Governance Structure: ACF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Disagree on Obasanjo’s Position

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Olusegun Obasanjo

Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu, Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna

Nigeria’s major socio-political organisations, Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, have disagreed on former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s allegation of imbalance in the nation’s governance structure.

Reacting to the election of Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate president, Obasanjo had decried the imbalance in the governance structure of the country, saying President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is driving the country towards “disaster and instability”.

He expressed concern that Lawan, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad and Buhari came from what he called the core north.

He said giving the key positions in the country to a particular region did not reflect geographical diversity.

But while Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo backed the position of Obasanjo, the ACF faulted the former president.

ACF said Buhari should not be blamed for Nigerians’ decision to elect people from the North into offices.

Speaking on the group’s position on the issues raised by Obasanjo, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, expressed concern that the emergence of Lawan as Senate president and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as House of Representatives speaker would lead Nigeria into “elected dictatorship.”

“The fears Obasanjo raised are very real. In the midst of where Nigeria is today and the feelings on the land, to concentrate the three heads of government in the hands of core north and of the same religion, is like striking a match stick beside an opened keg of petrol.

“These people should be more sensitive to know that this will further promote the feeling of alienation by sections of the country. This illustrates the arrogance with which these things are being done. It is not healthy for the polity,” Odumakin told THISDAY in a telephone interview.

He said the nation’s “Nigerianity’’ is daily being destroyed by the parochial “we can do it and you can go to blazes attitude, adding that this is not how to build a nation.

“How can you now say you are celebrating June 12? You are not promoting an inclusive country. The South-east has nobody in all the top seven positions in the country. Not one! And you take all these key positions to the core north. I think Obasanjo is right.

“And the leadership of the country should be sensitive to all they are doing. When a country dies, it does not die suddenly. A country dies gradually. They are killing Nigeria gradually,” he added.

On the emergence of Gbajabiamila and Lawan, he stated that “now that we have a rubber stamp legislature, all we can say is that Nigerians are welcome to elected dictatorship. Now, all wrongs will be right as we now have a rubber stamp legislature that will just be like one of the state assemblies that are in the pocket of governors.”

Ohanaeze also said South-east had been shut out of Nigeria’s governance structure with the Tuesday’s election of presiding officers of the National Assembly.

President General of the organisation, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who spoke to THISDAY, said the zone was, however, not surprised with the latest development since it was not expecting anything different from the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of Buhari.

He applauded Obasanjo for his boldness in speaking out against the present structure where a zone, which is supposed to be the third leg upon which Nigeria stands, has been totally schemed out of power.

“It cannot be worse than this. We never expected anything different because the president is irredeemably clannish. It has never been heard that a president will decide to totally shut out a people from a nation’s governance structure,” he said.

He accused the president of lacking the capacity to form an all-inclusive government.

“With the ways things are, the three arms of government in the country are being led by people from the core north – the executive, legislature and the judiciary and yet we still pretend to be a nation.

“It’s expected that at the end of every election, the winner will embrace every part of the country as one whether they supported you or not. This is the reason why we took our own decision before the election because we expected nothing from this arrangement.

“Even when President Shehu Shagari lost election in Imo and Anambra states, he still appointed several Igbos to high positions. Out of 10 advisers, four were Igbos. I was part of that administration but what we see today is totally different and it is unfortunate,” he said.

But the Secretary General of ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, in an interview with THISDAY in Kaduna, said with the emergence of members of the APC as principal officers of the National Assembly, the ruling party should be in absolute control of its affairs to deliver on its promises to Nigerians.

Sani also faulted Obasanjo’s assertion that there is imbalance in the nation’s governance structure.

“As regards the complaint by the former President Obasanjo, I wish to observe that all the posts listed except that of acting Chief Justice of Nigeria are elected positions which cannot be tampered with by the president, considering democracy is majority rule.

“Is the former president expecting President Buhari to ignore the choices of the electorate? Or is he expecting the president to jettison the place of seniority in the judiciary in favour of political consideration? That would be unhelpful,“ Sani said.

According to him, “in multi-party democracy, there is the imperative for motivation through reward for hard work, albeit there are times when Danegeld theory of rewards for bad behaviour also comes into play. But this is very rare.”

He said it was to address such challenges that the constitution compelled the president to appoint at least a minister from each of the 36 states of the federation.

“This takes care of inclusion and promotion of sense of belonging among constituents that can be helped through affirmative actions applied for the disadvantaged whose circumstances of birth are not of their choice,“ he said.

Sani added that the emergence Lawan and Gbajabiamila has shown that APC is now in charge of its affairs, adding that some level of party supremacy has prevailed.

Besides, the PDP has recognised its place in the order of things in the current dispensation as a minority party, which is not expected to preside over the majority.

“This is good development in multi-party democracy. The electoral mandate has been given to the APC which would be accountable to the electorate while the opposition party should content itself with providing a viable opposition as alternative platform for Nigerians, since democracy without viable opposition is a sham.

“Now that the majority has had its way, Nigerians do not expect duplicity and perfidy, which characterised the immediate past dispensation.

“What we expect is for the leadership of both the executive and legislative arms of government to come together and unleash their synergy against collective challenges for the good of all,” he added.