Much has been said about Nigeria’s ability, or lack thereof, to harmonize the composite fragments of ethnic groups which make up the tragic experiment conducted by Sir Frederick Lugard a hundred and seven years ago.
Being a multi-ethnic country with over 300 tribes spread across 923,768 km², Nigeria, for the better part of its existence has been bedeviled by the intractable conundrum of devising a formula which would embrace all the fragmented ethnicities represented in Africa’s most populous nation.
Over the years, it has become commonplace to hear popular axioms like “One Nigeria” or “Unity in Diversity” as an euphemism to gloss Nigeria’s perennial problem of ethnic jingoism which has wreaked unthinkable havoc on Nigeria’s collective existence.
Successive administrations have ridden on the wheels of Nigeria’s ethnic division to articulate lofty aspirations of producing just the right formula to harmonize the fragmented ethnicities that make up the Nigerian State; in-as-much-as the reality of today serves as sufficient evidence to substantiate the gross failure on the part of these governments to address this problem.
Of course, it would doubtlessly be an unfair proposition for one to lodge Nigeria’s crisis of ethnic intolerance on the political leadership of the country since much of the needed unity will spring forth from the texture of the inter-tribal/intercultural relations between the tribal and cultural segments represented in the country; but then, one still expects the leadership to set the tone vis-a-vis what is expected from the general citizenry.
Between 2009 to 2015, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, through very special circumstances and an inexplicable quirk of fate held the reins of Nigeria’s apex seat of power, having replaced the late Musa Yar’Adua whose ailing health and subsequent death saw his highly promising tenure cut short. During his six years in office, Jonathan’s administration was aggressively criticized for widespread corruption among public functionaries who served under the aegis of the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, there was also a general feeling among southern Nigerians that the endless flak which trailed the Bayelsa-born politician’s government was merely ethnic fumings borne out of the ‘born to rule’ mandate which was not appreciative of having the minority pilot the affairs of the nation. Suffice it to say that the hues and cries from several quarters of the society had created an impossible situation for Goodluck Jonathan’s government which was at a loss with regard to how to balance the scales of ethnic paranoia within the country.
Consequently, the former Bayelsa State Deputy Governor opted to quell tensions in the north through various developmental projects, particularly the erection of Almajiri schools as a means of proving that the government of the day would not leave any region in the country fallow on the premise of ethnic affiliations. But even this would prove inadequate as certain northerners were not particularly interested in his administration’s benevolence, neither did his Southern brothers appreciate the fact that the President had abandoned his own people only to concentrate developmental projects in the north.
As stated earlier, it was an impossible situation at best, and Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidency ended after a re-election bid in 2015 failed.
The mantra that ushered in the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government was one which promised “change”, but not many would have predicted that this promised change would begin with the President boldly stating that those who did not vote him into office should not expect the same level of treatment as those whose votes brought him into office. The President had from the outset drawn a battle-line against the regional segments who were not in support of his election; and if anybody had any doubts about his intention of living up to his word, the events of the past six years have boldly underlined his resolve towards shutting out his political traducers. Whether this constitutes tribal or nepotistic connotations will be left for the political experts.
One of the highlights of the 2020 Yuletide season through the first few weeks of 2021 was a Christmas message by Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, a Catholic Priest who alleged that Nigeria could have been tethering on the brinks of a coup d’etat if a Southerner had ruled with the President’s nepotistic style of governance. This statement of fact, which stirred the hornet’s nest to say the least, had been laced with a benign undertone, one which the Presidency has failed to heed in the light of recent events.
On Monday, February 15, 2021, a report, as published by The People’s Gazette went viral across various media spaces, with claims that the President had appointed his 29 year old Special Adviser on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, into top management position in the Department of Petroleum resources, a move geared towards rewarding the aide’s loyalty beyond 2023.
Following the publication of this widely contentious article, the President’s media aide had come out to label the publication as fictitious and lacking any merit, but before anyone could be left in doubt as to the veracity of the publication, the gazette published details of Mr. Bashir’s appointment, confirming what many had feared to be true.
As earlier reported by EKO HOT BLOG, the Gazette uncovered Mr. Ahmad’s questionable employment days after exclusively reporting how Mr. Buhari gifted his unqualified nephew, Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf, the position of an assistant director at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Mr. Yusuf, as with Mr. Ahmad, was admitted into the NIA management position even as he lacked requisite experience for the role, raising further questions about Mr. Buhari’s nepotism.
The president has been consistent in his rejection of allegations of ethnic and tribal sentiments in federal appointments, although a clear pattern of sectionalism has since emerged that analysts said will sufficiently define his legacy.
Utterly bereft of both field and administrative experience in the petroleum sector, Mr. Ahmad, a former Hausa language reporter whose employment record hovers around the media, will manage the NPMS — established in 2019 to monitor Nigeria’s crude oil production from the various oil terminals, while tracking the movement of oil export and import vessels.
Few days after Bashir’s appointment had come to light, Gambo Manzo, Abubakar Barde and Abba Dansarari, who are currently serving as aides to the president on political affairs and social investment programmes at the State House, also received new jobs at the DPR, where they will be expected to earn jumbo salaries and allowances and influence lucrative contract awards for themselves.
Jamil Sadauki, a youth leader in the APC, also got a position at the DPR at the same time as other aides of the president, multiple sources told the Gazette, all within a flurry of lopsided appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari in recent memory.
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While giving his famous “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the hallowed Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, erst-while American activist, had said that he dreamed of living in a nation where his children would be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. This truth, which we hold to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, does not just find expression within the context of Black America’s subjugation in racial discrimination, but also the tribal discrimination which has almost damaged the fabric of Nigeria’s collective existence.
Ultimately, there is the critical need for this Presidency to shine the torch of tribal tolerance and inclusion, as failure to do so will hurl the final nail into the coffin to be haboured by this “One Nigeria” which has become a metaphorical graveyard upon which the dreams of many a Nigerian has been buried beneath earth’s crust.