By Barr. Philip Ijiebor –
President Muhammadu Buhari has to use his less than two more years in office to prove he’s an astute defender of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria he swore to protect, by obeying every provision of the nation’s grand norm. That includes a provision in the Nigerian Constitution with regard to a fair and even distribution of senior official positions all over the Federal Republic for him to be taken seriously.
Over the years, this provision has not been made justifiable, for which a commission was actually established to pursue that purpose to the letter. The intention was to hold in check by legal means, if necessary, any tendency on the part of any one, or group of persons in power, to influence or effect the appointment of a host of people from any particular area to strategic or important positions in the country.
In specific terms, the Constitution states: “The composition of the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national unity, thereby ensuring that there shall not be predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies”.
The Constitution is even more direct in the case of states, in which it specifies that the functions of the State government or any of its agencies shall be conducted in a way as to “recognize the diversity of the people within the area of its authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging”
This is in the “1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” and yet the provision is casually flouted almost as a matter of routine, at all levels of governments. However, never before has our history of governance recorded such a subversion, such outright disdain, for the “Federal Character” policy of the nation.
It can be stated categorically that these appointments under President Muhammadu Buhari’s governments and others have not reflected the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national and local unity by ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from a few states, a few senatorial districts or local government areas, or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups. So far, these appointments in the manner in which they have been conducted are targeted against the promotion of peaceful coexistence.
As stated above, the Constitution also made provisions for the establishment of a Commission — ‘The Federal Character Commission’— for the sole function of seeing that the provision is effectively enforced. It is composed of a chairman and members from each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The Commission is empowered to “take such legal measures including the prosecution” of the head of staff of any ministry or government body which fails to comply with any aspect of the Commission’s position. It is only right to add that all the members of the Commission are appointed by the President.
The failure of compliance to the Constitutional provisions has been blamed on President Buhari whose appointments since 2015 does not reflect oneness across the federation. The fault is entirely his. This has not helpped his image as a President of united Nigeria with smeared outlooks of bigotry and sectionalism.
Part of the problem has been Nigerians inability to take governments at various levels to account. Edo State for instance has been particularly notorious in this regard. It’s more so because the people from Edo central senatorial district who have been brutally marginalized have failed to rise to the occasion. The instruments for justice have been provided within their rights as citizens of the country. They are duty bound to point out these slip-ups — not only to correct them at this time, but also to ensure that tendencies towards such unconstitutional practices are not encountered in future.
In the present dispensation, under the leadership of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole and now Governor Godwin Obaseki, no major political appointments have been to that senatorial district. It’s even worst now that the Esan extraction has been completely neglected.
Like all states of the federation, Edo State stands on tripod: North, Central and South. The governor of the state, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Enakhire and Secretary to the State Government, Barrister Osarodion Ogie are all from Edo South. INEC Federal Commissioner, Dr. Mustapa Leki; the deputy governor, Speaker of the state house of assembly and the chief of staff to the governor are all from Edo North.
Edo central which is the economic hob of the state is left in the cold. This is against the stipulated Constitutional requirements for balance and equal distribution of governmental offices/appointments in the interest of peace, collective and participatory governance and equitable growth and developments of all parts of the country at the same time.
It is the duty of President Buhari to correct the wrong done to many parts of the country in this regard without which the widely perception of his uneven-handedness of government relegating some sections of the country will be received as the ‘Gospel Truth’.
It will be a strong indictment on his government that one of his electoral promises to bring about an equitable Nigeria has been limited by his future political ambition and other unknown motives that fall short of the APC mantra of CHANGE. The President is enlightened enough to know that one injury/injustice done to any part of the country for whatever parochial reason, resonates, erupts in another to the boiling point and further ignite political instability.
Those who are favoured by the lopsided appointments of the President Buhari-led government have not done enough to reach out to fellow APC members who contributed equally, even more in most cases. The apparent one-sided appointments or the APC’s patronage for and against its members is certainly not healthy for the development of the party.
The vague justification that anyone would be expected to appoint only people he could trust around him does not dignify any President for that matter. Rather, it devalues his status and position as the father of all who should even see beyond his political party, provided such individual is capable of bringing development to the table.
Those who are goading on the President to disregard wise counsels on the spread of government appointments are not his friends. It’s a shallow rationalization by errant apologists who do not mean well for him. Such unprogressive notion gives credence to the allegation that President Buhari is most probably being remote controlled behind the scene in Aso Rock.
It’s only just and fair that President Buhari corrects this pernicious politics tendencies as we approach 2019 general elections. Doing that may have nothing to do with his future political ambition or personal interest. It has everything to do with the interest of peace, Nigeria and her constitution.
– Barr. Ijiebor, a social advocate writes from Benin City.