When silence is not golden…

Anational newspaper penultimate Saturday gave a graphic detail of how all key security appointments under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari/APC have gone to the North to the chagrin of the South. Former President Goodluck Jonathan and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo were fair to the North in the way critical appointments were made to reflect federal character, which had since been wilfully trampled underfoot. Buhari’s appointments have whimsically ignored the South while piling the plate of the North full of all the largesse, to use Buhari’s own words. So, while the North had its fair share of appointments under leaders from the South – even more than its fair share – the South has been thoroughly and unabashedly marginalised under a leader from the North.

According to the newspaper, of 17 key security appointments, the North bagged 14 while the entire South has only three. The South-West has two, the South-South, one while the South-East got zero allocation. The critical offices in possession of the North include the Army, National Security Adviser, Minister of Defence, the EFCC, Air Force, Police, DSS, Civil Defence, National Emergency Management Agency, Customs, Fire Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Immigrations Service, Prison Service, and the Ministry of the Interior (which declared an unprecedented three days of holiday for Eid-el-Fitri festival last week!) Such impunity! In addition to all of these, the North also holds the critical positions of Chief of Staff to the President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation; not to talk of Principal Secretary to the President, CSO, Aide-de-Camp and other important agencies of government.

Since the expose, mum has been the word from presidential spokespersons. That silence, in my opinion, means a lot. Journalists are generally known to be on the side of fairness and equity; it may therefore mean that no conscionable spokesperson found it appropriate to defend the indefensible.

And as if to say “let the child die from the mother’s hands”, Buhari himself came out two days after the publication to offer what could be said to be a defence. At a breaking of fast event at the palace of the Emir of Daura (where Buhari not long ago made the revealing but regrettable “us” and “they” statement), he reportedly pledged that his government would not discriminate against or marginalise any section of the country. He could as well have said that to the Marines! That statement reveals something else we may not have known about Buhari if the president himself believes it – not to say if he means it! Buhari added that issues and situations would be considered objectively. Oh yea! “Under my watch, no section of the country would either be discriminated against or marginalised”, he had said, before adding that he would remain honest, fair, and just in steering the ship of the country towards prosperity. But what he has done by his lopsided appointments is that he has already marginalised and discriminated against the entire South, with the South-East the worst hit. He has placed his own North – the “us” – at an advantage over the South – the “they.” He has not been fair, equitable, and just in his appointments. He has favoured the North in a brazen, audacious, and pugnacious manner to the chagrin, consternation and befuddlement of the South.

With the kind of appointments he has made, is there a way this president can be “honest”, “fair”, and “just” in his dealings with the same people he has so deliberately marginalised and discriminated against? Can he ever be trusted to be so? Let me tell you a story.

A young lady who was a member of my church came to a thanksgiving Sunday service one day with the uniforms of the Nigeria Prisons Service. When it was testimony time she came forward and told the story of how God miraculously heard her prayer and provided her a job. She came from the same village as Abba Moro, the erstwhile Minister of Interior; she had travelled home and after Sunday service, someone advised her to take a stroll to Moro’s compound to “greet” the big man. She did but on getting there, she learnt Moro had just left for Abuja. Mercifully, someone volunteered the ex-minster’s phone number and she dialled it. The big man, still on his way to Abuja, answered the call and this young lady spoke their native language to him and told him she was right there standing in front of his compound. He asked her about her own compound and she told him and then the big man asked, “what do you want?” Of course she needed a job. “Meet me in Abuja tomorrow” was the command. When she got to Abuja and met Moro, a letter of appointment was already waiting for her! I may have not remembered to tell this story 100 per cent as she said it but the meat of the story is exactly what I have narrated here. This is Nigeria and we all know it; where you come from, who you know, your religion and tribe confer a lot of opportunities. Where you are disadvantaged on this score, you have been discriminated against; you have been marginalised. Others will get what you will not get – jobs, contracts, and other favours.

Let those who play the ostrich bury their heads in the sand on this score, especially the so-called human rights activists and “Socialists” who think it belittles them to discuss such “pedestrian” and “reactionary” issues as tribe or ethnicity. But semantics or sophistry apart, the “National Question”, as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels put it, is an integral part of the Marxian ideology.

It is one of the critical issues that Lenin and other state-builders of the Marxist school had to grapple with. Witness what became of Yugoslavia after all the sweeping under the carpet of the “National Question” by Comrade-President Josip Broz Tito! And what of the erstwhile behemoth, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic, which is now left with just its Russia rump! I will tell you another story. I was at home in Lagos one morning when my phone rang and a friend – in fact, my “language” and even “vernacular” person – who was a federal permanent secretary asked, “where are you?” Lagos, of course, I answered. He told me someone would call me and would tell me what to do but I should pack my bag and get ready to hit Abuja the next day. That was how I became a member of the Media and Publicity sub-committee of the 2011 Presidential Inauguration Committee. It might not have put millions into my pocket but it was a worthwhile experience. If it was something much more rewarding, that was how “tribe and tongue” would have served me well. Not that I was not qualified and not that I did not do an excellent job; but competence alone would not have got me the opportunity. There are millions of such opportunities that religion, tribe, tongue, access to those in power, and such other considerations land on people’s laps. Those who deny this are hypocrites. Why, for instance, is Femi Falana not the federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice? It is not a question of competence; it has to do more with tribe, religion, acquaintance, and, as unfolding events are making clearer by the day, a hidden agenda into which Falana may not have been able to buy and which, therefore, makes him an outsider; the “they” as against the “us”.

As if the lopsidedness mentioned above was not enough and to show that the president’s pledge of fairness and honesty amounted to nothing, Buhari followed a few days later with the appointment of another Northerner as the Managing Director of the goose that lays the golden egg for the country – the NNPC. The man who hitherto held the post, a Delta Igbo, is now constrained to only play the second fiddle as junior Minister of Petroleum to no less a principal than the president himself! Buhari is the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources.

A very strong, indeed autocratic, president cannot be expected to leave a quarter for a hapless and hamstrung junior minister to operate with any appreciable measure of independence. It is like a tenant who lives in the same building with a pugnacious and overbearing landlord or landlady. It can be hell on earth. At a time when the president gave the impression that he was begging the Niger Delta militants to give peace a chance, what could have been a better way to demonstrate his good faith than for him to have given the MDship of NNPC to the Niger Delta? But as it is, this president is bent on the North dominating the South. The cold comfort we get is Buhari’s “assurances” of his good intentions! Trust me! Have confidence in me! Even if my actions negate what I say, still trust me the more! But the pillars of modern-day governments are not erected on the quicksand of make-beliefs, conjectures, suppositions, and the whims and caprices of individual leaders but on the firm and unmovable pillars of law, principles, and institutions.

The fathers of the American nation fought against “taxation without representation”; we, too, must fight against governance without adequate representation. We cannot have Buhari’s words for it. His intentions are not good enough for us. Has it not been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? We, too, must be represented in all the critical organs where decisions affecting us – or is it “afflicting us”? – are taken. We want our people there and do not trust that others can represent us well in an environment which the president himself has delineated into “us” and “they”.

Finally, where are the people who sold us this dummy? Where are the Chief Bisi Akandes and Senator Bola Tinubus? Why are they not kicking? This, if they care to know, is not the time to be silent. They must speak out; for, certainly, their feet will be held to the fire on this at the appropriate time.