At last, that fateful Wednesday arrived! It was a Wednesday like no other. It was a Wednesday whose conception stretched as far back as the 1930’s. The date was 23rd September, 1987.
The man at the centre of cynosure was that smart, cerebral, ‘maradonic’, uniformed Commander-in-Chief who had wrestled, toppled and swindled power from his erstwhile boss, exactly 2 years and 27 days ago. His signature feature was a set of 32 white gapped teeth beautifully planted on the succulent ridges in his mouth, making his countenance beam with splendor each time he smiles. His signature name was IBB.
It was on Wednesday, September 23, 1987 that General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the then military Head of State, proclaimed the geo-political entity christened Akwa Ibom as one of the States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was also on Wednesday, September 23, 1987 that General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida proclaimed the geo-political entity named Katsina as a State in Nigeria. End of similitude and similarities. Start of divergence and dissimilarities.
By providence, the area known as Katsina till date has produced two persons at three turns to lead Nigeria either as Head of State or as President. Akwa Ibom State has not, not yet. From the 1987 tangent zero, the twin States have run on divergent, perpendicular lines, with no interjection in sight.
On Friday, April 28, 2017, Premium Times scooped the now viral news of unpardonable loop-sidedness in the latest recruitment of new cadet officers by Nigeria’s internal secret service, the State Security Service (SSS). The leaked list of the 479 new employees revealed a colossal disparity in the number of slots allocated to the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory.
Perhaps to signpost how differently disposed the 1987 birthday mates now are, the agency, in a total of 479 officers, commissioned a whopping 51 persons from Katsina State and a paltry 5 from Akwa Ibom State. Elementary knowledge of arithmetics teaches that 51 is 10.2 times (or 1020%) of 5 and 5 is just 9.8% of 51. This suggests that a fellow from Akwa Ibom is required, given this skewed arithmetics, to perform 10.2 (1020%) times better than a folk from Katsina, to stand a chance of been selected. What profundity of inequality, inequity, iniquity and improbity! What injustice to a State that is today Nigeria’s largest revenue base!
Now, follow me through the skewed arithmetics of the scandalous recruitment by Nigerian Federal Government’s SSS. Of the 479 officers recruited, 51 (the highest) hail from Katsina ( the home State of President Muhammadu Buhari and his clansman, Lawal Daura, whom he had appointed the Director General of the SSS), 25 hail from Kano, 24 from Kaduna; while a negligibly infinitesimal 5 (the least) hail from Akwa Ibom, 7 from Lagos (where the cadets’ passing-out parade even held) and 7 from Abia. That’s the template.
The sectoral distribution shows that Northern Nigeria had a totality of 331 slots while Southern Nigeria had 148 slots in all. The six geo-political regions in Nigeria fared thus: North West 165, North East 100, North Central 71, South West 57, South East 44 and South South 42.
The brooding question on every vegetative mind has been: What criterion or criteria of selection produced such loop-sidedness, with no modicum of decorum and regards to the doctrine of Federal Character?
The criterion is certainly not education because the last time I checked Akwa Ibom was still among the so branded Educationally Advantaged State; Katsina was not. It is surely not based on the economic viability of the States because as at my last stock taking, Akwa Ibom State contributed more than 5000% of what Katsina does to the national treasury. It is not by population, else Katsina would not be apportioned 51 and Lagos (the second most populated State in Nigeria) 7. So the question still validly remains: What criterion was used? By what sharing formula would a father allot 479 meat pieces to his 37 children for one child to amass 51 while another cries to the children’s room with 5? This is a vulgar definition of injustice.
Let me be brisk to alert and assert that this ignoble SSS’ recruitment loop-sidedness is never an exception; it has been the rule over the years, though deepened in degree by Nigeria’s present administration. Again, this is not just about the SSS. It cuts across board. Many have wondered and pondered why opportunities are never distributed equitably in our collective Nigeria. This institutionalized culture of marginalization is obnoxious and repugnant to natural justice, to say the least. But again, this ethnic imbalance has a long history. It’s a sustained culture of tribal chauvinism. It’s a systemic strategy for sectional dominance. It’s a calculated scheme for regional perpetuation. It’s a game plan for ethnic supremacy. It’s an integral aspect of the overall agenda. How?
Mirror this, for instance. Over 25 years ago, the then Federal Government by some parameters not well understood, designated 23 States of the Federation as Educationally Disadvantaged States. The policy, Nigerians were told by the then Military Government, was targeted at bridging the education nay development gaps that existed in the country as at then. Till date, candidates from these States enjoy special considerations for admission into Federal Government Colleges, Polytechnics and Universities. But does it not arouse the humanistic libido of suspicion that out of the 23 States designated for such and similar special favours, all 19 Northern States, plus 4 Southern (Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi and Rivers) mad(k)e the list?
Back to the present. Is our President aware of this long term culture, scheme, and the overall agenda? Methinks yes. Does he foster it? Yes. Our President has never been pretentious for once about this. That’s what he meant when he fore-warned Nigerians in that infamous ‘97% : 5%’ interview. Remember? Mr President publicly told Nigerians that he cannot treat the section of the country that magnanimously accorded him 97% of his total votes the same method and manner as the section that gave him 5% of the votes. In fairness to him though, most of these things we see and hear are perpetuated without his knowledge. But the perpetuators presume their actions consistent with the posturing, propensities and proclivities of Mr. President.
Is the President making good his 97% : 5% promise? Your guess is as good as mine. Mirror the regional distribution of capital projects in Nigeria’s 2016 Budget. N271,787,440,914 was appropriated for capital projects in the North Central, N74,541,106,578 to North West, N48,970,193,154 to South West, N46,689,092,193 to North East, N35,309,931,022 to South South and N28,217,587,012 to South East. (Source: National Assembly Budget and Research Office, 2016). This emblematizes Nigeria’s skewed politics of arithmetics (or should I say Nigeria’s politics of skewed arithmetics?).
Again, mirror this and tell us how incidentally or accidentally coincidental it is. As at July 2015, the President had barely made his first nine appointments since his inauguration. The spread? Eight from Northern Nigeria, one from Southern Nigeria. On August 7, 2015, the President made another six appointments, with 5 from North and 1 from South. Before the twilight of August 2015, 30 appointments (aides, heads of security agencies and other MDAs) were made; North 23, South 7. At a point in this era, 14 of the 17 heads of Nigeria’s security establishments were all Northeners (I’m not so sure if or by how much the composition has changed as at today). If not that Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution had contemplated this obnoxious proclivity and made it mandatory that at least one Minister of the Federal Republic must be selected from each of the 36 States and FCT, imagine the complexion and composition that would have been served Nigerians as Ministers.
But not only is the issue that of ethnic imbalance cum marginalization. There is also the dimension of nepotism cum cabalism.
Thank you for coming this far. Follow these facts; verify later, if you can. The most influential power monger today in Aso Rock is Mamman Daura. He is the President’s nephew – Mamman’s father was the President’s elder brother. It was this Mamman Daura who brought Abba Kyari (a man who, over the years, has held him as his foster father) to be appointed as the President’s Chief of Staff. Digression. President Buhari’s Ministers very seldom access the President directly as they are all mandated to pass through Kyari. Back on track. One of Daura’s biological sons (Buhari’s grandnephew) holds sway as a powerful Personal Assistant to Mr President. The President’s Chief of Protocol is Daura’s son-in-law. The Minister of State for Trade, Industry and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar (imposed, despite agitations and protest by APC, Sokoto) is the daughter of the younger sister to Daura’s wife. The President’s Aide De Camp, Lt. Col. Muhammed Lawal Abubakar is married to the President’s nephew. Another nephew of Mr President, Sabiu Yusuf is one of his leading Personal Assistant. The skewed politics of arithmetics continues!
All of these imbalances, prejudices and inequalities give us away as a people not quite serious with leadership and governance. Nigeria is a country whose strength is pivoted on the fulcrum of her diversities and pluralities. The rights, privileges, chances, opportunities of a section of the Nigerian people should not again be commandeered, arrogated, appropriated or (better still) misappropriated to another section of the Nigerian people. We are all Nigerians. No section is more Nigerian than the other.
Together, we must make deliberate efforts to extinguish all appearances of ethnic imbalance, sectional inequality, regional marginalization, intra-national colonialism, opportunity loop-sidedness, in the interest of us all and for the good of Nigerians yet unborn. Beginning from this scandalous 51 is to 5 spree, these injustices should be addressed and redressed accordingly. All of us have our roles to play in this collective corrective campaign.
My fellow country people, may I begin to negotiate my way out of this long sombre literary walk with the aid of the illumination emanating from the legendary Marthin Lurther King, Jnr’s torch. He said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter most”. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We the people of Nigeria must collectively rise above and against the perpetuation of these skewed politics of arithmetics in all its facets and facades!
Thank you for taking this long walk with me. God bless you! God bless Nigeria!
(Umoh Joshua is a media practitioner, rights advocate and public affairs commentator.)