PMB: Theory and practice of Igbo marginalisation

Posted by News Express | 7 October 2017 | 2,350 times

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With mouths aghast, millions of Nigerians and friends of Nigeria from around the globe watched as President Muhammadu Buhari granted his first most important international media interview and made a frightening disclosure.

This was barely weeks after he was inaugurated on May 29, 2015, when he honored an invitation extended to him by the then United States’ President Barack Obama.

Surrounded by his handpicked ‘kitchen cabinet’ members made up of largely his Fulani and Muslim ethno-religious cousins and nephews, the newly-elected Nigerian President, who was once a military dictator hinted about what has emerged as his theory of marginalisation of the Igbo-speaking people of Nigeria. When asked by a broadcast journalist how he would preside over the affairs of the Nigerian state as an elected President, the unsmiling Buhari wasted no time in stating that the South-east of Nigeria will be treated with the short end of the stick, in terms of redistribution of offices and possibly the sharing of the proverbial national cake. 

This statement in itself is highly unconstitutional, because the redistribution of national wealth and offices have been so well arranged in the Constitution for a seamless enforcement, except the political leader decides to willfully violate these critical provisions. In that interview in Washington DC, Muhammadu Buhari revealed that the North and South-West geopolitical entities, which gave him 95 per cent votes will get more political benefits during his presidency than the South-east, which only gave him 5 per cent. The President has since made good his vow, which substantially violates constitutional norms, but he proceeded without giving any thoughts to the agitation for fundamental redress of these stark imbalances.

We will return shortly to provide empirical evidence to back up the aforementioned claims of systematic maginalisation and systematic exclusion and deliberate alienation of the Igbo-speaking section of Nigeria, under Buhari’s administration. First, let us explore, briefly, certain key constitutional foundations which make it imperative that the Nigerian President must be fair and just to all the constituencies.

Having said the above, the most coherent flow of this conversation will continue from the fountain of legal knowledge of a reputable constitutional scholar in Nigeria, Dr Tunji Abayomi, who wrote a book entitled Constitutional Powers and Duties of the President. In it, he expressed the unambiguous view that whosoever is elected a Nigerian president, is the president for all the constituencies.

“For the purpose of election to the office of the President, the entire nation is the constituency for the election under section 132(4).”

This simple provision extends the source of the authority of the president beyond regions, zones, states or local constituent areas to the entire federation, says Abayomi.

The provision extends the executive authority of the president to total domestic affairs and domestic leadership, within the geographical territory of Nigeria, including the coverage of his orders within constitutional grounds. Section 5(1) invests in the president the executive powers. But it is section 132(4) “ ... by emerging from the exercise of the votes of a national constituency, whether in favour or against, he becomes chief national representative of the people within the nation or any other government of the nation, as well as against other nations within foreign affairs.”

Importantly, the president, upon assumption of office, is taken through the ritual of oath-taking to pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The wordings of this presidential oath goes to show that the holder is expected to live above board and must handle the affairs of state as a nationalist, and not a regionalist or a religious bigot. The presidential oath, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, can be found in the seventh schedule in which the following binding pledges are made sacred.

The oath by the holder of the office of the president goes thus: “… AS President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions.”

Knowing man to be very imperfect and quick to forget, the drafters of the Nigerian Constitution also inserted a binding provision to take care of the Federal Character nature of the appointments to be made by the president, in order to create balance and a sense of belonging.

In section 14(3), the Constitution provides that : “(3) 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 loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government, or in any of its agencies.”

President Buhari has clearly violated his presidential oath of office and the Federal Character principle, because he has completely excluded the Igbo-speaking people from top defence and political appointments, with the exception of ministerial positions, which is provided for that he must assign a minister per state of the federation in section 147(3) of the Constitution.

In other words, apart from the appointments of ministers, which is clearly stated, all other appointments made so far has violated the Federal Character principle, and has excluded the Igbo-speaking people.

Take for instance, the fact that Igbo-speaking people by topography are restricted to only five states, but by demography Igbo-speaking people constitute a significant majority and, therefore, must not be excluded in such strategic positions as are found or recognised in the Constitution to govern the Defence sector. Apart from exclusion of Igbo in the appointment of military service chiefs, there is no single strategic national asset of the military located in the South-east of Nigeria. Therefore, the attempt made Chatham House in London, by the Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, to deny a clear case  of marginalisation of Igbo, based on nomination of ministers in President Buhari’s cabinet, did very little to justify the brazen illegality.

There is no justification to say that a tribal group that constitute one of the very clear demographical majorities is singled out and excluded in the formation of the key national military appointments. This is wrong and unconstitutional. But Governor el-Rufai tried to justify the exclusion when he delivered a lecture at Chatham House on restructuring, entitled Next Generation Nigeria: What Is Restructuring and Does Nigeria Need It?

As reported by Daily Trust (and other dailies), he explained that four of the five states in the zone had senior ministers in the Federal Cabinet, despite the fact that they gave the All Progressives Congress (APC) government just about 5 per cent of votes in the 2015 presidential election.

“Some states, including Kaduna, which gave the party more than 90 per cent of votes, only have junior ministers (ministers of state),” he said.

To put a clear lie to any futile attempt to justify the exclusion by Buhari of Igbo people from strategic defence and political positions, let us just look at the appointments made so far by this administration.

An online newspaper had reported on August 28, 2015, that since the inauguration of Muhammadu Buhari as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he has made 35 appointments.

Here, according to Premium Times, is a list of all Buhari’s appointments till date: 

1. Aide-de-Camp to the president: Lt Col Abubakar Lawal, (Kano State, North-west and husband to President Buhari’s foster daughter); 2. Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the president: Femi Adesina, (Osun State, South-west]; Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity: Garba Shehu, (Kano State, North-west); then Acting Chairperson, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Amina Zakari, (Jigawa State, North-west) who is related biologically to Buhari, before he picked another northerner as substantive chairman in the person Prof Mahmood Yakubu

Others are: State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant (Presidential Matters): Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure, (Jigawa State, North-west]; Accountant-General of the Federation: Ahmed Idris (Kano State, North-west);National Security Adviser: Babagana Monguno (Borno State, North-east]; Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonishakin, (Ekiti State, South-west); Chief of Army Staff: Tukur Buratai, (Borno State, North-east); Chief of Naval Staff: Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, (Cross Rivers, South-south]; Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, (Bauchi State, North-east; Chief of Defence Intelligence: Monday Riku Morgan (Benue State, North-central); Director-General, State Security Services, SSS: Lawal Daura, (Katsina State, North-west).

Other appointments as at when Premium Times reported are: Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA): Habibu Abdulahi (Kano State, North-west); Special Adviser, Niger Delta Amnesty Office: Paul Boroh, (Bayelsa State, South-south); Acting Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA: Baba Haruna Jauro (Yobe State, North-east) before he allowed his Transportation minister to nominate his political acolyte, Dr Dakuku Peterside, as substantive D-G.

Other key appointments are Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission: Umaru Dambatta (Kano State, North-west]; Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS): Babatunde Fowler, (Lagos State, South-west); Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation: Aliyu Gusau, (Zamfara State, North-west); Acting Group Managing Director, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Emmanuel Kachikwu, (Delta State, South-south); Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, (Adamawa, North-east); Chief of Staff to the President: Abba Kyari, (Borno State, North-east]; Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service: Hameed Ibrahim Ali, (Kaduna State, North-central); Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service: Kure Martin Abeshi, (Nasarawa State, North-central).

From that time till now, Buhari had made over 100 top-level appointments and the North have taken over 80 per cent of such slots, including nearly 90 per cent of all the top 30 appointments into the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The President has left out the Igbo-speaking population of Nigeria in all of these major appointments. 

The exclusion of Igbo by Buhari reminds me of how the United States of America maltreated blacks when they suffered the natural disaster in New Orleans.

 “In September of 2005, a devastating ‘category four’ hurricane hit the Gulf coast of the United States. The levees that protected the city of New Orleans, which is below sea level, were breached, and massive flooding followed, leaving 80 per cent of the city under water. In the days that followed, the national press featured images of masses of impoverished African Americans, residents of New Orleans, huddled and waiting, and sometimes screaming, for help.”

“…But the population of the city was overwhelming black, and poor. The median income was only 70 per cent of the national average... the earnings of some poor people, had been whittled away for several decades and, especially under the presidency of George W. Bush. The schools were bad, with high drop-out and suspension rates, and the illiteracy rate of the city hovered at about 40 per cent. Homicide rates were extraordinarily high: roughly 10 times those of New York City.

“The marginalised were, again, ignored even as the storm approached and evacuation orders were issued. As events unfolded, a contest of sorts emerged over how the public should view the victims. Right-wing bloggers and some of the press tried to demonise the victims, portraying the crowds of evacuees as a riotous mob, stressing incidents of violence, theft, and rape....

“Processes of marginalisation in American society afford an extraordinarily illuminating window on American society as a whole, on its economy, its culture, and its politics...” (Marginalization and American Politics, by Francis Fox Piven).

These narratives of systematic marginalisation of African Americans are exactly the same kind of maltreatment Igbo-speaking nationality face under Buhari.

Take, for instance, armed Fulani herdsmen have been on rampage killing, maiming and destroying farming communities and seizing these lands from the owners, but Buhari’s government has looked the other way and resisted calls from diverse opinion leaders to declare these killers as terrorists and go after them. But this same government said these killers, classified in World ranking, as one of the most potent Global terror networks, are mere criminals. But the Buhari's government hurriedly branded as terrorists the members of the unarmed self-determination group, known as Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

If these aren’t injustice, what then is the definition of justice?

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via 

Source: News Express

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