Opinion: President Buhari Shows His Hand – Sam Ohuabunwa

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President Buhari Shows his hand - Sam Ohuabunwa

After what looked like an interminable wait, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) in the last couple of days began to show his hand. Before now, he had only made some apparently minor changes and appointments, the more significant being the appointment of the accountant-general, the acting chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the director-general of the Department of State Security (DSS), all of which went to the North. But in the last week or so he has taken some bold steps that give an indication of where he is headed.

Firstly, the anti-corruption campaign he promised seems to have taken off. Past Governors Ohakim and Nyako (with sons) whose cases with EFCC had gone cold were revived in a dramatic manner. Then attention was moved to Governor Lamido and his sons. The three governors and sons have been arraigned in court and all taken on bail. I am expecting many more arrests, followed by arraignments in court and then granting of bails. This is the sort of anti-corruption drama which Nigerians have missed for some time now and which they have been asking for. There will be plenty of entertainment with it. Our real hope, however, is that it must not end with this entertainment. We need for the cases to proceed speedily and justice served. That will give the real effect to the campaign.

In this wise, PMB will need the cooperation of the anti-corruption agencies to do a good job of their assignments. They must avoid the past gimmick of charging people with 52 unsubstantiated and ‘unsubstantiable’ counts which they subsequently reduce to two and yet cannot sustain one charge successfully in court. Since Alamesiegha, I do not think that the EFCC has gotten any conviction of any high profile suspect. The recent drama where the EFCC could not even win a N1 million money laundering charge against Femi Fani-Kayode does not give hope that much will be achieved in this renewed campaign. Additionally and importantly, the judiciary must buy into PMB’s anti-corruption crusade. If it will take four years to prosecute a suspected corruption case, then the impact will be lost.

Finally, PMB will need to find a way to re-orientate our attorneys and get them to stop using undue delay tactics in frustrating the legal prosecution of the anti-corruption cases. I believe that all Nigerians (including the attorneys themselves) will benefit if corrupt Nigerians are brought to book speedily and corruption curtailed in our nation.

Secondly, the DSS seems to have returned to its old ways. For several years, they could not bite and had to be restrained from even barking. But now they seem to have found their voice and the apparently calm ‘you can say anything or do anything and get away with it’ environment has changed. In one week, they raided the three homes of Sambo Dasuki who was the national security adviser until a week ago and held him under house arrest. This was a guy regarded as ‘untouchable’ even before he became the NSA.
Thereafter, they asserted that they carried the raids relying on credible intelligence that Dasuki may be involved in or may be planning or could do something that may be tantamount to treasonable felony. In short, this was a preemptive strike. We have also learnt that the DSS has taken into custody Gordon Obuah, the former chief security officer (CSO) to former President Goodluck Jonathan. We have not been told what he is suspected of doing – corruption or treasonable felony?

If you ask me to make a choice between where ‘you can say anything or do anything that can cause harm and get away with it’ and ‘where you may say anything or try to do anything and you are held responsible or prevented from actually doing it if it could harm the nation’, I’ll chose the latter. People said they would make governance impossible for President Jonathan and they were not even invited by the DSS to come and explain, not to talk of being arrested.

This is one of the changes I am comfortable with. My people say that he who is not carrying a clay pot will have nothing to break. Yes, there may be some inconveniences like not going to celebrate a festival in your village, but if you are innocent, you should not have sleepless nights. We should not be afraid to call any person to order or allow any individual or group cause us harm by their words or actions and go scot-free. The amount of helplessness the past government seemed to portray on matters it could use all the powers and forces at its disposal to deal with baffled me. Maybe they were being democratic and respecting human rights but there must be a limit for order to reign in our nation. To be sure, I am not in any way supporting Gestapo operations or abuse of human rights, but if that is the only way to get the strong, powerful and well-connected to come to justice, so be it!

Thirdly, as can be seen, PMB has begun to make significant appointments and some trend is emerging. A couple of weeks ago, when some analysts said the president was leaning more to the North of Nigeria in choosing his appointees, I cautioned that it was too early to see a trend. As at that time, the claim was that out of the eight appointments said to have been made, only one went to the South West while the rest went to the North. But when PMB sacked the defence chiefs last week, the case was strengthened about some emerging trends.

Out of the six new defence chiefs, four came from the North (two or three from North East alone), while two came from the South (South West and South South). There was nobody from the South East in any of these appointments so far. In the top leadership of all the national security apparatus including the Police and the Civil Defence, there is no Igbo. The Igbo are therefore crying foul. They cannot understand why no Igbo has been appointed to any position by PMB so far. Is it deliberate or accidental?

The trend that is discernible is that PMB is making appointments based on some criteria that are known to him. There has been the suggestion that the president chose the defence chiefs based on merit and the president himself seems to have confirmed that through his adviser on media and publicity. Of course, the Igbo retort that if this were so, does it mean that that no Igbo defence professional merited any such appointment, and yet two Borno officers qualified at the same time? They are astounded by this possibility. Another related trend is that PMB may not be bothered about the federal character principle in the appointments he has made and will be making during his tenure.
Because if he had considered the federal character principle, he would not appoint three out of six principal defence chiefs from one geo-political zone, while ignoring one whole geopolitical zone (the South East) in all the appointments he has made in the nearly two months he has been in office.

For me, this is both good and bad. Good, because I am one of the apostles of merit-driven appointment to every office, especially in the public sector. I have always said that Nigeria can never achieve its best until it is led or served by the best. The only challenge is to ensure consistency in the application of this concept. The criteria for choosing the best must be known and must be transparently and consistently applied. The bad side is that the constitution talks of justice and equity in dealing with all the different peoples and groups in Nigeria.

The federal character law specifies that employments and appointments in the public service should be done in a fair and equitable manner to give every section of Nigeria a feeling of belonging. So far these appointments by PMB fall much below these specifications and expectations and the unhappiness and apprehension of the people of the South East can be readily understood.

And when it is realized that the Igbo constitute one of the three largest ethnic nationalities in Nigeria with men and women that can compete with the best in Nigeria, it is understandable why they are currently apprehensive of being lost in the power space in our country. The Igbo belong to the big three often referred to as the majority tribes in Nigeria – Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.
The current development seems to have reduced them to a negligible minority. The justification by some people that this is the fate of the Igbo for voting Jonathan in the last election does not fetch any water. First is that not every Igbo person voted for Jonathan. In every state in the South East and other states with Igbo populations, some people voted for PMB. Though majority may have voted for GEJ, some others voted for PMB. If the Igbo are being ignored or ‘punished’ for voting GEJ, why must those who voted for PMB also be ‘punished’?

Secondly, PMB is president for all Nigerians, not only for those who voted for him and he himself said so at his inauguration and emphasized it with his popular “I belong to nobody, I belong to everybody”.

Personally, I am of the firm hope that PMB will receive all these feedbacks and will make effort to assuage the concerns of the people of the South East and assure them that he has no axe to grind with the Igbo. For example, if he announces Ogbonnaya Onu as SGF tomorrow, the pain will begin to ease.

Published by Business Day Online

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1 Comment on "Opinion: President Buhari Shows His Hand – Sam Ohuabunwa"

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Chimerenka Odimba
Dear sir Sam Ohuabunwa your statement – “If you ask me to make a choice between where ‘you can say anything or do anything that can cause harm and get away with it’ and ‘where you may say anything or try to do anything and you are held responsible or prevented from actually doing it if it could harm the nation’, I’ll chose the latter” – has truths, but who watches the watcher and who decides the limits? There is a thin line between what you have proposed here and a gestapo like regime. You support the raiding of Dasuki’s… Read more »