The Presidency has been explaining the appointments of President Muhammadu Buhari. It said it was constrained to do so following a recent media report, which gave the impression that 81 per cent of Buhari’s appointments were made from the North. The media report, wherever it is coming from, is not new. We have lived with the oddity called Buhari’s appointments since he assumed the reins of governance more than two years ago. There has been so much hue and cry over the lack of respect for federal character by Buhari in the distribution of key government positions; the president has been accused of insensitivity, he has been accused of suffering from military hangover. Others have accused him of harbouring a conquest mentality. In all of this, Buhari has not shown signs of regret. He does not seem to be bothered by the charges. That probably explains why the Presidency has been lukewarm. For more than two years, the Presidency never batted an eyelid over the accusations. It never really stepped out to defend the President nor explain away his parochial disposition. It allowed the charge of lopsided appointments levelled against the President to stick. Simply put, the Presidency has not, until now, really debunked the claim in many quarters that the President’s appointments are lopsided and nepotistic. In fact, there is every reason to believe that the Presidency did not see anything to defend. It accepted those charges as they were. That is probably why it has been assuring those who are agitated by the ugly set-up that the President would still balance his appointments. Many have been waiting in vain for the balance to come only to be presented, a few days ago, with a roll call of those who run the affairs of Nigeria under the Buhari order. I see what is going on now as a curious reawakening. It is a ridiculous afterthought, especially because it does not change anything. It has not succeeded in rescuing Buhari from the charge of lopsidedness, parochialism and nepotism in his appointments.
Let us face the facts. The roll call released by the Presidency is laughable. It inundates us with appointments, which are inconsequential and have no real place in the governance architecture of the country. Heads, directors and members of boards and commissions were listed as appointments. This is in spite of the fact that those who serve in the agencies are inconsequential backwoods men. Their presence in those agencies does not have any impact in the policy direction of government. The appointments only serve as meal tickets for the beneficiaries. Besides, a good number of the appointments listed by the Presidency were not made by Buhari. Some of them are tenured appointments that the President inherited and is, probably, waiting in the wings to dispense with them as soon as their tenures expire. The fact we cannot run away from is that the roll call the Presidency is brandishing does not amount to presidential appointments. Were it not so, the list would have been released long before now. What the Presidency has done is to look for an anchor for the President’s lopsided appointments. It has only found a weak one.
Now, the real thing. When Nigerians talk about balance in appointments, this is what they mean. They are interested in those who occupy prime and preeminent positions in any administration. These include the President, Vice President , President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives. Whoever occupies the aforementioned position, as we all know, cannot be ascribed or attributed to the President. It is usually a factor of the political exigencies at play at any given time. We, therefore, do not hold Buhari responsible for what may have happened in this regard under the present political dispensation. But the real appointments, which are made by the President, would include, but are not limited to, the following: Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President and Service Chiefs, namely, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff. Others include positions like National Security Adviser, Director-General of the State Security Service, Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service and Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service. These and a few others not listed constitute the appointments. It is significant to note that of the 10 positions listed above, eight are occupied by the President’s kinsmen from the North. That is 80 per cent North and 20 percent South. Then, of the 20 per cent slot to the South, an entire zone is completely shut out from the commanding heights. That is part of the issue under contention. The offices listed above are the positions under scrutiny. They occupy a pride of place in presidential appointments. These offices determine whether the ship of state will sail or sink. They decide whether to grind the state or allow it to roll. Any section of the country that does not play a role here is clearly shut out from the scheme of things. This is the reason the President is being accused of sectionalism. The President may wish to free himself from baggage by taking steps to rejig his appointments in the foreseeable future in a way that every section of the country would feel a sense of accommodation. Listing positions that are of no real consequence in the administration of the country is diversionary. We are not deceived by the antic.
The need for Buhari to revisit his appointments has become even more imperative now that he has decided to play the politics of appointments. The President was recently quoted to have said that he would appoint more ministers into his cabinet. It is only a new Buhari with a new outlook that could say this. At the very beginning, Buhari said he had no need for ministers. He described them as noisemakers who are only interested in serving narrow, selfish interests. Even when he set out to appoint ministers, he did not want to appoint more than 18. He said he wanted to run a lean government that would ensure efficient service delivery. It was only when he was reminded that the appointment of ministers was constitutional that the President saw the need to appoint one minister from each state of the federation as prescribed by the Constitution. Two years after, the man who did not want ministers at all or who, at best, wanted only a handful, now wants an avalanche of ministers. There must be a reason for this. Politics may be the underlying factor.
If Buhari has succumbed to the pull of politics as his declaration on the appointment of more ministers suggests, it would then mean that the man has abandoned his ideals. In fact, many believe that Buhari has loosened up on a number of issues. Those who used to romanticise about his anti-corruption disposition are no longer fanatical about it. They have seen their anti-corruption warrior paper over integrity issues that ought to be visited with firmness and instant action. Some attribute the new Buhari disposition to old age. Not long ago, the man himself confessed to have been worn thin by age. That may explain the ideological somersaults. Today, he wants a lean cabinet. Tomorrow he does not mind a bloated cabinet. This is inconsistency at play and at work.