The appeal by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo to President Muhammedu Buhari on the recent reorganisation at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should be taken more as another wake-up call for the administration on the necessity for fairness and equity in a federal state. According to Ohanaeze President-General, Chief John Nwodo, the appointments of managers in the NNPC, as made public by the organisation, clearly favoured the North with the South-East totally ignored. Nwodo added that this has been a consistent trend since Buhari assumed power.
However, in debunking the claims of Ohanaeze, the NNPC argued that the appointments, when examined in totality, actually cut across all the six geopolitical zones in the country. “There are 55 officials affected in the shake-up; but they (Ohanaeze) based their reaction on the statement that we released earlier, where we had only a few names. They (Ohanaeze) should have called for the full list”, said Udu Ughamadu, NNPC Group General Manager, Public Affairs.
While it is comforting to know that the NNPC management is not discriminating against any section of the country, it is also important to put in context the misgivings of Ohanaeze which can be located in the disposition of the current administration. Aside the need for inclusiveness in a plural society such as ours, equity in appointments also helps to bridge the feeling of marginalisation. Yet statutory government appointments as well as the distribution of federally-funded physical and social infrastructure projects clearly suggest, even to casual observers, that the Southeast is not much in reckoning under the Buhari administration.
That essentially is the rationale for the statement by Nwodo, even if the current appointments and promotions in NNPC might not be as sectional as they are being made to look. “This brazen disregard, marginalisation and non-compliance with the federal character provisions in our constitution are the causes of lack of confidence which our youths have opposed in our present governance structure. As long as President Buhari continues to live out his speech abroad that his government will favour those who voted 97 per cent for him against those who voted five per cent for him, so long will the dissatisfaction and unrest in our polity subsist”, said Nwodo.
Notwithstanding the explanation by the NNPC for the management postings, we must reiterate that the beauty of participatory democracy lies in creating equal opportunities, especially in a society as diverse as ours. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that the current administration is mindful of that diversity and the imperative of building an inclusive society. That accounts for most of the tension in the polity.
Given the foregoing, listing a few names that are mostly from a section of the country and presenting them to the public as those appointed and promoted in such a critical institution was bad judgement on the part of the NNPC. It should have been obvious to the discerning that any lopsided appointments or a perception of such in the NNPC would acquire added significance because the Petroleum Ministry has the distinction of sharing the same leadership with the country.
The mode of thinking that would throw up the kind of appointments announced by the NNPC—even when we accept the excuse that it is not a complete list—is squarely responsible for the upsurge of separatist pressure, hate speech and other divisive trends in the polity. It was a needless controversy that could have been avoided if some officials had taken into account public sensibilities.
Going forward, there must be an appreciation that the real challenge confronting the nation is how to evolve a leadership culture that underlines equity, merit and that sees the nation as the diverse whole which it is. Therefore, the best way for President Buhari to convince the nation that he sincerely wants to lead a united nation is for him, and those to whom he has delegated powers and responsibilities, to be mindful of those nuances, in the distribution of opportunities.
The mode of thinking that would throw up the kind of appointments announced by the NNPC—even when we accept the excuse that it is not a complete list—is squarely responsible for the upsurge of separatist pressure, hate speech and other divisive trends in the polity