Surajo Jagaba and James Bawa
The evil which the principle of federal character has been in the country is easily gleaned in our chequered history.It is one of the key factors that keep coasting us from brink to brink.
To implement the principle, any time we are making appointments, we undermine merit and allow religious, ethnic or regional sentiments cloud our judgements. This has been a gigantic impediment to the development we have been perennially clamouring for.
In the last general elections, Nigerians massively voted for the All Progressives Congress (APC) because of its promise of change. And now we mostly have APC leaders in both federal and state levels. Nigerians’ chief expectation now is the institutionalisation of the change; and as we institutionalise it, to some extents, the principle must be weeded out, having understood the evil that it has been. But let’s rest the topic for another day.
Since the governor of Niger state, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, appointed Alhaji Shehu Umar Danyaya, after widely consulting with members of his party, as the state’s Secretary to the State Government (SSG), tongues have been vituperatively wagging as to why he did not appoint someone from Niger East to the position.
The crux of their inglorious attacks is that, since the governor is from Niger North and his deputy is from Niger South, the SSG should come from Niger East.
Chief among the critics is Senator David Umaru, the Senator representing Niger East. He has been granting interviews and holding press conferences to condemn and attack the governor over the appointment.
For the fact that I am also from Niger East, I should have gleefully joined the critics in splashing venoms on the governor or at least rejoice at our dear senator’s positions, but I am the type that doesn’t care about who occupies what position, so long as development will judiciously spread to everybody, including my people.
Insisting that somebody from our tribe or our area must occupy a particular position before we feel a sense of belonging or attain development, as Senator Umaru was quoted in Leadership newspaper of July 22, 2015 and elsewhere as saying, isn’t in tandem with the all-inclusive development the country is looking up to in the next few years with the recently inaugurated ‘concept’ of change. Reducing ‘sense of belonging’ and development to mere and ephemeral political appointments as the senator want us to do in Niger is, to me and to every sensible logic, uncivilised, trivial and reeks of the status quo we want to take flight from.
Come to think of it, what did the mass of our people benefit when such appointments were given to us in the past? To be specific, when Daniel Shashere, Adams Erena and Ibarhim Aliyu, who are from our senatorial district, were SSGs, what did they do to improve our lives?
While it is understandable that Senator Umaru is only trying to fight for us a ‘sense of belonging’, it will be apt he does it in conformity with the realities of the day and with a re-education that things are no longer business as usual in the country, when appointments were done without taking stock of merit.
In this case, if the governor, whom for now we should all give the benefit of doubt, thought that Danyaya’s appointment as SSG is veritable for him towards achieving his visions for the state, then it is meaningless and trivial for anyone to think that he should have taken somebody from another zone. I felt ashamed to find out that our highly reputable senator Umaru too could join that risible bandwagon.
Before launching his signature attacks, first, the senator should have considered the fact that the offices of the SSG, the Chief of Staff and Chief Press Secretary are not political like advisers and commissioners, hence the prerogative of the governor to appoint credible people into them.
Secondly, he should have as well weighed the fact that this is not the first time in Niger state that the SSG and the governor would come from the same senatorial district.
When Alhaji Awwal Ibrahim was governor, his SSG, Ibrahim Aliyu, was from the same senatorial district with him and nobody’s ox was gored.
In more recent past, during Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, at a time Daniel Shashere was the SSG; Shashere and Aliyu are from the same zone and whose ox was as well gored?
Also, during Kure’s administration, the deputy governor, Dr. Shem Zagbayi Nuhu and the two people that occupied the SSG’s position one after the other — Dr. Shem Zagbayi Nuhu and Comrade Adams Erena were all from the same zone; whose ox was consequently gored when zone C was left out in the three key positions in the state?
I expected those who are now accusing governor Sani Bello of appointing SSG from his “backyard” to throw the sort of punches they are throwing now on the last administration when governor Babangida Aliyu’s younger brother, Mohammed Aliyu, who is popularly known as Ciroma, was holding sway as the de facto ruler of the state. In fact, it got to a time when even Aliyu’s decision wouldn’t sail through without passing Ciroma’s litmus test.
What Senator Umaru and his cohorts should have preoccupied themselves with now is giving the SSG a ground to prove what he is made of. After sometime, if it’s gleaned that he is not capable of achieving what he’s been brought to achieve, they could call for his head or the governor’s head. That is how it’s being done in civilised climes.
Again, the senator should have waited for the full constitution of the governor’s cabinet to see whether or not our constituents are marginalised before starting to bark. His barkings now have somehow authenticated the rumour making round that he wants to do everything possible to distract the governor in his first term, and then launch a smear campaign that will jeopardise his chances of re-election in 2019, because he (Umaru) will also contest.
If that rumour happens to be true or bears any element of truth, then it is apt to clearly point out that his head shouldn’t be blown off by the blocked votes he amassed against Dr. Aliyu in the election that made him a senator.
If Babangida Aliyu had gotten things right as a governor, there wouldn’t have been a away for Umaru to emerge victorious in a senatorial contest, despite the fact that our people are ahead of everybody in terms of population in the zone. If PDP hadn’t messed up things for us, we wouldn’t have voted a man who isn’t a native of Niger to represent us when our land is abrim with capable hands.
To put the record straight, Senator Umaru has lived most of his life in Niger and has also immensely invested in it, but he is not an indigene of the state. He is from Kaure, an agrarian community in Kaduna state, which is bordering Niger.
After his primary, secondary and tertiary education in his native Kaduna state, he followed his elder sister, who was a wife to the late Bawa Bwari to Niger, and he has been making his marks in the state ever since.
He has falsely been claiming to be a Nigerlite; how can he be an indigene of Niger when his blood siblings are all renowned and confirmed indigenes of Kaduna? For example, Mary Umaru, his immediate elder sister, was among the pioneering students of Advance Teachers’ College, Minna, which is now known as Niger State College of Education. Mary, while in the college, was on Kaduna state scholarship. Why would a Nigerlite be on Kaduna scholarship, with the numerous scholarship opportunities in the state in those days?
In the same gait, Richard Umaru, an elder brother to the senator, worked and retired as a Permanent Secretary in Kaduna state civil service. Every civil servant in the state readily remembers that Richard was a sworn indigene of the state.
That is a non-issue, though. He should just desist from trying to destabilise the peace and political harmony that we are currently enjoying in Niger, against the backdrop of the general elections, by causing discord along zonal and tribal lines.
The governor has promised to run an all-inclusive government. He promised to develop every nook and cranny of the state. He has also promised to unlock the potentials which are believed to be embedded in the state. Let’s not judge him by the appointments he makes, but with the tactile or the developments we are able to see on the ground eventually.
Jagaba and James wrote from Tawali, Kuta.