‘The Paradox of Nepotism’ by Comr Kukuya Godwin Kala’a

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Discrimination is a terrible fate better imagined than experienced. A sip from the cup of injustice mutilates the heart and eternally colors the lens with which we view the world.

Just like the words palliative, social and physical distancing has come to be associated with the Covid-19, the Buhari administration has also been associated with the word nepotism. For the past 21 years, two Southern Christians and two Northern Muslims have occupied the seat of power.

Every single one of them has been accused of favoring his region or religion at the expense of others. Let’s face it, nobody likes injustice but the truth is that an average Nigerian does not have a problem with injustice, tribalism or discrimination so far as he/she is not the victim. In fact, if an act of injustice is done to further our interests; we Nigerians call it the favor of God: if not how do you explain the fact that you get a job when your brother is the permanent secretary while others better qualified are still lost in the desert of the labor market.

If you want to analyze nepotism, then you must have a comprehensive data rather than using isolated pieces of information. For example, under a Northern president (2015-2019) almost all the heads of the security agencies are from the North (NSA, NIA, DSS, Army, Air force, Police, Civil Defense, EFCC, NDLEA, Immigration, Customs, Prisons, and Minister of defense as well as Interior) of course with the exception of ICPC and the Chiefs of Naval and Defense staff who are Southerners.

But what the isolated piece of information did not reveal is that at the same period (2015-2019), almost all the heads of the financial agencies are Southerners (CBN, DG Budget, CAC, FIRS, PENCOM, NIPC, NSE, Auditor General, DMO, BPE, NSIA, Economic Adviser, Ministers Budget, Finance, as well as Trade & Investment) except for SEC, AMCON and the Accountant General of course. I kept wondering why there was so much uproar about the lopsided appointments in the security agencies but not a single word on the lopsidedness in the financial agencies.

The records are there for all to see. It is also strange that in the immediate past administration headed by a Southern president, almost all the heads of the financial agencies (PENCOM, BPE, BPP, NEXIM, BOI, AMCON, Budget office, NSIA, DMO, SEC, NSE, Accountant General, and Auditor General) were headed by Southerners with the exception of CBN who was appointed by Yar’adua and later replaced by a Southerner. In short, that of PENCOM was so bad that the 15 year work experience required to head the agency was reduced to 10 years just to pave the way for the chosen one.

The economy which was supposed to be coordinated by the vice president was hijacked and handed over to a coordinating minister of the economy. Was it that there was no single Northerner to head even one of the financial agencies at that time? I guess competence could not be compromised for geographical spread at that time – an argument no one is willing to accept now. All the freedom fighters now took a vow of silence then because they were not the victims of the ‘marginalization’ sorry nepotism at that time. They forget that any appointment you get is at the expense of other tribes, regions and religions.

Should we all support the present administration even though it is unfair? Of course not but that attitude of being an Idi Amin when your ally is in power and all of a sudden turn to Mandela when you lose out of the power game is what makes the paradox of nepotism interesting. I don’t mind if the next fellow is given the role if he is better qualified not just because of his ethno-religious or regional affiliation. Let’s be honest, nobody will be happy to be denied admission with a 250 score in JAMB for another with a mere 190. That’s not fair no matter the color of your glasses. But what if you are the one with the 190 score and you know that other applicants with higher scores have been denied admission because of you, will you relinquish the admission and sit for another JAMB because you believe in justice?

If your brother becomes the president of Nigeria and you happen to be unemployed, will you go for aptitude test and sit for exams just like every other Nigerian and accept your fate if you fail the exam or should an exception be made for you? The same pain you feel when marginalized is the same degree of pain others feel when they suffer the same fate. Anytime a Nigerian tells you that merit should be followed, he believes merit will favor him but when merit will not favor him he then switches to Federal Character.

In fact, when you have an opportunity to favor ‘your own’ and you want to be just and fair to all, it is ‘your own’ that will blackmail, ostracize and if possible excommunicate you psycho-emotionally till you become the perpetrator of injustice. As Donald L. Horowitz said “the educated in Nigeria is the worst peddler of tribalism.”

Recently, Osita Chidoka and Afenifere are requesting the senate to reject nominations of the Chairperson of the Federal Character Commission because she happen to be from the same region – although different geopolitical zone – with the Secretary of the FCC /. But what they forgot (refused) to mention is that under this same Buhari administration, the Executive Secretary & Board Chair of some agencies happen to both from the South: The Managing Director of the Nigeria Sovereign Wealth Investment Authority (NSIA) is Uche Orji and the Board Chair is Olajide Zeitlin are both Southerners – this is an agency responsible for managing billions of dollars of Nigeria investments. The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) is also headed by Adebayo K. Somefun and chaired by Prince Austin Enajemo-Isire, both Southerners.

The National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) is chaired by Alh. Fatai Ibikunle while Lanre Gbajabiamila is the DG, whom are both Southerners. These Idi Amins in Mandela clothing did not tell Buhari to rescind those appointments for violating the Constitution or Federal Character principle (because it favored people from their region). Even under previous administrations, Late Prof. Dora Akunyili and Dr. Andem Nyong as DG and Chair of NAFDAC were both from the South, so was Osita Chidoka and Mr. Felix Chukwu of Road Safety, as well as Chris Onyemenam (DG) and Uche Secondus (Board Chair) of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) while Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and Dr. Musa Babayo as ES and Chair of TETFUND were both from the North.

Dr. Emmanuel Afolabi Thompson and Chief R. O. Egbule of Salaries and Wages Commission were both Southerners. The question is did Late Akunyili and Dr. Nyong connive to push expired drugs to the North because they were both Southerners? Did Onyemenam and Secondus in NIMC only enrolled Southerners in the National Identity Card Scheme? Did Chidoka and Felix Chukwu conspire to only impound vehicles of Northerners and let Southerners go free upon committing the same traffic offense? Did Prof. Yakubu and Dr. Babayo only fund Northern tertiary institutions? Or did Dr. Thompson and Chief Egbule only worked on the salaries and wages of Southerners? Why then should beneficiaries of appointment based on ‘competence’ with no one querying their regional or ethnic attachments all of a sudden become ethnic and regional champions? A man’s region, ethnicity and religion should not be the only features that qualify him for a job but at the same time, those factors should not disqualify him either.

Another isolated piece of information they fail to include in the narrative is that Nigeria is no longer a 3 region state (Eastern, Northern and Western) like in the early post-colonial period. Nigeria now exists as a six geo-political entity. And unlike the South West and South East which are predominantly mono-ethnic, the North (especially North East and North Central) has diverse ethnic groups. This cultural and ethnic diversity in the North makes it very difficult for some from the South (especially those that have never travelled the length and breadth of the country) to understand why every tribe in those regions wants to be represented.

In Nigeria, a man from the South East will not be satisfied if an Igbo man from Delta state (South South) fills his quota neither will a Yoruba woman from Kogi or Kwara (North Central) accept a Yoruba from the South West as her representative. Thus, a Hausa man from Niger (North Central) will also not accept another Hausa man from Sokoto (North West) to fill up his quota – mind you neither will a Nupe man from the same Niger state. So, I don’t understand the rationale of saying North is North. Will it be right to also say South is South irrespective of which zone or tribe? If a Northerner is appointed, disaggregate it down to his/her geo-political zone and tribe like you will any Southerner appointee; categorizing all Northern appointees as one North while disaggregating the Southern appointees down to zones, ethnicity and even religious affiliation is double standard. If every Northern appointee covers for the entire North then any appointee from South South, South East or South West should also cover for the entire Southern region. Use the same scale of measurement.

The underlying zeitgeist is that injustice is acceptable if it favors me at someone’s expense but not acceptable if and when it favors another at my own expense. This social pathology has permeated our entire socio-cultural philosophy. If someone we dislike is accused of corruption, he is guilty until proven innocent but if it’s somebody we like, she is innocent until proven guilty. In fact, we even come up with the popular saying: na only her do am? How hypocritical! If it’s any consolation, it manifested in the United States when Brett Kavanaugh nominated by a Republican president to be a Supreme Court justice was accused of sexual assault in 2018 (for something that was alleged to have happened in 1982) by Christine Blasey Ford, all the democrats in the American Senate (47) at that time believed the accuser and voted against his nomination. Fast forward almost two years later; Joe Biden (Democratic presidential nominee) is accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade (also for a crime alleged to have been committed in 1993). Almost all those 47 democratic senators now took a vow of silence like those Nigerians now shouting marginalization while behaving like silent Monks in the past administration. Is the law no longer blind and objective to all? Why is injustice permissible only when it benefits us and unacceptable when it goes against our interests? I believe in the rule of law even though it might not favor me sometimes.

Rule of law means if you are a policeman and someone kills your friend in your presence, you should arrest the accused (remember he/she is innocent until proven guilty) and charge him/her to court and be willing to accept the outcome even if he/she is found innocent. Likewise do the same if your friend happens to be the killer. The Law knows no sentiment and emotion –although judges and lawyers may have sentiments, but not the law. But in Nigeria, we want the law to be white if it favors us and then turn grey when it doesn’t.

In Nov. 2017, Pope Francis visited Myanmar to speak and intercede for the persecuted Muslim (Rohingya) minority. Is the Pope a Muslim from Myanmar? The truest test of a man’s character is how he treats people that suffer injustice even though not doing so will cost him nothing. Nobody will turn a blind eye and become deaf and dumb tomorrow when the Pope also fights for injustice against Catholics or Christians. Why? Because when people that don’t share his faith and credo were persecuted, he genuinely spoke out (not for any political or financial benefit).Injustice is injustice no matter your lineage, gender, race or status. It is easy to be a Martin Luther King Jr. when your tribe, race or religion suffers injustice. But to become a Dr. King when you are not victims of the injustice is a higher calling.

Every state is represented on the Federal Character board so I don’t understand how someone will be short changed. Maybe the likes of Chidoka are worried that some states will be favored above others just like they did in the Road Safety Corp. I am challenging Chidoka to publish the list of employment year by year throughout his stay as Co-Marshal and if Yobe, Jigawa and Ekiti states have more employees than his Anambra, I will then pick a placard and join him in protest for being an unbiased, honest and detribalized fellow fighting for a just and fair Nigeria.

Afenifere leaders who were conspicuously silent when the Constitution and Federal Character principle was violated in the appointment of the Director General and Board chair of National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), the Executive Secretary and Board Chair of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and that of the Managing Director and Board Chair of Nigeria Sovereign Wealth Investment Authority (NSIA) have also joined the debate on the Federal Character Commission nomination.

The funny thing is that out of all the nominees for the board of the Federal Character Commission, it is only one state (Abia) out of the 38 nominees that openly rejected the nominee from their state of course it was later rescinded. This is even the same tribe and the same religion. Also, some months ago, the Cross River state house of assembly rejected the appointment of Akon Ikpeme as substantive chief judge of the state — because she is from Akwa Ibom (next door neighbor in the same zone), even though she is married to a Cross River man. This was the same Cross River that screamed and shouted injustice, islamization etc. when Justice Walter Onnoghen was not sworn in as substantive CJN by president Buhari – I thought they genuinely believed in justice and fairness. To paraphrase Dike Chukwumerije, they demanded equality when they felt cheated but later championed ethnicity since they are no longer the victims. If you can reject your own, it’s normal to reject others that you don’t see as your own. I thought it was political till I learnt that the perpetual agitators of marginalization have rejected the Pope’s nominee for Bishop of a diocese for reasons best known to them. Since the Bishop in question is an indigene of Anambra nominated to serve in Imo diocese, I guess the Pope also violated the Federal Character principle. I can understand the rejection of a political nominee maybe as a result of political, ethnic or religious differences but to reject the nominee of the Papacy with all its regalia and paraphernalia reveals a lot that deserves micro scrutiny. Mind you the Papal nominee is the same tribe, same religion and same Church with those rejecting him. If the appointment of the Vicar of Christ on earth could be challenged and rejected, then PMB should take solace in the fact that he is but human.

The fact that you like the president does not mean every action he takes is right. The fact that you dislike him does not mean everything he does is also wrong. He is equally loved by others with the same passion you loathe him – and there is nothing you can do about that. Do we then support the president if he does wrong just because the people shouting injustice now have been beneficiaries or perpetrators of nepotism in the past? NO! I believe the president should be just and fair to all Nigerians irrespective of creed and affiliations. He must live up to the word he spoke on the 29th of May, 2015 that he belongs to everybody and he belongs to nobody. It is the strategy of always turning a blind eye or taking the vow of silence when the Constitution or Federal Character principle is violated in your favor and suddenly wearing Gandhi’s cloak when same is done to favor another that makes the paradox of nepotism funny.

They are just like the fox that wanted the monkey expelled for having a tail but when reminded of having a tail as well, the fox responded that mine is shorter. This is also like a man pretending to be asleep when his neighbor’s house was on fire but now wants the entire village to be awake because his own house is aflame. In the political game, things will not always go your way and you don’t have to resurrect Richard the Lion Heart or Saladin each time events don’t favor you so as to start, another Crusade, Jihad or ethnic war. No one will succeed in an endeavor – be it business or politics – peddling tribal or regional sentiments. Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, and Innocent Chukwuma will never have succeeded if only people of their tribe or region buy their products (cement, telecom service & vehicle). One will never succeed with a very narrow social circle. PMB tried three times and three times he failed until he expanded his socio-political circle beyond tribe and region. The words of Thomas Aquinas come handy that ‘To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. But to one without faith, no explanation is possible’.

Comr. Kukuya Godwin Kala’a
Public affairs analyst and social commentator wrote from Yola, Adamawa State.

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