TheNiche - Up North, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is conveying an emergency meeting this week on the lopsided appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari, amid fears by the region’s leaders of becoming irrelevant in the 2019 political cycle.
In the South East, Igbo leaders have already met in Owerri to ponder the state of the nation and the place of Ndigbo in it, concluding that the Igbo are industrious enough to survive any condition, marginalisation in Nigeria notwithstanding.
Mohammed Ibrahim, the national publicity secretary of the Northern socio-cultural organisation, told TheNiche in a telephone interview that “we are meeting this week to discuss the issue; after that, you will get our position.”
TheNiche had asked him if the ACF was not worried about the lopsided and even nepotistic appointments made by Buhari which add fuel to the secessionist fire of Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
Delegation to Buhari
The ACF meeting coincides with the decision of some Northern leaders – among them former Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Vice Chancellor, Professor Ango Abdullahi, and former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Yusuf Maitama Sule – to meet Buhari over his appointments which favour the Hausa/Fulani/Muslim North over the rest of the country, a source told TheNiche.
Buhari won the 2015 election by clinching majority votes in four of the country’s six zones – North West, North East, North Central, and South West.
But his narrow minded appointments, the Northern leaders noted, could cost the North the support of the Christian North Central and South West in 2019, since the core North lacks the constitutional spread and number to win a presidential vote alone.
Heads of military, paramilitary agencies
There is outcry over Buhari’s appointments, especially as they affect the security architecture of the country. Critics say they disregard the federal character principle in the Constitution, as well as ethnic and religious considerations.
Only three officers – Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe; and Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan – are Christians in the security apparatus, in a country split nearly 50/50 in Christian/Muslim composition.
All the following are Muslims:
- National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.
- Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau.
- Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali.
- Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai.
- Chief of Air Staff, Abubakar Sadique.
- Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris (whose appointment two weeks ago led to the compulsory retirement of 21 assistant inspectors general and deputy inspectors general of police who were his seniors).
- Department of State Security Director General, Lawan Daura.
- Nigeria Immigration Service Comptroller General, Muhammed Babandede.
- Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Commandant General, Abdullahi Muhammadu.
- Nigeria Customs Service Controller General, Hameed Ali.
- Nigeria Prisons Service Controller General, Ahmed Ja’afaru.
- Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
- All the 15 military and paramilitary heads are from the North, except Olonisakin (Ekiti) and Ekwe (Cross River).
- Buhari has also appointed several relatives in key positions in the seat of power in the Villa, reported by TheNiche on June 26.
Getting the message to Buhari
Northern leaders said Buhari cannot justify these appointments on the grounds that former President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly did something similar between 2010 and 2015.
They noted that Jonathan only favoured some of his Ijaw kinsmen, in the sharing of some juicy positions, not the entire South. And that, in any case, two wrongs cannot make a right.
In the history of Nigeria, no leader has made the sort of lopsided appointments Buhari has made, the Northern leaders noted.
The dilemma among Northern leaders, TheNiche learnt, is how to convey the message to him – formally under the umbrella of Northern leaders, or privately.
The leaders are wary that Buhari may snub them if they approach him privately in Katsina to discuss the sensitive subject.
The majority feel they should pay him a courtesy visit as a group in the Villa and make their position known.
Ohanaeze unites against repressive policies
In Owerri, Igbo Unity Forum held a meeting jointly organised by Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, and Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Gary Enwo-Igariwey which appeared to mark the end of Igbo leadership crisis.
The event was well attended by people of different political and ideological persuasions, who deliberated on the prospects and challenges of Nigeria.
Participants described the forum as the first of its kind in past five years.
The perceived place of the Igbo in Nigeria may have triggered speeches of hope to the younger generation.
Professor Anya O. Anya captured the mood when he said there is no regret about 2015 general election.
He said the voting pattern nationwide was a statement in itself, meaning that Nigeria is overdue for restructuring.
He declared that the Igbo can achieve greatness in the same way China and Israel did, but warned that the Igbo must be committed to the development of Igboland.
Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, commended Okorocha for ensuring a new beginning in the life of new Ohanaeze and said the Igbo in the Nigerian project cannot be declared missing in action.
Others who spoke included Okorocha; Ikpeazu; Ebitu Ukiwe; Alison Madueke; former Governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo; and former Anambra State Governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
They also included Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Israel and the United States, George Obiozor; retired Colonel and civil war veteran, Joe Achuzie; business mongul, Pascal Dozie; and Enugu State Deputy Governor, Cecilia Ezilo.
Igbo can go it alone, Ukiwe reiterates
Ukiwe said: “If there is any group that can make a change in Nigeria, it is the Igbo group. We are not begging the issue and cannot be intimidated by anybody or group of persons and we should be ready to confront difficulties before us as Igbo.
“If the people of Israel can successfully live independently and survived the storms, the Igbo can also do it.”
Obiozor described Nigeria as a nation in the state of despair, stressing that countries are run with ideas, but Nigeria as it is today is not the case.
Ezilo and Dozie had the same view that “Igbo destiny is in their hands”.
Okorocha added that “Igbo shall rise to its rightful position in Nigeria and elsewhere. Igbo will have enough in the future and donate to other nations when the time comes.
“Igbo are not beggars, rather they are distinguished people both in character and in words. We are the only privileged people in this part of the world.
“I was wondering what I will tell my son at old age; should I tell my son that as an Igbo man Ndigbo were marginalised?
“Igbo never received federal appointments and may never receive federal infrastructure, and it all ended that I complained, protested, and my son will ask me after that what next?
“Should I tell my son that when I didn’t get what the Igbo wanted I used arms to protest and he will also ask again, daddy after that, what happened?
“Let’s sing a new song different from the songs of war and stop the spirit of complaint and look beyond the ordinary.”
Anambra State Ohanaeze president told TheNiche in an interview that “if I was allowed to speak concerning the repressive government of Nigeria against Igbo, I would have told our people that we are in a battle field and we need to win the war.
“We are not comfortable in Nigeria and it is a war we must win. We are not against anybody, but against repressive policies against Igbo.”