FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeTuesday, July 7, 2015
eoeke@aol.com


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MERIT AND FEDERAL CHARACTER IN NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY

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he recent statement by the Vice President (VP), prof. Osibanjo that 'Merit Should Supersede Federal Character for Government Appointments', raises serious questions, about the philosophy and mind set of the present administration and what Nigeria can expect in the next four years.

As a lawyer, one expected the vice President to know something about justice as fairness and the importance and rightful place of merit in enhancing the ability of a country to harness its human resources.

I wonder what the Vice President's real intentions are by placing merit above federal character, when both are not diametrically opposed and can coexist comfortably. Why would any wise person say that he prefers his mother to his father, when he needs to carry the whole of the family along to succeed?

One wonders, if the Vice president's statement is a smart way of justifying the apparent tearing down of the federal character, which the appointments the administration he is a part of has so far made, suggests.

As a lawyer, the Vice President is used to putting across his perspective and persuading others to his point of view and, I suppose, he would understand the concern at his attempt to justify the unjustifiable by undermining the very principle he was sworn to uphold.

I hope the Vice President thought this statement through and, it was not just an attempt to justify what this administration wishes to do with appointments, as this would not only be sad, but unfortunate and regrettable.

Already, nine of the ten appointment made by Buhari so far, have gone to northerners and one to a westerner and, according to Osibanjo, one assumed that they were all on merit.

I wish to humbly disagree with the Vice President. As a 'pastor', one expected him to demonstrate candour in his intentions and utterance.

His attempt to use a mixture of sophistry and lyricism, by citing texts from the Bible to justify what is a clear departure from the constitution of Nigeria, which enshrined equal representation, raises serious concern about his true motive and sense of fairness. He should be careful, how he mixes his politics with his religion as the two, often, do not get on well in secular democracies.

Nigeria is a multi ethnic and religiously diverse country even though, there are those, who would like it to turn it into a caliphate. North Nigeria is under sharia law and there are many Muslims from the North, whose desire is to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state by hook or crook. These are the stark realities.

There are also competent and honest people in every ethnic group and religion. The essence of the the Nigerian federal character is to ensure that every ethnic group have competent people, who represent them in all sectors of the government, especially in appointments.

This is because government appointments in Nigeria brings disproportionate return because of corruption and excessive pay. Therefore federal character in a corrupt democracy is a way, albeit crude, of redistributing common wealth. If the was not case, merit alone, should have sufficed.

The Vice President needs to refresh his history by reviewing what happened in the first Republic after independence, when merit was used as parameter for appointments.

For obvious reasons, Nigerian leaders have found it difficult to implement the federal character and, the result has been that the North has dominated.

At the moment, the North dominate appointments disproportionately and, it is unfair. If, what one has seen so far is anything to go by, this is likely to worsen.

Today in Nigeria:

The president is from the North
President of the Senate from North
Speaker of house of assembly from North
Chief Judge from the North etc. I do not need to add that majority of them are Muslims.

Furthermore, Buharis appointment so far are predominantly from the north;

1. INEC AG.CHAIRMAN - Amina Zakari - North
2. HEAD of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) Mordecai Ladan - North
3. Account-General of Federation - Ahmed Idris - North
4. CSO - Abdulrahman Mani - North
5. State Chief of Protocol - Lawal Kazaure - North
6. ADC - Lt. Col Mohammed Abubakar - North
7. SSA Media & Publicity - Garba Shehu -North
8. SA Media & Publicity - Femi Adeshina - West
9. CoS -Col. Hamid Ali - North.
10. DG, SSS - Lawal Daura -North.

This is unfair and unrepresentative of the ethnic mix of the country. Many of these people, are occupying the positions for the only reason that they are from the North.

Where is the merit when all you need is to be able to speak Hausa? How was the competence of the appointees determined without competitive interviews? Is Nigeria practising merit, without equal opportunity? How can this be right, in a multiethnic secular democracy?

Nigeria is a multiethnic secular state, Every ethnic group and religion in Nigeria has honest and qualified people in every field. The task of a good government is to find them.

The North is already over represented in appointments and it is not fair. It is not right. Equal and proportional representation, demand that all be duly represented. What I have seen so far, is either northernisation (nepotism), or Islamisation of Nigeria.

What the appointments suggest, is that Buhari, only trust Muslims and northerners in sensitive positions and, that only northerners are qualified to fill such and important posts.

For years, Nigerian defence ministers and national security advisers have come from the North. In the period, Nigerian army and security have decayed. Nobody asks, where all the money budgeted for security and the military have gone.

What we have is an impoverished army with millionaire ex-military generals and defence ministers. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

However, the focus of the present administration has been on agencies like NNPC headed by southerners in the last administration, as if, it is only in the Nigeria oil industry that corruption exists.

We need to put a stop to the wasting of our human resources on the alter of ethnicity and religion, which this attempt by the North to dominate Nigeria has caused.

A lot of qualified people are often prematurely retired to make way for the person from the North. This is one reason why Nigeria has the highest number of retired millionaire generals, many of who never fired a real bullet at an enemy of Nigeria.

No nation can survive, if it continues to waste her talents the way Nigeria does for sectarian reasons. We cannot be one country, if we cannot trust ourselves.

Federal character is meant to foster sense of fairness and any attempt to undermine it by the type of argument the Vice President has made, would only increase the sense of injustice and alienation, which many Groups, which are either unrepresented or underrepresented feel.

The result can only be the hastening of the disintegration of Nigeria. No people can build a strong and united nation on injustice, greed and prejudice. The government should rethink its position on federal character, Nigerians need equal and fair representation.

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