman Kawu, Senior Special Assistant, SSA, on National Assembly(House of Reps) are all from the North while Senator Ita Enang, SSA (Senate) is the only one from the South. Even when the earlier Buhari appointments, which include that of service chiefs, Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, etc., are added to the entire picture, the conclusion that Buhari has not demonstration enough sensitivity to the need for ethnic and geo-political balancing in appointments is not significantly altered.
There is also the argument that unlike the practice we are familiar with in this country, the opinion of the critical stakeholders of APC, the ruling party, is not being sought and so does not count in the decisions that Buhari makes. The appointments are used as evidence of this neglect for party leaders and party positions. The manner in which the appointments were made has also raised one fundamental question. Is Buhari any less guilty than Senator Bukola Saraki who is still standing accused in APC’s ‘Court of Arbitration on Party Discipline’ for allegedly snubbing party leaders?
Now, so much for what people think or said about the appointments and to what they did not say. They did not say, for example, that Buhari’s appointees are unqualified and misfits for the position they were assigned. He had rather been praised for his careful selection, especially, with the earlier appointments. The disappointment that came with the latest ones has, apparently, subdued the positive things people have said about the professional and ethical backgrounds of the appointees. The truth that I have not heard any one fault so far is that Buhari got the right people for the job. This may translate to as much as 50 percent on the scale of performance for the President on this issue. A pass mark, isn’t it?
But in a matter that has to do with the emotions of the people of a country which also has an unfortunate history of an attempt, rightly or wrongly, by one section of the country to dominate the politics of the country, an allegation which even led to a civil war, what is required is not just a pass mark for the decisions that our leaders make. The decisions must earn for the decision makers full marks or something very close to full marks on issues that have to do with unity and stability of the country. That’s why I support the position that President Buhari did not do enough home work on the matter of appointments to ensure that they address some of the fears that our people daily sleep and wake up nursing about the intention of some part of the country to conquer and rule the others eternally.
There is also the aspect of the debate on Buhari’s latest appointments that does not make sense to me. That is the disappointment widely expressed over Buhari’s decision not to appoint any of those that had been on the speculators’ list, that is, the likes of Babatunde Fashola, SAN, Rotimi Amaechi, Dr. Ogbonanya Onu etc. Were these people really candidates of their party for the job or those of speculators in the maddening crowd of political jesters?
Buhari was not under any obligation to bow to the wishful thinking of some people in the crowd. I would have been surprised if he had considered Fashola and Amaechi, with all that are being reeled out against them as acts of corruption they allegedly committed as governors of their various states. Both of them finished their second tenure with very doubtful success claims. Onu would have been a good choice for the job of SGF. But only God and Buhari know why he did not get the nod. God’s time, as they say, is the best.

No Longer A Laughing Matter

By Bala Dan Abu

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