For the second time, the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu, the acting EFCC Chairman was dealt a lethal blow by the Bukola Abiku Mesujamba Saraki led senate. That was expected given the number of senators on the senate screening committee who are either on trial or being investigated by the EFCC.
The senate has the power, the right, and indeed the duty to reject a nominee offered by the president. The power of the senate to confirm ministers and heads of federal agencies is an important element in a presidential system of government based on separation of powers. The senate has a duty to pass on nominee’s character, ability, and general competence and to confirm only those nominees found to be qualified to assume the positions for which they are nominated.
Shouldn’t such important legislative oversight be led by a Senate president who is not a criminal? Who is not standing trial on fraud and forgery of declaration of assets? Whose character and competence are not in doubt? Who is law-abiding, respected, and held in high esteem? The assemblage of greedy, corrupt, and inept senators headed by the worst culprit of them all – Saraki – to lead the inquisition of Magu leads to tyrannical abuse of power. It’s where the law ends, and tyranny begins.
The Magu confirmation drama brings into the fore criteria for appointing persons into important and highly sensitive federal government positions. Historically, political appointments by the central government has been on ethnic and tribal lines. The system not only dehumanizes the excluded group, but it also leads to discrimination and conflict. Tribal and ethnic discrimination is responsible to a large extent for the dis-unification of Nigeria, corruption, mismanagement, and administrative ineptitude.
The British colonial masters flung together diverse ethnic, religious, and regional communities and named it Nigeria. The Brits exploited our differences and played Yorubas, Hausas, and Igbos against each other thus reinforced their control over us. Equally sad is the truth that our politicians have relied only on the support of their own ethnic communities, religions and religious groups to further entrench divisions inherited from the British. It is no surprise that many of President Buhari’s appointments to senior, sensitive and visible positions especially those in the national security and judicial positions, and federal agencies are from the north. The skewed composition and growing non-representative of important directors-general, deputies, managers, and the composition of federal agencies reflect complete northernization.
The rejection of Magu raises far-reaching important questions: Why is it that only Hausa-Fulanis have continuously being appointed as EFCC Chairmen? Section 2 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004 says the “Commission shall consist of the following members – (a) a chairman, who shall – (i) be the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Commission. (ii) be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent; and (iii) Possess not less than 15 years cognate experience.” Why only men from security or law enforcement or the police only are qualified to head the agency? What about other professionals with law and criminal justice background? What’s the rationale behind the requirements for the EFCC Chairman?
Since the inception of EFCC, no Yoruba or Igbo has been appointed as the Chairman of the anti-graft agency. Does it mean only Hausa-Fulanis possess the prescribed qualifications in the 2004 Act? Are there no Yorubas or Igbos in the security or law enforcement in the specified police rank that qualifies as EFCC boss? What special academic qualifications and special professional skills do the past Hausa-Fulanis who headed EFCC in the past and the current acting Chair possess that no Igbo or Yoruba has? So, the Yorubas or Igbos are unfit to hold such a high public office of EFCC Chairman because of the accident of their birth? Is all their fault of course. If any Igbo or Yoruba wanted to be considered for the position of EFCC Chairman, they should have chosen to be born into a different tribe. Those that were lucky enough to select which mother tongue they preferred, and it is only a matter of time before a federal plum appointment come to them purely because of their ethnicity.
Yorubas and Igbos feel cheated, dehumanized, and excluded. We expect Buhari’s “government of change” to forge an inclusive country. The Constitution should apply to every ethnic equally. Federal government appointments must balance the need to recognize individual merit with the need to redress ethnic injustice, politics forand must also be sen to be fair. President Buhari should halt the upolitics forethnic appointing EFCC Chairman to promote narrow tribal interests.
The present arrangement whereby only a particular ethnic takes the lion’s share of the prized positions is a recipe for a static, stunted, and failed nation. Tribalism, nepotism are all forms of corruption. It manifests in horrendous spectacles of bad leadership, governance, unbridled cases of corruption and nepotism, unabated accounts of inter-tribal conflicts, and chronic addition to political rebellions, general malaise in socioeconomic development and political stagnation are just but mere symptoms of the underlying principal illness: tribalism. No wonder, Nigeria since independence has failed to realize her aspirations and harvest the fruits of her independence – the plainest testimony to the resilience embedded in tribalism in our country.
The last 57 years of our independence have shown the dangers of tribalism and nepotism and underscore the importance of building a nation around ideas rather than clan identities. Our political leaders have often exploit tribal loyalty to advance personal gain, parochial interests, patronage, and cronyism. This is inimical to democratic advancement. It leads to absence of strong democratic institutions. For progress and advancement, and for the regional balance and integration, Mr. President, forget about Magu. There are millions of Yorubas and Igbos who are more qualified, more competent, and more capable than Magu to be the next EFCC Chairman.