The DSS Recruitment Rebalancing

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The obvious lopsidedness in the recent recruitment into the Department of State Services has again highlighted the fault lines that have been the bane of Nigeria. Olawale Olaleye writes

A recent recruitment exercise into the Department of State Service (DSS)has stirred controversy and rage, although avoidable. The quota assigned each state of the federation showed clearly that this particular exercise might have been designed to sort of ‘compensate’ the north, which had over time alleged marginalisation in the previous exercises.

The rage that attended this exercise is not only seen as a continuation of the alleged resolve of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to put the north in vantage positions across the federal bureaucracy, the fact that the exercise was heavily skewed, not just in favour of the north but Katsina, the homestead of the president and the Director-General of the DSS, Lawal Daura, further justified the worry by other ethnic nationalities of planned northern domination.

Katsina, reports said, was allotted 51 DSS slots as a corrective exercise. But in general, the allotment heavily favours the north compared to the South.

Here is the list: Abia 7, Adamawa 19, Anambra 10, Bauchi 23, Bayelsa 7, Benue 9, Borno 16, Cross River 9, Delta 8, Ebonyi 7, Edo 6, Ekiti 12, Enugu 9, FCT 7, Gombe 14, Imo 11, Jigawa 14, Kaduna 24, Kano 25, Katsina 51, Kebbi 16, Kogi 11, Kwara 13, Lagos 7, Nassarawa 11, Niger 11, Ogun 8, Ondo 9, Osun 10, Oyo 11, Plateau 9, Rivers 7, Sokoto 15, Taraba 16, Yobe 12 and Zamfara 20.

A presidency source, which justified the recruitment quota, said there was no lopsidedness in the exercise. But Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, said the reality on the ground for the South-east was that of exclusion from the Buhari administration.

A few prominent northern personalities also shared the sentiment of alleged nepotism of the Buhari government. Dr. Junaid Mohammed described the present administration as nepotistic, while the chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP),….. in Katsina State said even in picking people from Katsina the appointments have been skewed to favour people from Buhari’s Daura region.

The fears about this latest exercise stemmed from the fact that the DSS might have abandoned the Federal Character Principle, which states in Section 14, subsection 3 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, that: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies”.

But the presidency source, who spoke to a national daily (not THISDAY), maintained the narrative that it was an effort to correct the imbalance that had existed over the years, adding that same is obtainable in the Army, Navy and Air Force. It insisted that there was no ulterior motive to fill the DSS with people from Katsina or from the north at the expense of the south.

Thus, the explanations that it was a corrective initiative have not sufficiently allayed the fears of a majority of the people, who reckoned that the move was in line with the plan of the Buhari government to play the ethnic card.

The import of this is that it may have further exposed the nation’s fault lines, despite the pretence about one indivisible Nigeria. Besides, this kind of thinking also exposes the primitive state of mind of the Nigerian leadership and questions their capacity to be just and fair, regardless of their ethnic leanings. That a majority of the Nigerian leaders have refused to be first and always Nigerian is a major undoing in the management of the affairs of the country.

For any Nigerian leader to assume that such disproportionate recruitment exercise as the latest DSS’ could go unnoticed is to say the least naïve and clearly insensitive. No such exercise must fail to acknowledge the nation’s diversity in all its ramifications and goes ahead to cause avoidable rage, especially that the most of the nation’s instability can be traced to such imbalances across the federal bureaucracy.

It is therefore incumbent on government to review some of these exercises as well as a general review of promotion exercises and retirement cases in the last five or more years as being canvassed now, while encouraging both serving and retired officers, who still hold the grudge that they were unjustly denied promotion or retired, to submit memoranda to that effect.

Although the exercise has been largely defended as a rebalancing initiative, the Buhari regime has a huge responsibility to change the pervasive assumption that it was out to decimate other ethnic nationalities in favour of the north. This perception took off with the government from day one of its appointment and has stuck to it like a leech. The onus is therefore on the president to strive to change this perception, especially as it approaches half of its four-year mandate.