President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday defended the appointment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal and five others.
The appointments, announced on Thursday, had sparked reactions, with reports of complaints in some quarters that they tilted in favour of the North.
Appointed alongside Lawal were Alhaji Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President; Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS); Mr. Kure Martins Abeshi, Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service; Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) and Hon. Suleiman Kawu, SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives).
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, yesterday assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari’s political appointments will balance out soon.
Adesina spoke on a radio programme, Political Platform, on RayPower 100.5FM, monitored by our correspondent in Lagos.
Adesina said the President was aware of federal character and expressed the belief that there will be balance by the time he makes more appointments in September.
While admitting that appointments are Buhari’s prerogative, the presidential spokesman also said that nobody can fault the fact that those that have been named so far ?were appointed on merits.
He also said it would not be fair to blame the President for positions that were filled as a result of elections, like those of the National Assembly and appointments made on the basis of next in command, like those of the acting Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission and Chief Justice of Nigeria.
He assured all stakeholders that the President would keep to his promise of appointing the remaining aides and ministers ?in September.
Adesina said: “Nobody can fault the fact that the persons appointed were appointed on merits.
“In terms of the spread, the President has prerogative to appoint and he knows there is federal character. I am sure that there will be balance in the future.
“These are still early days. At the end of the day, we will have a balance.
“By the time more appointments are made, it will balance out. The President is trying to get the very best of Nigerians. The issue of key positions and no key positions should not be the issue.
“He gave a deadline of September for the appointment of ministers, ?and he will keep to it.”
The President’s Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, also issued a statement yesterday urging critics of the President’s appointments to be patient with the administration over political appointments, adding that the appointments made so far constitute less than five per cent of the total that would be made.
Besides, he said, the people so far appointed by the President are mostly people acting as his staff or unofficial advisers, many of whom had been working with him in official capacities.
The statement reads: “Our brothers and sisters and fellow countrymen should bear with the new administration as it takes its measured steps towards an effective take-off.
“These appointments are just beginning. The ones down so far, apart from the security services, are mostly of people acting as unofficial advisers or staff of the President.
“They are mostly men and women who have been doing things for the President and the positions are being formalised.
“Statistically, the appointments don’t amount to five per cent of what is to come. There will be ministers, heads of government departments, federal boards and ambassadors.
“At the end of the exercise, no part of the country will be left feeling left out.”
Reacting to the appointments, a faction of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) had described them as an insult to the Igbo race whose members he said were not appointed into any top office.
The group, in a statement signed by its Director of Information, Uchenna Madu, said the actions of the president since he assumed office had shown that he is not a lover of Igbo people.
“The latest appointments and previous ones since Buhari’s administration should be an eye opener to Ndigbo that Buhari is not seeing Ndigbo as part of Nigeria.
“These appointments have further confirmed the fact that the present administration is against Ndigbo, despite the massive support some Igbo leaders like Gov. Rochas Okorocha, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Senator Chris Ngige and Rotimi Amaechi, among others, gave to Buhari and the APC during the last general election. This is an insult to our people.”
In the same vein, the Ohaneze Youth Council (OYC) expressed concern over the President’s latest appointments, saying it was regrettable that no south easterner was included in the appointments.
In a statement signed by the organisation’s President and National Public Relations Officer, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro and Hon. Obinna Adibe respectively, the group said the appointments were totally unacceptable to Ndigbo, adding that they violated the principle of federal character enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
OYC said: “We stand to condemn the continuous exclusion of Ndigbo by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Before this time, he had appointed Service Chiefs without looking the way of the South East. To make matters worse, the position of the SGF, which was originally zoned to the Ndigbo, has been denied the region.
“We are indeed shocked by this turn of events, which are totally at variance with Mr. President’s earlier stand that he was for everybody and for nobody.”
However, another Igbo group, Ndigbo Unity Forum (NUF), voiced its support for President Buhari.
The Chairman of the group, Mr. Augustine Chukwudum, who is also president of the Southern Nigeria Peoples Mandate, called on the Igbo, in an interview with our correspondent, to support the President for him to achieve his aim of transforming the country.
NUF said: “We have been watching all that have been happening in the past few weeks, all the talks about the president marginalising Ndigbo.
“We want to use this opportunity to inform them, if they are not aware or not enlightened enough, that the President has not appointed his cabinet. I don’t see where the marginalization of Ndigbo has come in.
“Some Igbo leaders are just making noise for nothing. After all, those people who are condemning Buhari should be ashamed of themselves.
“We want Ndigbo to have a rethink of what is happening now. He has not done anything wrong to them.
“As president of Ndigbo Unity Forum, I still maintain that Buhari has not done anything wrong to my people. Let Ndigbo count their teeth with their tongue.”
Commenting on the appointments in a media briefing at the end of the 55th National Conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) yesterday, its president, Austin Alegeh, said he was convinced President Buhari was committed to the country’s growth.
He said: “Probably, these are key technical positions that are being filled by the most competent available persons. But, you can always compensate when you are making other ministerial appointments. I think we should all adopt attitude of patience, and should always have trust and confidence in the people we have elected.
“We must know that the president won this election with many people contributing to the election. So, let us look at the appointments he has made along those lines.
“I have listened to the President speak and I can see his conviction in a greater and better Nigeria.
“I am not a party man, and I am not his personal friend, but from what I have seen, I have no doubt in my mind that he means the best for Nigeria, that he will not do anything to infringe the Nigerian Constitution.
“But let us wait for all the appointments to be in before we start talking of federal character.”
Lagos-based lawyer, Festus Keyamo also issued a statement yesterday, saying that “the so-called ‘uproar’ over the perceived ‘lopsided’ appointments made so far by President Buhari is nothing but an orchestrated frustration of a few jobless politicians who depend only on government appointments as their means of livelihood and, of course, the noise of the latest opposition party in town.”
He said majority of Nigerians only want to see good governance and care less about the ethnic origin of those appointed into positions.
“My worry is that the decade-long general division of government positions into ‘juicy’ and ‘non-juicy’, and the mentality that these few ‘juicy’ positions must be shared equally amongst the major ethnic groups was nothing but a contraption of the old order from which we have just liberated ourselves,” he said.
“To my mind, all government appointments pose an equal challenge to those appointed as a call to higher service of fatherland.
“All public positions come with an equal responsibility to be honest, forthright and dedicated. To go further to classify them as ‘juicy’ or ‘non-juicy’ is just a euphemism for positions that have enough money from which to steal and those that are ‘dry’.
“Therefore, any agitation from a section of the country to get ‘juicy’ positions is only an agitation for their kinsmen to be appointed to steal enough from which they would benefit.
“I therefore unreservedly condemn, in the strongest of terms, the so-called ‘uproar’ about ‘juicy positions’ going only to a certain section of this country. All sections of this country should be happy and content with whatever positions the President deems fit, at the end of the day, to give to their kinsmen.
“After all, the President still has a long way to go with appointments. He has not even filled up to five per cent of available positions. Please, let the President be.”