Societies do have faces. They assume the physical features of the leadership class and the kind of productive activities that take place within. You can look at America, Japan, Britain, Russia, China, Israel, Botswana, Kenya and South-Africa and discern what true image they depict. When Nelson Mandela was alive, when you say Mandela what runs through the mind is a society of beautiful people; the same goes for Kenya and other countries mentioned above. Our country has a face, but it is a very ugly face. The face of tension and most times undue conflicts. Altercations arising from the nasty way we have chosen to do our things.
It is a popular saying that what you call your dog it what it will definitely bear. In the same way, it is our actions that have left us with an ugly face. Nigeria is a deeply plural country, made of sub-units viable enough to exist as sovereign nations. The responsibility this factor imposes is that the major challenge is to chisel the face of a beautiful nation out of what currently is a country. It is not a mean task. It is an assignment that requires focus and full dedication. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to understand what we have, its face and what we could do to improve on it and ultimately leave it with a very fine face. More than at any other time in the life of this country, the face of the country is that of just a section of the whole.
In the last four years it has been like the ‘The Northernization of Nigeria’. All commanding positions in nearly all facets of national life are in the hands of one contiguous unit in terms of ethnicity and religion. The president is from the North. The head of the national legislature has been from the North and a Muslim. Between 2015 to May, 2019, the Speaker, House of Representatives was a Northern Christian who got into power by default. It is common knowledge his party, All Progressives Congress (APC) never wanted him but he managed to sneak in from the backdoor. He has since been succeeded by another Muslim, this time from the South Western part of Nigeria.
The third arm in the triumvirate governance system we have, the judiciary, has for the last thirty-nine years been in the hands of Northerners. They have held the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria for all through that duration. For a greater part of 2015 to 2018 the position was still in the hands of Northerners. The South through Justice Walter Onnoghen of South-South extraction (minority) mounted the seat. The climb was not only full of drama, the tenure became remarkable for its brevity. The president of Northern extraction was very hesitant to give him a substantive position even the after the three months acting period had elapsed. It took the Vice President, a South Westerner who was ‘Acting President’ to move Justice Onnoghen from acting capacity to become the Chief of Justice of Nigeria.
Even then within months, the CJN became the subject of a hostile state investigation. To prove that this was so the President, a Northerner acting on a spurious ex parte order hurriedly obtained from a court, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), which is under the control of the Presidency. The setup that was able to humiliate and unlawfully oust (at least that is what the judgement from the Appeal Court said) a chief justice from office at such a quick pace, adds up to show the ugly face of Nigeria.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice between 2015 and 2019 covering the period in question was Bar. Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a northerner and a Muslim. Prosecuting officer, Aliyu Umar (SAN), a northerner and a Muslim; Chairman CCT, Danladi Umar, a northerner and a Muslim and Justice Umar Abdulahi, who headed the National Judicial Council, after the illegal suspension Justice Onnoghen, is also a northerner and a Muslim.
That was and is still is the configuration. Still on the judiciary, Justice Tanko Mohammed, who succeeded Onnoghen is a northerner and a Muslim. The new Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court is Mrs. Hadizatu Uwani Mustapha, a northerner and a Muslim. The president of the Court of Appeal is Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, a northerner and a Muslim. Justice Abdul Kafarati who is the current Chief Judge of the Federal High Court is a northerner and a Muslim.
Currently, the country’s security architecture is dominantly in the hands of the same people. The Chief of Army Staff is Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, the Comptroller-General of Customs is Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd). The Comptroller-General, Immigration Service is Muhammed Babandede. Ja’Afaru Ahmed is Controller-General of Nigerian Prison Service, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, is the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Yusuf Magaji Bichi is the Director General of the State Security Service; all northerners and Muslims too.
Before then the president had brought back Daura, a retired personnel of SSS to head the group. When he ran into stormy waters and was removed by the Vice President, his successor who hailed from Bayelsa State didn’t have the privilege of staying more than one month on that seat. We also found an aberration in the appointment into the Customs in which case, a retired military officer was dispatched to head a professional unit such as the Customs Service. The kitchen cabinet in the presidency is mainly of one stock, the same way over 80 per cent of strategic parastatals and agencies are in the hands of the same ethnic and religious group.
The truth is that every one of our leaders has tried to give our country an ugly face, but we have become uglier in the last four years. The tragedy of the situation is that no one is talking and demanding reversal like was the case against President Jonathan, who even was not this much sectional. Our bad habit has grown to the extent that major groups like the South-East and South-South are ignored totally in the scheme of things. On the surface, it might seem like no harm is being done, but the truth is that the soul of the union being eaten away. The earlier we realize this and address it, the better it will be for the country.