How conversation over Buhari’s appointees highlights Ekwueme’s legacy

by Alexander O. Onukwue

It is an article of faith that, in the Nigerian democratic environment, every matter takes on ethnic and regional sentiments. Appointments into government positions are basically screened by most persons with the lens of the appointee’s place of origin first before issues of competency are brought forward.

In his two years as Commander-in-Chief, President Buhari’s appointments have raised many eyebrows in different parts of the country in particular, with many observing that the President has largely given much preference to his people. From the evidence now available, that accusation does not stand up much.  With the graphic from Femi Adesina dividing the appointments into states and geopolitical zones, the “North” does not appear to be overly favoured above the South.

Curiously, this matter of geopolitical zone representation in the President’s cabinet comes up at a time when the architect of the geo-political zone structure has been in the news too. Dr Alex Ekwueme, the Second Republic’s Vice President of Nigeria, was reported to have suffered a coma in the past week. The Presidency issued an approval for him to be flown abroad for treatment, generating intense negative reaction about the need to announce it as though it were a gesture of favour. (Ekwueme’s daughter is also, at this time, the Deputy Governorship candidate of the PDP in the upcoming gubernatorial polls in Anambra state in less than a fortnight).

The heavy reliance on using geopolitical zoning to settle or demarcate many matters in Nigeria today appears standard and taken for granted, not reflecting the fact that it was a proposal that made Ekwueme appear to be an enemy at the time he offered it two decades ago. As Simon Kolawole recounts in a recent piece, “In 1995, he proposed the six geopolitical zone which Nigerians now hold dearly as a commandment for God… Ekwueme’s idea of geopolitical zoning represents a layer of nationhood that is largely acceptable even among agitators in today’s Nigeria. We owe Ekwueme some kola nuts for that”. This was only one of the suggestions of the multi-educated statesman, others being the creation of six Vice Presidents and single-term tenure for Executive positions.

It is, perhaps, only coincidental that these events – the national attention to Ekwueme due to ill-health and the issues of appointments – are happening at this time. On the other hand, it may be a reminder to Nigerians that reforms do not just fall from trees or somehow develop out of the blue. The suggestions that move a country forward are put forward by people who put the country’s interest first.

Does Nigeria still have such persons today? Mr Kolawole thinks the factory which produces his breed has been shut down.

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