In the interest of righteousness

By Muyiwa Adetiba

I know Dr Junaid Mohammed; maybe not very well, but enough. Apart from what I had read about him over the years, our paths crossed a couple of times in the heady days of the Second Republic. Late Senator Mahmud Waziri’s Louis Solomon Street apartment in Victoria Island was one of the places top military and government officials often met after the then NTA network news to discuss national issues.

NNPC
NNPC

He and I were occasional visitors to the apartment. He was young, passionate and intelligent. But I suspect many of the regulars took him in small doses because of his somewhat controversial views and his inclination towards the dramatic.

He is a medical doctor with a socialist bent who has stayed true to his vocation as a social critic. And the fact that he has endured shows that he has not been seriously compromised and pocketed along the line.

It is easy to dismiss the likes of Junaid Mohammed as alarmists and attention seekers. But you do that at your peril. Their loud and sometimes exaggerated voices usually carry chunks of truths that resonate with the silent majority. More importantly, their words become veritable seeds that germinate and grow to eventually shape public opinions and perceptions.

In the past couple of weeks, he has been loud in his critique of the President’s appointment of key staff in Aso Rock. And he has, to the best of my knowledge, been just as loudly ignored. But the weight of his criticism is such that it cannot be easily swept aside. We had all noticed—and worried over—the ethnic hue in the President’s first rush of appointments especially of those who were going to surround him in Aso Rock and form the core of his kitchen cabinet.

But what we didn’t know, and what Dr Mohammed has now told us, is that they are largely made up of his kith and kin. This accusation if true, is nepotism; pure and simple. It makes the fight against corruption which is one of the most visible acts of this government irrelevant at best and hypocritical at worst because nepotism is in itself, a variant of corruption. It is in the interest of righteousness, morality and the very fight against corruption, that someone should come out and clear the air.

Someone should tell us that Dr Mohammed is peddling false rumours and that the President we voted massively for has not surrounded himself with nephews, nieces and cousins. We should also be told that these cousins and nephews are not doing business with the same company that allegedly helped Diezani Madueke siphon money out of the country.

We have also been told that heads of the major security organisations in the country are of a particular sectional and religious persuasion. Nobody has told us why this is so except being told that the President is under no constitutional obligation to have an inclusive spread.

Given this background, there was no need to have compounded the situation by replacing the out-going Inspector General of Police with a Northern one especially since nobody has told us that he is so exceptional that he had to be elevated over and above 20 officers. And because of these worries, every appointment the President now makes goes through closer scrutiny. This is unnecessary and unhelpful. Unfortunately, almost every cluster of appointments— like the recent appointment of 17 heads of the nation’s educational bodies—fails the ethnic and religious test.

You can argue that what the nation needs are competent hands irrespective of where they come from and be correct. You can argue that the 13 or 14—depending on who is counting—years of Southern Christian presidency did not have any lasting positive effects on the country, the South and Christians and be equally correct. You can argue that the bygone years when appointments were skewed in favour of the North has not raised its standards above that of its Southern counterpart and still be correct.

In other words, all the Federal Ministers can come from Daura and it still would not make Daura a better town in ten year’s time. We can therefore all be consoled that appointments that are not motivated by competence and altruism are in vain and of no lasting benefit. But it is a small comfort because our country has been held down all these years by appointments that do not reflect the depth of talents and skills that this nation possesses; what I call the appointments of small men into big offices. Besides, it is worrisome and dangerous when parochial and primordial sentiments influence major appointments. Worrisome because a parochial mind is an insecure mind; an insecure mind is a closed mind; and a closed mind cannot attract and energise the variety of talents needed for the greater good. As they say, only the deep can call to the deep. Only an open and expansive mind can attract open and expansive people. God knows we need open and expansive people in our country today. Minds that can see beyond tribe and religion and realise that these twin evils will only lead to strife and war. Minds that will not accentuate the divisions among us or deepen the cleavages in our body politics but can see the strength and beauty in our diversity. Minds that think unity, promote unity and act unity.

Besides, it is worrisome and dangerous when parochial and primordial sentiments influence major appointments. Worrisome because a parochial mind is an insecure mind; an insecure mind is a closed mind; and a closed mind cannot attract and energise the variety of talents needed for the greater good. As they say, only the deep can call to the deep. Only an open and expansive mind can attract open and expansive people. God knows we need open and expansive people in our country today. Minds that can see beyond tribe and religion and realise that these twin evils will only lead to strife and war. Minds that will not accentuate the divisions among us or deepen the cleavages in our body politics but can see the strength and beauty in our diversity. Minds that think unity, promote unity and act unity.

God knows we need open and expansive people in our country today. Minds that can see beyond tribe and religion and realise that these twin evils will only lead to strife and war. Minds that will not accentuate the divisions among us or deepen the cleavages in our body politics but can see the strength and beauty in our diversity. Minds that think unity, promote unity and act unity.

Our President must begin to show that he is willing to look for and lead such minds. He must be willing to cast his net far and deep, beyond his familiar turf of tribe, religion and even party. He must eschew sectionalism in words and actions. His recent directive for example, that NNPC should speed up oil exploration in the North is confusing. On one hand you are telling us it is time we moved away from oil. On the other hand you are committing scarce resources to its speculation. There are many things that the money can do for the country and for the North that will aid our quest for diversification. Besides, why not let NNPC follow its own professional priorities and time-table? Is it because it is the North? Or is there more to this directive than meets the eye? Like a reaction to the agitations and activities in the Niger-Delta region for example; or a reaction to the new clamour for restructuring? It would be unfortunate if this was so. Nigeria and indeed the North have more potential assets outside oil.

On the other hand you are committing scarce resources to its speculation. There are many things that the money can do for the country and for the North that will aid our quest for diversification. Besides, why not let NNPC follow its own professional priorities and time-table? Is it because it is the North? Or is there more to this directive than meets the eye? Like a reaction to the agitations and activities in the Niger-Delta region for example; or a reaction to the new clamour for restructuring? It would be unfortunate if this was so. Nigeria and indeed the North have more potential assets outside oil.

President Buhari has to remove the turban of clannishness that he seems to have wrapped his head with and cast his net wide in future appointments. He should address the cries for marginalisation from the South-East and South-South. We will remember President Obasanjo for many things. Very, very few will remember him as a clannish or sectional leader. President Buhari can still write his own epitaph.

In the interest of righteousness on Vanguard News.

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