Buhari and his leopard’s skin

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything. – Albert Einstein


In all who keep silent in the face of tyranny, the man dies – Prof. Wole Soyinka.


If there is no struggle, there is no progress…Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted. – Frederick Douglass.


As usual and as many had expected, so many things went wrong with President Muhammadu Buhari’s new ministerial list. To start with, we must thank the National Assembly that we have the ministers in place much earlier than this time in 2015. If not for NASS’s warning to Buhari to forward the list or wait till senators returned from recess, Baba Go-Slow, as the president is derisively, though appropriately, called by his opponents, would probably still be musing over the list. The second disappointment is that the ministerial assemblage neither inspired the nation nor showed prospects of the NEXT LEVEL mouthed by the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Viewed against the backdrop of their 2015 promise of CHANGE which failed to materialise, Buhari and APC, thus, can be charged with sloganeering which, usually, is the stock-in-trade of pseudo-socialists and populist-opportunists donning the garb of progressive politicians. Many of Buhari’s new ministers are too well known to Nigerians as those who have contributed the most to the wrecking of this country; such that when the list first surfaced, the joke, which resonated with truth, was that it was a list meant for the EFCC, but which mistakenly found its way into the Senate. Truly, Buhari’s ministerial list, if sent to the EFCC, would not only have been most appropriate, but also have shot up the president’s popularity rating home and abroad. There have been so many evidences that Buhari’s anti-corruption war is phoney, dubious, deceitful, a distraction, inquisitorial and tool in the hands of a fledgling dictator with creeping fascism as real agenda tucked under his babariga; nothing, however, demonstrates this in its fullest depravity as the new list of ministers. Those who had doubts before, those who still gave Buhari the benefits of the doubt, must have had the scales pulled off their eyes.

Next is that the allocation of booties, as it were, has revealed square pegs in round holes. Those who failed before have been retained in their post. One minister was quoted as saying he had not the faintest idea what his ministry meant. It’s like fish out of water, if you understand the message he was trying to pass across. For someone who had been governor for eight years, functioning as its Chief Security Officer, any wonder that he ran that state aground? Pray, how long will his tutelage in the “foreign” land in which he now finds himself take, when our precarious situation as a nation demands that the ministers hit the ground running? Someone said some “ogbonge” witches and wizards must have followed Festus Keayamo from home in Delta State – or is it from Kenya, which some have vowed is his ancestral home? – or he must have offended some deities who have refused to accept “sorry.” Otherwise, how can someone who was imagining himself as the new federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice suddenly find himself a junior minister? Someone said the poor lad is a novice and new arrival to the games of power. He also does not have sufficient understanding of the glue called ethnic and religious loyalties in the Nigerian political system. Were he the progressive he claims to be and had he not forgotten his Marxism, Keyamo would still have remembered the relationship between metropolis and the peripheries. The Fulani are the metropolitan powers in today’s Nigeria, while Keyamo’s Niger Delta and the other regions (including my own South-West) are the peripheral powers. The metropolis sits at the head of the table and takes the biggest and choicest part of the meat while serving crumbs to the peripheries. When I read Keyamo hallucinate about the policies he would pursue if he was made minister of justice, I laughed. He was being too ambitious. He overrated himself as well as underrated the metropolitan powers. He should have read Ola Rotimi’s The gods are Not to Blame; better still, the story of Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the bible. The bat is behaving like a bird! For the offence of daring to savour “ounje Agba” – food reserved for the elders – see where “small boy” Keyamo finds himself! He must now say “Sir” to the same man he prosecuted for corruption! It does not get more humiliating!

Now to the “equitable” distribution of portfolios: You can only understand the logic and wisdom in the sharing formula adopted, if you have not forgotten Buhari’s 97 per cent and 5 per cent dichotomy of voters’ behaviour in the 2015 presidential election. The pattern did not change significantly in the last presidential election. If anything, Buhari lost a lot of ground everywhere, including in his so-called fortress, so much so that it is still a wonder that INEC declared him winner of that election. Anyway, the case is sub-judice, as they say, and we may, therefore, make no comments other than those already in the public domain. We were the ones who thought Buhari had changed, but truth is, the man remains even more constant than the Northern stars. He remains as dictatorial now and scornful of democratic tenets as he was in his first coming as vile military dictator. He is as parochial, defensive, and supportive of his tribe and religion as ever and is as scornful and disdainful of the sensibilities and interests of other ethnic nationalities and religions as never before. He is as unimaginative, Nero-ic (as in Rome’s King Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned) and dependable on cronies as ever. In his first outing as military Head of State, the late Tunde Idiagbon was his well-advertised “brain box.” Now, it is his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, and his ubiquitous kitchen cabinet. The difference this time around, however, being that while Idiagbon was deemed to have performed well in certain areas, the present bunch has been grotesque all round.

Now, examine the ministers and their portfolios and witness Buhari’s sense of what is just, equitable and fair. Remember he was quoted recently as saying that the constitution cannot be fairer than the fact that Kano and Bayelsa both have the same number of senators in the Senate. Now, forget for a moment that this same man and his party mouthed restructuring when they desperately needed our votes during the last elections; they even set up a committee headed by the petit but awesome irritant, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state, and let us see where Buhari’s fairness and sense of justice and equity left Kano and Bayelsa in his portfolio distribution to ministers. The South-East, which has always cried marginalisation, was allotted six ministers – three full ministers and three junior ministers called minister of state. Chris Ngige (Anambra), Labour and Employment; Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi), Science and Technology; and Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu), Foreign Affairs, all retaining their former innocuous portfolios. The three junior ministers are: Uche Ogar (Abia), Mines and Steel Development; Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra), Environment; and Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba (Imo), Education. No state in the region got two ministerial slots.

The South-South, the nation’s cash-cow and in the fore-front of the fight for resource control, fared a little better than their South-East neighbours in that it got seven ministers – three full and four junior. Full: Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Niger Delta Affairs; Osagie Ehanire (Edo), Health; and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Transportation. Junior ministers: Timipre Silva (Bayelsa), Petroluem Resources, where President Buhari is still the substantive minister; so, Silva, like Ibe Kachikwu before him, is figure-head and mere making up of numbers. Next: Godwin Jedy-Agba (Cross Rivers), Power; Clement Ikanade Agba (Edo), Budget and National Planning. Note that Ministry of Finance, where a Northerner holds sway, is not included in Agba’s portfolio. Festus Keyamo (Delta), Niger Delta ministry (already under the armpit of his nemesis, Akpabio). Only Edo has two ministers in this zone (one full and one junior) and not any of the oil-bearing states which have been carrying Nigeria on their head. Allocating two ministerial slots to the much-suffering oil-bearing peoples of the zone would have helped to calm frayed nerves, but not so for oppressors who do not give a damn; so, politics took the centre-stage and Edo, which has produced two APC chairmen in a row (John Odigie-Oyegun and Adams Oshiomhole) and also has a sitting APC governor, was favoured.

South-West was the most favoured of the Southern states with seven ministers, five full and two junior. Thank God for little mercies! Even among slaves, there are always the favoured! Read the story of biblical Abraham and his most trusted slave that he sent to a far-away country to procure a wife for his son Isaac. In the house of his master, Potiphar, Joseph was favoured above other slaves and in prison; the same Joseph received favour above other prisoners. Let highly favoured South-West shout alleluia. Full ministers: Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Industry, Trade and Investment; Olamilekan Adegbite (Ogun), Mines and Steel Development; Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Interior; Sunday Dare (Oyo), Youth and Sports; and Raji Fashola (Lagos), Works and Housing. Fashola had the all-important Power Ministry snatched from him. He suffered a loss. The junior ministers: Omotayo Alasoadura (Ondo), where Buhari lost the presidential election (see what I mean?), Ministry of Labour; and Adeleke Mamora (Lagos), Health. Lagos is the only state in the region with two ministers, one full, one junior.

Now, up North we go! North-Central is the least of the Northern states; it has seven ministers; three full ministers and four junior ministers – one more than the South-East, the land of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB, which is leading the campaign for the secession of Biafra from Nigeria. This zone has full control of Special Duties: George Akume (Benue); Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed (Kwara); and Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen (Plateau). Junior ministers: Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara), Transportation; Ramatu Tijani Aliyu (Kogi), FCT; Mohammed Abdullahi (Nassarawa), Science and Technology; and Zubairu Dada (Niger), Foreign Affairs. Kwara has two ministers (one full, one junior). North-East has seven ministers; four full, three junior. Full ministers: Mohammed Bello (Adamawa), FCT; Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), retains Education (Oh no, not yet uhuru, ASUU!); Sale Mamman (Taraba), Power (Fashola’s loss); and Ali Isa Pantani (Gombe), Communication. Junior ministers: Maryam Katagum (Bauchi) Industry; Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno), Agriculture; and Abubakar Aliyu (Yobe), Works and Housing). Bauchi alone has two ministers, one full, the other junior. This zone also boasts the very powerful Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Now to the almighty North-West where Buhari, his omnipotent Chief of Staff and most, if not all, members of the kitchen cabinet hail from: Nine ministers – and all of them full – not one is junior minister! To boot, they control the major ministries of Water Resources, Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Environment, Agriculture, Defence, Aviation (Amaechi’s loss), Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Police Affairs, and the newly-created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, a euphemism for Northern Development. This is the only zone where two states – Kano and Kaduna – have two ministers each and both of them full ministers!

Remember that all military/paramilitary chiefs, except one, are Northern Muslims. All appointees and FG officials must pass through either the SGF or Chief of Staff to see Buhari! Where is the VP in all of this? While Kano has two full ministers, Bayelsa, one of the largest oil-producers, has just one junior minister. Sylva as Minister of State, Petroleum, squats under Buhari’s table as President/Minister of Petroleum. So much for Buhari’s sense of equity, fairness, and justice between Kano and Bayelsa! Could all of these have been a mistake? Not at all! It is clear-eyed decision taken by the powers-that-be. Who, then, does not know that the Buhari administration is “government of the core North by the core North and for the core North”?

Returning to our quotes above, the issue is not only that Buhari’s leopard is not changing its skin, but also that the marginalised, oppressed, abused and cheated people of the South, especially, have accepted their contemptuous treatment. They have been unbelievably slavish and have acquiesced to this master-servant relationship. Why, for goodness sake, are they not changing their own skin? Why are they not breaking the chains and throwing off the yoke? Why, why are Southern leaders so spineless, lacking in courage and deficient in principles?

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