Unbridled Nepotism: Where Is Nigeria Headed?

President Muhammadu Buhari’s unhidden nepotism reared its ugly head yet again this week. He replaced the executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler, with Muhammad Nami on the day the former’s first tenure expired. The following day, Tuesday, Buhari sacked the chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Muiz Banire, and replaced him with Lametek Adamu. This has been the trend since Buhari came to power in 2015: replacing a southerner with a northerner in almost all government ministries, departments and agencies whenever a vacancy exists or the term of the southerner elapses.

All arms of the Nigerian government have virtually entered the pouch of this nepotistic government. With the forced removal of Walter Onnoghen as chief justice of Nigeria, all the heads of the nation’s courts have become northern Muslims. Almost all the heads of the security agencies are either northerners or Muslims or both. The legislature, now effectively a rubber stamp, is headed by a northern Muslim, just as northern Muslim Buhari heads the executive arm. Now, all agencies that generate money for the public purse – NNPC, DPR, Customs, Nigerian Ports, PPRA and FIRS — are also headed by northerners and, indeed, Muslims. Oil wealth that sustains this country comes from the south, but, since he came to power, Buhari has been the minister of petroleum resources as well. Yet we live in a diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation.  All these point to a systematic and deliberate plot to put Nigeria asunder. The nation has become more divided than it has ever been since the amalgamation of 1914.

Whenever Buhari or his cabal strikes, there are lame excuses to give, but certainly nobody is deceived. In spite of the poor performance of the armed forces, the police and other security agencies, a fact evident in the resurgence of crimes like banditry, terrorism, and kidnapping for ransom, Buhari has refused to change the service chiefs, long after their tenures have expired, apparently because all but one of them are northerners. Not even the boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, whose confirmation was rejected by the legislature, has moved an inch. He has been feverishly engaged in a phony, selective anti-corruption fight.

In his early days as Nigeria’s civilian president, Buhari made clear by his appointments that he was in government to empower the north militarily, economically and otherwise. Out of his first 53 appointees, only one was someone from south-eastern Nigeria. The outcry that followed did nothing to make him remorseful. He told visiting UN agency officials to concentrate their efforts only in the north. On public television watched around the world, he shamelessly said he should not be expected to treat those who gave him 97% of their votes equally with those who gave him 5%.

In a saner clime, such pronouncements by a leader who should be a father to all, irrespective of party affiliation, tribe or religion, could provoke his impeachment and removal from office immediately. That nothing of the sort happened shows that Buhari seems to have understood Nigerians better than most. He has clearly established himself as a nepotistic and bigoted president who has no regard for competence or the “Federal Character Principle” enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. For a larger part of his first term in office, Buhari and the government he supposedly led did not hide their support for Fulani cattle herders, who are his kinsmen from Nigeria and foreign nations, against local crop farmers in Christian-dominated states such as Benue, Plateau, Enugu, Kogi, Yobe and Taraba. The “Ruga” policy meant to seize lands from every state for these murderous herders has been enunciated; resistance from some southern and middle-belt states does not yet appear to have dissuaded Buhari.

It was bad enough that many people from southwestern Nigeria did not see through this wicked plot, as other southerners did before the general election early this year. For reasons of politics and expediency, some southwest leaders became Buhari’s cheerleaders. There have been exceptions such as Femi Fani-Kayode, Yinka Odumaikin and ex-governor Peter Fayose, however. And, since the sack of over 35 aides of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, more critics from the southwest have emerged.

The election of 2019 was an opportunity to get rid of this nepotism writ large. Again, the cheerleaders frustrated the aspirations of a large majority of Nigerians through vote-buying and mass rigging of the ballot. A corrupt electoral umpire and an incompetent judiciary declared Buhari winner of the presidential poll.

There must be truth in the rumour making the rounds about a plot to change the constitution to enable Buhari remain in office for a third term. The current attempts to abolish freedom of speech and expression in the media and elsewhere should clear all doubts. But will Buhari and the cabal succeed? At least two former Nigerian leaders followed that route but failed in the end.

Although Buhari has remained predictable in his nepotistic tendencies, we are constrained to doubt he really calls the shots in Aso Rock. It is likely that the first lady, Aisha Buhari, has been right all along: a small number of non-elected people in Aso Rock are the real powers behind the throne.

Does it mean then that Nigeria has become a banana republic? What has happened to the human rights activists that helped to bring military rule to an end? Are there no more Nigerians with conscience who can fight for their fatherland both within the country and outside its shores? What we are beginning to see is totalitarian rule in its ugliest form. We hope Nigeria will come out in one piece.

— With The Oracle Today

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