By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has told President Muhammadu Buhari that the appointment of his service chiefs was based more on sectionalism than merit.
President Buhari during his campaign for reelection in Anambra State last Thursday, told Anambra people that the appointment of service chiefs was based on merit and competence.
He made the assertion while speaking at the palace of the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, who hosted other royal fathers and leaders of the state.
But is a statement jointly signed by Yinka Odumakin (South-west), Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South-east), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-south) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt) on behalf of SMBLF, the quartet said President Buhari has never hidden his suspicion and distrust for other parts of Nigeria outside his narrow corner in making his appointments into top security positions.
According to the leaders, “The new spin that merit and competence denominated his appointments into sensitive security positions, runs counter to his earlier justifications and is a calculated attempt to ingratiate himself to the people of the South ahead of the forthcoming elections.
“Since the advent of the Buhari administration in 2015, there has been wholesale domiciliation of service appointments in a particular section of the country, to the detriment of others. Out of over a dozen such positions in the military, paramilitary and non-uniformed services, only two are from the South. The exceptions are: The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Abayomi Olonisakin and the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas. And the issue of meritocracy has never featured in Buhari’s ever-shifting justifications for the appointment of security chiefs.
“It is instructive that the positions of Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior, National Security Adviser, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Inspector-General of Police, Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS) and Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), are all from the North.
“Similarly, the Comptrollers-General of Customs, Prisons and Immigrations; the Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and indeed the Federal Fire Service, are all from the North of Nigeria.
“With the benefit of hindsight, President Buhari’s response to public uproar about his skewed security appointments early in the life of his administration, was that as Commander-in-Chief, he could only appoint those he could trust into such sensitive positions.
“On the balance, it turns out that he could mainly trust his corner of the country as evidenced by the percentage of his appointments from that section of the country, and could only minimally trust the South and indeed Middle Belt.
“At a recent media interview, his argument for not changing service chiefs long after their retirement and allowing for the ventilation of new ideas in the maintenance of internal and external security is that such a move could engender rivalry in the Services and unsettle the nation’s security apparatchik so close to the elections.”
They contended that President Buhari’s new narrative at the palace of the Obi of Onitsha, that appointments of service chiefs was based on merit, has introduced a novel dimension to executive falsehood and misinformation.
“Are we to believe that merit under the Buhari administration is specifically circumscribed by geopolitical considerations, such that only officers from a section qualify for such top level appointment on the scale of competence and merit?
“A Southern Director-General of the State Security Services was dropped to accommodate a Northern DG even when there was a window of opportunity to begin to assuage the South. Senior officers from the South were bypassed in the recent appointment of an acting Inspector-General of Police, IG.
“How come Buhari’s own merit and competence template only suits his proteges from his section of the country?
“The SMBLF notes that a president whose appointments do not reflect the ethno-religious diversity of the country, who deliberately privileges sections of the country in consideration for high office, is undeserving of popular votes in his quest to continue to serve in a position whose oath of office to be fair and just to all, he has so thoroughly abused,” they said.