Managing expectations is now the biggest challenge before our Change-advocating leaders, and in Niger, my home state, which the people see as a wasteland of governance, always quick to paint the picture of our underdevelopment and ranking it as worst in the federation, the atmosphere is already tensed, the people confused by the new Governor’s first move.
And this new move was the appointment of aides, with the most questioned being the appointment of Secretary to the State Government. Over the week, I received calls on the appointment, with all expressing fear of the pending, that the new sheriff isn’t going by the script, the formula that is our peculiar “quota system”.
Even though I’ve promised to give the new Governor a reasonable time to settle down, in his predecessor’s mud, it’s harmless to start a conversation around an allegation, by two of the callers, that the Governor seemed to have scrapped “fair representation” based on our zoning tradition. They asked, “Why would the SSG be from the same Local Government as the Governor?” One pondered, “Since the Governor is from Niger North, his deputy from Niger South, why won’t Niger East have that position?”
I pointed to the Chief of Staff as a representative of the Niger East in the administration, but they dismissed that as irrelevant, that his duties are more of running errands, and not actually performing key administrative functions. The Niger East senatorial district has become to Niger State, what the Igbos are to Nigeria now; a people to be consoled having lost out in certain political calculations. The consideration of Niger East for SSG, was the same in way Nigerians now expect an Igbo appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
And where one wishes to advocate merits in appointments of key advisers and cabinet members, certain reality stares one in the face; the Governor himself is a beneficiary of the zoning arrangement that the callers alleged he wanted to scrap, with the SSG seen as a proof. I don’t think he’d do that, on moral grounds. Competence and fair representation must prevail in the appointments.
Now is too early to have our unfortunate state divided along zonal lines. What we must do is allying to fix the mess of the previous government. The Governor has the power to manage the imminent grievances and crises, and thus, he owes the people this sole responsibility of not keeping them guessing and suspecting, in the dark. As much as the rotation of power frustrates adoption of merits as a criterion for appointments, we must not forget that there wouldn’t have been Governor Abubakar Sani Bello too without the the zoning formula.
Another appointment that has raised a concern and questions was that of Senior Special Assistant on Timekeeping and Schedule, which has been justified by the Chief Press Secretary, Dr. Ibraheem Dooba, as done to necessitate punctuality in the Governor’s tasks. Elsewhere, that responsibility too was criticized as needless duplication of the duty of one of the appointees, the Director-General of Protocols.
What may douse this brewing tension and project Governor Bello as the man for this tasking job is the appointment of his cabinet, now being eagerly awaited. That will be his actual litmus test, and the definer of his administration on which so much hope is already registered.
Nigeria state has impressive human capital, so the excuse of qualified indigenes not found in particular zone isn’t even likely, and I’m sure the “kingmakers” would not resort to such subterfuge.
However we seek to justify this, to advocate appointments by merits alone in an institutionally undefined country as ours is to be ignorant of the sedimentary nepotism upon which Nigeria is built!
We may get there when our institutions are revived, effectiveness made priority, and competitions no longer tribal or religious vocations. Every day I resist temptations to dismiss our federal character principles as absolutely retrogressive, witnessing how every government agency and parastatal is populated by the relatives of its head – Minister, Commissioner, Executive Director, Director-General, Chairman. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter