“Hereditary bondsmen, know you not, who must be free must strike the first blow?” – Lord Byron, 1788-1824.
Nigerians, and indeed Africans, alive today, are not different in their orientation from our predecessors who meekly submitted to the brutality and humanitarian catastrophe of slavery. Most of us are still imbued with slave-mentality. Majority of us are so afraid of our leaders, we can’t even raise our voices to fight for our rights – when they are being brazenly and openly violated. Starting with the terrible and unpatriotic government of Muhammadu Buhari, 2015-2023, and now with six months of Tinubu, we have allowed the principle of Federal Character to be violated in appointments to top posts in Nigeria.
Forgive me if I am repeating myself. But, I was a die-hard supporter of Buhari until he won the election in 2015. More friends parted ways with me on account of support for the man than I can count. The usual thing among political and media mercenaries is to send your CV through various channels once the candidate you promoted so vigorously won. Even, one of Buhari’s in-laws, and a close associate of VANGUARD, now late, from Katsina, asked me if I wanted an appointment “after all the work you did to get Buhari elected.” My answer was “No”. Why?
“I will rather be right than President” – Henry Clay, 1777-1852
“I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected” – General William T Sherman, 1820-1891
Nigerians confuse power with greatness. I consider myself fortunate to have had an American university education. It enabled me to read wide about the history and government of ‘God’s Own Country’ at a time when my character was being formed. Among my lifelong takeaways from ten years in America had been my ability to decide for myself who receives my regard – not based on position. Confident of my ability to provide for myself and family, I opted out of the rat race for wealth at all costs.
Third, and most important, I developed an unflinching rejection of injustice – anywhere, anytime and by anybody. Within five months of reaching America, I was joining the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr on protest marches – despite the fact that I already made up my mind to return to Nigeria. I expected no reward; and received none, other the satisfaction of living long to see a black American President, Vice President, and several Senators and Cabinet members.
MARGINALISATION OF NIGERIAN MINORITIES NOW ALARMING
“You are either a part of the solution or you are part of the problem.”
Each morning I repeat one prayer. “Almighty God, please help me not to add to Nigeria’s problems in anything I do today.” That was why it was easy for me not to join the queue of applicants for Buhari’s appointment when “food was ready” in 2015. Buhari’s first 40 appointments revealed that ethnic minorities were going to be wickedly marginalised. I was not going to be part of that crime against fellow Nigerians. Incidentally, that was not the only time I refused to send my CV for appointment by FG. One of my aunts had a son for Obasanjo. She was so worried; when from 1999-2007, I carpeted OBJ. She sent for me and asked if she could help me obtain FG appointment and bring an end to my attacks on her son’s father. “No auntie; the man is evil.” That was my answer.
I have gone to great lengths to explain my position with regard to office seeking by public figures. I am also aware that many of our media colleagues have used their platforms on the media as stepping stones to high office and great fortune. I don’t envy them. Instead, I have disdain for those who exchanged the freedom which comes with being a columnist for the post of messenger – irrespective of title given – Minister, Special Adviser etc. Here again, I take my bearings from the great columnists known to me – I.F Stone, James Reston, Bob Woodward and, of course my Baba, Dr Samuel Johnson. They were/are contented to remain in the media; to speak truth to power; instead of trading that for the crumbs that Presidents and Governors give to silence critics.
Right now, it has become clear to me that Tinubu, like Buhari, regards people belonging to minority ethnic groups as invisible Nigerians who are unworthy of top level appointments. I wrote at least 15 articles carpeting Buhari for what others called lopsided appointments; but which to me amounted to subversion of the Federal Character principle enshrined in our constitution.
Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, the three largest ethnic groups, constitute less than 20 per cent of the Nigerian population; Fulani cannot be up to 1.5 per cent of the total. Yet, for eight years, lawless Buhari made appointments which gave the impression that half of Nigeria is Fulani and the major ethnic groups account for 90 per cent of the population. A man who regards himself as a believer in the teachings of Allah and Holy Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessing Be Unto Him) proceeded to rob all the minority ethnic groups, North and South, in order to fatten the pockets of his Fulani kinsmen and some Yoruba.
The Holy Quran has a message for those leaders who engage in such conduct. Among them is disgrace – which he is already experiencing. The roads he spent eight years constructing are now being condemned during his lifetime; and nobody can locate anybody he lifted out of poverty. “A leader is worst; if people despise him” (Lao-tsy). One word which can aptly describe Buhari’s government is despicable. No honourable person would want to be associated with that rubbish. To me, however, Buhari’s most unforgivable sin was the rape of the minority ethnic groups. It was premeditated and carried out with the precision and regularity of a serial rapist and killer. NNPCL was given to a Fulani to manage.
MOVEMENT WITHOUT CHANGE
“The more things change [apparently in Nigeria] the more they remain the same.” Buhari went; and we thought a more enlightened President had taken over. Buhari never claimed anything more than School Certificate attempted. Tinubu has insisted on a degree from an American university – where he would have been exposed to elective and compulsory courses in English, Philosophy, Government etc. They were meant to broaden his mind; just in case the mantle of leadership fell on his shoulders, as it has now. But, almost five months into Tinubu’s presidency, what I regarded as wicked and entrenched discrimination against minorities is becoming institutionalized apartheid.
Now, a foreigner reading our newspapers, and counting, will be forgiven for thinking that half of Nigeria is Yoruba; and Fulani, Hausa, Kanuri constitute the rest of our population. Since May, any position formerly held by any other indigene has been given to a Yoruba person – 70 per cent of the time. “Buhariism” has enjoyed continuity in “borrow-and-spend” fiscal policies, as well as apartheid in appointment to top public office in the FG. This evil must be confronted head-on and stamped out by all well-meaning Nigerians.
WHY AND WHY NOW?
“All that is required for evil to triumph is for good people, particularly those affected, to do nothing.”
Let me start with some startling demographic data which should spur docile Nigerians into action. First, at least six Nigerian ethnic groups have larger populations than Fulani – Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, Kanuri and Tiv. At least seven others –Bini, Efik, Ibibio, Igala, Jukuns, Nupe and Urhobo — will rival Fulani in number. I have been able to identify close to 150 ethnic groups in Nigeria; and to the best of my knowledge, there is no single one which cannot produce somebody fit to be Minister or head of a major parastatal. Certainly, Nigerian ethnic groups, Adara to Attarkar; Batta to Budang,Eggom to Etulo, Fali to Farough, Gwari to Goemal, Higgis, Itsekiri to Izere, Kalabari to Komanton, Lapai to Langtan, Mushere, Nkomo to Ngas, Ogoni to Okun, Stobe, Tappa to Tarouk, Uzomba, Wawa to Wuse, Yagba and Zuru to Zango – just to mention a few – are entitled to share in the national cake at the topmost level.
There are over 2, 000 top positions in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs; more than enough to appoint at least three qualified people from each one and the President still has enough room to play the ugly game of ethnicity.
To the best of my knowledge, Tinubu has not appointed a Higgis, Buchama, Jukuns, Oron Kataf and Agae person to hold any position since he started. Are they not Nigerians? That is why I am raising this objection and calling for action from the victims themselves.
Why now is easier to answer. As Governor Soludo used to ask when he was CBN Governor, “If not now, when?” I think we should tackle Tinubu while there are positions left to be filled. Delay will be dangerous. The best way to go about this thing is to start by getting ethnic groups already existing in the Federal Capital Territory to collectively persuade the Senators to stop approving Yoruba nominees. Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President, will not help. But, there should be more than 60 Senators who can be persuaded to act in the national interest. If that fails, then a march on the Three Arms Zone will have to be organised.
Finally, if you are wondering why a Yoruba man is leading this campaign, then remember this. White men stopped the Slave Trade; not our own people.
(Courtesy: Sunday Vanguard)