That the Southeast Zone of the country has been an unhappy hunting ground for incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, is not in doubt. Long before he became president, he had always failed in the Southeast. The reason is not far-fetched. The Southeast people see him, not as their friend, but as someone whose body language and actions do not promise friendship. And as President of the country, rather than prove that notion wrong, he has gone on to vindicate it.
Indeed, the first four years of the president have been anything but encouraging to the people of the Southeast Zone. Never in the history of the country has the zone been virtually ostracized from the scheme of things in the country, as President Buhari’s appointments have been nothing but parochial, nepotistic and partisan; all against the Southeast Zone. For example, in the country’s security apparatus, nobody from the Southeast Zone was considered good enough.
There had also been policies seen as targeted against the people of the zone who form the bulwark of the country’s commercial enterprise.
During the last presidential election, therefore, it was no surprise that the zone once again rejected Buhari. Though this had been frowned upon in some quarters as politically naïve, few could have objectively faulted the action of the Southeast people, especially when one of their prominent sons was running as Vice President.
Buhari was eventually declared the winner of that election which the major opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, is currently challenging at the tribunal.
The outcome of that election had further provided some ammunition to those who faulted the voting pattern of the Southeast. To them, it would be foolish to expect favours from a government they rejected. The unspoken view was that Buhari would further alienate the Southeast in his second term in terms of projects and political appointments. That is exactly what is playing out today.
Recently the National Assembly chose its leaders. In all of that, nobody from the Southeast was considered good enough. Even the lone position (Deputy Senate President) held by the Southeast before then, was lost by the zone. Now we have a situation where the president comes from the North West; Senate President from the North East; Deputy Senate president from the South South; the Speaker, House of Reps is from the South West; and Deputy Speaker is from the North Central.
In the judiciary, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria is from the North East; the President of the Court of Appeal is from the North East. In fact, of the 12 new Appeal Court justices appointed last year by Buhari, the Southeast had no representative; yet it is supposed to be a country where justice, equity and fairness are entrenched in the Constitution.
Regardless of arguments that the zone did not support Buhari and therefore should expect nothing, Nigeria remains a country where all the zones must be treated equally.
Is it not worrisome that the Northern Zone which is treated as educationally disadvantaged and thus given generous cut off points in national examinations, suddenly becomes the greatest and almost solo beneficiaries of plum positions in the country? Is it not looking like a situation where one set of people do the work and another set live off their work?
We are of the view that the Buhari Administration has erred by its treatment of the Southeast Zone. Buhari ought to be the father of the entire country and is thus not expected to show bias. He should have used the opportunity of these recent developments to prove the Southeast wrong by giving her a fair share of the spoil. That would have been the best way of winning their trust and votes. But by almost completely shutting them out, it will be foolhardy of any Southeasterner to look the way of Buhari or his party in any election.
In a democracy, a people have a right to choose who they want without being punished for their choice. Nigeria belongs to everybody; nobody owns it.
The recent developments in appointments and choosing of National Assembly officers have only vindicated the wisdom of the Southeast in shunning Buhari, rather than otherwise. Anyone who thinks otherwise should integrate the people of the zone in the scheme of things after which any blame can be apportioned.