By Farooq Kperogi
In August 2015, when I first publicly voiced out my disapproval of what I called the embarrassingly undisguised Arewacentricity of Buhari’s appointments, a few people, mostly southerners, asked why I was bothered since I’m a northern Muslim who is “favored” by such appointments—“favored,” that is, on the emotional and symbolic plane. I was—and still am—bothered for at least four reasons.
One, I criticized similar such parochial appointments by previous presidents from the South. It would be hypocritical to look the other way because I’m now “favored” by such appointments. (Yes, I have more friends and acquaintances in powerful positions in this government than I’ve ever had since 1999). Two, Buhari came to power on the promise of “change,” on the promise of doing things differently. Three, people from my region and religion won’t always be in power. I want to be able to stand on a firm moral pedestal when I criticize future presidents who replicate Buhari’s (and previous presidents’) provincialism.
Four, and most important, I am personally embarrassed by Buhari’s insularity—and every progressive northerner should be. It’s the sort of embarrassment you feel when your best friend who thinks highly of your mother visits you in your home and your mother, during a family dinner, gives you a considerably bigger food portion size and choicer pieces of meat than your friend. You feel like screaming: “Mom, I know you love me, but you’re embarrassing me by showing overt preferential treatment to me in the presence of my friend.”
That’s precisely how the appointment of yet another northern Muslim Inspector General of Police has made me feel. Can’t Buhari even pretend for a moment and pleasantly disappoint his critics by appointing someone from the South as IGP? A northern Muslim DSS boss was fired by VP Osinbajo and the most senior office after him, who turned out to be a southern Christian, was asked to replace him. Instead of confirming his appointment, Buhari, upon his return from London, brought another old northern Muslim from retirement (yes, he was tired, retired, and enjoying the reticence of retirement) and made him the DSS boss without ever interviewing him for the job!
Buhari’s self-defense for his provincial appointments is that he needs to appoint only people he can trust. If after working for more than two decades in the Nigerian military, far and away Nigeria’s most ecumenical institution, he can’t trust anyone outside his cultural, regional, and religious comfort zone, HE IS the problem, not the people he distrusts. By the way, why does he hanker after the votes of people he doesn’t and can’t trust but whines about getting “only 5 percent” from them when they don’t vote for him? That’s unreasonable. You don’t trust a people to appoint them to “sensitive positions”? Then don’t ask for their votes–and don’t whine when they don’t vote for you.