Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari is not just the closest person to President Muhammadu Buhari, he is the only one in the present administration who served as Minister when the general first ruled the country as Military Head of State.
Gambari assumed office as Buhari’s Chief of Staff on May 13, 2020. A seasoned scholar, diplomat and administrator, he is Fulani, bears a Yoruba name and studied overseas. He is not in any way one of the noise making ethnic jingoists who go about polluting the polity.
However, there seems to be a disconnect somewhere. And this should bother the erudite professor of Political Science. All the paramilitary agencies in the country are headed by officers from the upper divide, the North.
This is a far cry from the balance in the appointment of Service Chiefs. Two are from the North, two from the South. The Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Air Staff are Southerners. The Army and Navy are commanded by Northerners. This is fair enough.
What appears to be the height of injustice is that in the appointment of Service Chiefs and Heads of the Paramilitary agencies, the South -East is the only Geo-political zone that is not represented. I am not sure Prof. Gambari has taken a critical look at this imbalance.
A break down of the leadership of the Paramilitary organisations shows that the North – Central, Gambari’s zone, is highly favoured, with four of the big jobs. The North-West has three while the remaining two are from the North -East.
Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu hails from the Nasarawa just like the Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Abubakar Audi. The Controller General of the Federal Fire Service, Liman Alhaji Ibrahim is from Niger State. Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Boboye Olayemi Oyeyemi is a Kwaran.
The North-West has Mohammed Babandede, from Jigawa as head of the Nigerian Immigration Service. Similar position has been reserved for Abdulrasheed Bawa, from Kebbi in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Haliru Nababa, from Sokoto in the Nigerian Correctional Service.
For the North-East, the Nigerian Customs Service is headed by retired soldier from Bauchi, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali. The National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency is under the leadership of Mohammed Buba Marwa, another ex-soldier.
To be fair to Gambari, some of the appointments were made before he became Chief of Staff in May 2020. And some of the appointments made in his time are awaiting confirmation by the Senate. Herein lies the opportunity to make amends.
The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) formerly known as the Prisons Service should be the place to work things out. Nababa can only assume duty formally, subject to confirmation by the Senate, in line with the provisions of the New Act which set up the NCoS in 2019.
It could help to douse tension if Nababa were given an appointment outside the NCoS. I am sure there are officers of South-East extraction still serving and who if properly assessed are also qualified to be so elevated. It is a Nigerian thing.
In 1976, following the assassination of Gen.Murtala Mohammed, Lt.Col Shehu Yar’adua was made Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters and promoted to the rank of Brigadier. It was to balance the equation since Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, from the South had assumed office as Head of State.
Nababa could be picked as an Ambassador just like the immediate past Service Chiefs. In that case he loses nothing. And it should be pointed out that Fidelis Oyakhilome became governor of Rivers State after someone was announced and dropped.
When Gen. Buhari assumed office in 1983, there was no Igbo military officer in his Supreme Military Council. It took some reminding to add Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe. The import here is that under Buhari certain decisions are reversible for good.
And I know that Gambari, the longest serving Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, former President of UNICEF, ex-United Nations Under Secretary General and Peace Envoy can also make peace at home by telling Mr. President that the South -East deserves attention. Now.
––Effiong, a Public Affairs analyst wrote in from Abuja.