August 7, 2015 – Pro PDP Nigerian Actor Kenneth Okonkwo: Buhari Will Not Appoint Many Igbos Bcos We Didn’t Vote For Him
President Buhari on his trip to the United States of America made it clear that he will favour the section of the Country that gave him 97 percent of votes more than those that gave him 5 percent of votes. This is a veiled reference to the citizens of the South East where he got the least support in the last presidential election. Let us examine the import and appropriateness of this statement in the light of the relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and the political precedents set by his predecessors in office. President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged the President of Nigeria in 1999 without a single support from the South West. It was so bad that he did not win a single ward. President Obasanjo is from Ogun State, South West. We all agree that natural love prevails among people who are related by blood even when they disagree on the process of doing things. Immediately Obasanjo came to power, he patronized the South West so much in appointments that one reporter questioned him on his rationale of favouring a section that did not vote for him.
He replied that as the President of Nigeria, the people who did not vote for him also expects him to provide for them. In fact he appointed about 22 diplomats from Ogun State for Ambassadorial posts that prompted Dr Chuba Okadigbo, the then Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, to make a speech on the floor of the Senate which resulted in Ambassadorial posts being shared 3 per state in accordance with the federal character principle. Obasanjo did this, because, despite his people not voting him, he still loves them. During the regime of President Umaru Yar Adua, the rumble in the jungle of the Niger Delta of Nigeria reached its peak. Whereas a Southern President destroyed Odi, a Southern community in Nigeria for disobeying his orders, a Northern President, in the person of Yar Adua, deployed the resources of Nigeria to establish the amnesty programme for the militants in the Niger Delta and sent all of them to school. Yar Adua was a known Socialist and the love of Socialists for the downtrodden is legendary. Yar Adua got a pan Nigerian mandate and did not owe the South South any peculiar political patronage, but because of his love for the downtrodden, he favoured the Niger Delta even more than his own region. Turai Yar Adua revealed to Nigerians about her husband’s love for the downtrodden people of the South South who produce the oil resources for the Country but were marginalised by successive governments.
President Yar Adua told his wife, Turai Yar Adua, that if he were from Niger Delta, he would probably have been a militant. Again love drove his patronage for the Niger Delta not political support. President Goodluck Jonathan was President of Nigeria between 2010 and 2015. He is from the Niger Delta, South South. During his presidency, he got the least support from the North West. By 2014, he had built more universities and sent more almagiri children to school from the North West than from any other Zone in the Country. Indeed by 2014, the Minister of Defence, National Security Adviser, Inspector General of Police which constitute the entire internal security apparatus guarding the nation and the President were all from the North West and none from the South East that gave him total support. In this case, his love for equity and political stability of Nigeria prevailed over his consideration of political support from the regions. The zone that gave him the least support got the best patronage from him.
We can deduce from this that the amount of patronage a people gets from a leader does not necessarily depend on the amount of support the people gave to the leader but the amount of love the leader has for the people. Yes, even the Holy Scriptures say that love covers all sins (Proverbs 10 : 12) Let us examine the relationship between President Buhari and the South East especially with regards to the precedents set by his predecessors in office. Needless to go far into the past to remind us how, as a military leader, he threw Dr Alex Ekwueme, a Vice President from Igbo extraction, into Kirikiri maximum prison for no known offence but allowed his boss Alhaji Shehu Shagari to spend his own detention in his house; how he sent politicians like Jim Nwobodo to uncountable number of years in jail while most politicians from his own side did not suffer same fate; when we can prove his “love” for Igbos by his actions in recent times. After the 2007 general elections, General Buhari was broke, beaten and bruised. He was defeated by his less known, less powerful kinsman, Umaru Yar Adua. He confessed to all that he did not have the money to pursue his case legally. He was a pariah and nobody of substance wanted to associate with him. Failure of course is an orphan. In the midst of such isolation, one man arose to defend General Muhmmadu Buhari in court. He demanded nothing from the General. He risked losing patronage from the incumbent regime.
He risked being attacked by his own people who supported the incumbent regime. But he stood firm in defence of the General. He was in love with the General and believed in his purported lifestyle of simplicity and honesty. His name is Mr MIKE AHAMBA. A lawyer of Igbo extraction. He fought so fiercely for the General in court that at the Supreme Court, the Judges were almost evenly divided with the General losing by a narrow margin in a judgement many still believe was more political than legal. Unfortunately, when Mike Ahamba wanted to be the chairman of CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) the political party where the General was the Sole Administrator and unilateral leader, he was rejected. His previous support for the General did not count. What counted was that he was an Igbo man and the General preferred a man from another Geo-Political Zone. The disappointed Lawyer resigned from CPC and that was the last that was heard of his relationship with the General. The lesson from this for the Igbos is very clear. Even if the Igbos had given General Muhammadu Buhari 100 percent support politically during the 2015 general elections, there would still have been no guarantee they would have gotten anything extraordinary, because in the final analysis, it is the love a leader has for a people that counts in political patronage not the amount of support a people gives to a leader. On assumption of office, President Buhari declared that he will not interfere with the affairs of the National Assembly and will work with whoever the National Assembly chooses as its principal officers.
The President was to make a u-turn in this promise when an Igbo man was voted into the post of the Deputy Senate President. He was reported to have said that the choice of Chief Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President was unacceptable. The attempt to explain this attitude of rejecting Ekweremadu on the ground that he is PDP flies in the face of the fact that every other officer elected that day came from the New PDP, and was indeed installed by the PDP against the wish and instruction of APC. Equity demands that its either he accepts all in line with his promise or rejects all in line with the wishes of his party. Anything short of this potrays him as a President that is intolerant of the presence of Ndigbo. This posture of the President was even more obvious in the President’s interference with the elections of the Principal Officers of the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Dogara, was firm in his resolve to observe the constitutional principle of federal character and had written his party on his stand against the unconstitutional stand of APC to exclude both the North Central and the South East. When it was obvious the Speaker was not backing down and it was apparent to the President that the election of an Igbo man as a Principal Officer was inevitable, the President summoned a meeting of the APC members of the House of Representatives to the Villa. The only achievement of the meeting was the removal of the Igbo man from being a Principal Officer of the House. If the aim of the meeting was to enforce party supremacy, the list of the principal officers, as instructed by the party, which excluded both the North Central and the South East, would have been faithfully followed.
The weak argument that there was no ranking member of APC from the South East in the House of Representatives flies in the face of logic and the federal character principle. Recall that in the fifth Senate, the position of the Senate President was zoned to the South East. When Adolphous Wagbara resigned, there were more qualified and competent Senators from other Zones of Nigeria. But because of the need to maintain the principle of federal character, the Senate elected Chief Ken Nnamani, a non ranking Senator, to occupy the highest office in the National Assembly. Of course, they disregarded the Senate rules to achieve this. His achievements as Senate President, especially how he handled the third term agenda, showed that being a non ranking member does not affect the achievement of a determined member of the National Assembly. Also in the present Senate, Akpabio, a non ranking Senator, emerged the Minority Leader, in a post that is legally zoned to the minority party. His election also disregarded the Senate rules and was allowed because he was unanimously endorsed by the opposition party. We can now assert that the removal of the South East from the leadership structure of APC in the House had nothing to do with experience or the ranking rule, but a means of achieving the President’s agenda of emasculating the South East politically. To buttress this point also, in all the appointments the President has made so far, no Igbo man has been appointed to any post.
This brings us to the question of whether the President has the constitutional power to determine the proportion or number of posts to be allocated to the different federating units in the Country. By the combined effects of sections 153(1)(c) and (2), paragraphs 8(1)(a)(b)(c) of part 1 of the third schedule of the 1999 constitution (as amended), the President has no power whatsoever to determine the proportion or number or quantum of posts to be allocated to the different federating units of the Country. This power is given to the Federal Character Commission and the National Assembly. Specifically, paragraphs 8(1)(a)(b)(c) state that “in giving effect to the provisions of section 14(3) and (4) of this Constitution, the Commission shall have the power to work out an equitable formula subject to the approval of the National Assembly for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the Federation and of the States, the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force and other government security agencies, government owned companies and parastatals of the States; promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government; take such legal measures, including the prosecution of the head or staff of any Ministry or government body or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle or formula prescribed or adopted by the Commission”. From the foregoing provisions, the Commission not only has the power to prescribe the formula for the proportional sharing of all cadres of posts at all levels of government, it also has the power to enforce it. It is unfortunate that the Speaker of the House of Representatives that has the power to determine for the President the number of posts that will go to the South East, has rather gone to the President to receive orders on the number of posts that should be taken away from the South East. Also the President is enstopped from discriminating against any citizen of Nigeria on account of his political opinion or confering any advantage on any citizen on account of his political opinion by virtue of section 42(1)(a)(b) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
The provisions state that “a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.The President, therefore, has no power to discriminate against the South East, even if the citizens of the South East in their political opinion, decide not to vote for the President, just as he lacks the power to favour the citizens of another Geo-Political Zone, even if they in their political opinion decide to vote for the President. The President’s stance of favouritism, therefore, is a gross violation of the fundamental human right of the affected citizens to freedom from discrimination. In view of this open threat by the President to politically decimate the South East and marginalise the South South because of lack of political support for him and of course lack of his love for them, we call on the National Assembly to live up to its constitutional duty by summoning the Federal Character Commission Chairman to submit immediately to the National Assembly the equitable formula for the proportional sharing of all cadres of posts at all levels of government for approval.
The National Assembly must also prescribe penalty for any head of government body who fails to comply with the formula as prescribed by the Commission. This is to ensure that the power of the Commission to prosecute such officials as enshrined in the Constitution is preserved and effective. Conclusively, we can say that the President’s threat of favouritism based on political support is unconstitutional and has no place in our democracy. It is also unreasonable, because looking at the voting pattern of the South East, since 1999, one can deduce that they have been voting based on party loyalty not on individual loyalty. This saw the South East voting massively for a party that has not chosen any person from the South East for the position of the President or the Vice President. Rather than the President taking advantage of this to rapport with the South East, he is alienating them more by such comments. The mere fact that there was no violence in the South East after the announcement of the President’s victory is a testimony that the people of the South East has nothing against the person of the President. His stance is also ungodly because every major faith preaches forgiveness and reconciliation after every disagreement, struggle or fight. Above all, his statement has become unnigerian, especially when one considers the actions of his predecessors in office in relation to the sections of the Country that did not support them and the political philosophy of Nigeria which is no Victor no Vanquished after every fight. Just as the President’s arithmetic of 97 percent and 5 percent does not add up to 100 percent, so also his statement that he will favour those that gave him 97 percent support over and against those that gave him 5 percent does not add up to a perfect political practice. There is God.
[Barrister Okonkwo Writes From Abuja]