If the contents of classified records were anything to go by, the perception that President Muhammadu Buhari's political appointments have unduly favoured the Northern part of the country is not supported by facts.
The classified documents, which contain all high profile political appointment made since Buhari came to power in 2015 show that the appointments have been largely balanced with the president's North-West zone among the zones holding the shorter end of the stick.
The documents entitled: "Compilation of political appointees, heads of parastatals and agencies" and "Portfolios of ministers, special advisers, senior special assistants and special assistants to the President", were last updated in December 2018.
The documents, the first 43 pages and the second 17 pages, showed, for example, that between 2015 and 2018, while the North-Central topped the number of appointments in Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, with 102 appointees, the South-West came second with 101 appointees giving the two zones 35 per cent or 203 of the 567 appointments made.
The South-South came third with 99 appointments, ahead of the North-West, which came fourth with 94. The North-East followed with 93, and the South-East is least with 78.
In the North-Central, Kogi topped with 22 appointees, followed by Kwara with 21, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja got the least with two appointees.
Ogun tops in S-West
Ogun State in the South-West, topped countrywide with 31 appointees, more than the MDA appointments for three North-West states - Kebbi 13; Zamfara seven; and Sokoto six - combined. Buhari's Katsina topped the North-West appointments with 24, while Kaduna and Kano each got 16; and Jigawa, 12.
Although, the South-East was bottom, Imo State had the third highest number of MDA appointments countrywide with 29 appointees, while Anambra had 20; and Abia 14. Enugu and Ebonyi had eight and seven respectively.
According to the documents, however, the percentage in executive management appointments in MDAs, show 51 per cent in favour of the 19 Northern states, and 49 per cent in favour of the 17 Southern states.
And 124 high profile political appointments comprising special advisers, senior special assistants, and special assistants to the president were made out of which 59 were from the Northern region and 65 were from the South. This number excludes 36 ministers who are statutorily appointed one each from a state.
Public opinion in the last four years has been hugely dominated by a perception of serious bias in appointments in favour of the North by the Buhari Administration. The perception was further enhanced with the North producing the heads of the three arms of government, and heads virtually all the security agencies.
Sentiments about regional bias in political appointments are sometimes laden with religious undertones, not reflected in the classified documents. The consequential nature of the postings is, also sometimes, a hotly contested issue, with some arguing that a section of the country gets more "juicy" appointments than others.
But the appointments also show an interesting pattern. Of the 567 executive appointments in MDAs, 220 or 39 per cent were from states where Buhari lost to Jonathan, far better than public perception suggests.
The South-South, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP stronghold, is number three on the MDAs appointments table with 99 appointees, beaten only by the North-Central and the South-West. For example, in Delta where Buhari lost to Jonathan by 1,162,495 votes and in Rivers State where he lost by 1,417,837 (two states where he suffered his worst losses), the MDA appointments were 23 in Delta and 13 in Rivers respectively, compared with the three core Northern states of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara, with 26 appointments combined, but, total marginal winning votes of 1,454,002 over that of Jonathan.
The appointments marginally tilt the balance in favour of the South, with 52.4 per cent against the North's 47.6 per cent. The relatively higher number of such high-profile appointments from the North made between 2015 and 2016 (Buhari's early days in office), tended to give the incorrect impression that the North retained an unfair share of the appointments to date.
Kebbi, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Plateau, FCT, Bayelsa, Ebonyi have zero appointments of presidential aides and thus will not even appear in the chart. Adamawa and Kano top the list with 11 each; while Oyo follows with 10; Ogun nine; Lagos and Kaduna, eight each; and Katsina, seven.
Ekiti and Osun tie at six; Delta and Ondo each have five; while Akwa Ibom and Edo each have four.
A reliable source who refused to be named said: "The President has been severely criticised for so-called lopsided appointments in favour of the North, but the facts hardly support this view."
"Unfortunately, since the public has been misled to believe that the North has this government by the jugular, even those from parts of the North that have been short-changed are forced to suffer in silence. Some states like Zamfara and Kebbi that contributed almost four per cent each to his electoral success in 2015 have been deprived, but they can't complain."
Southern leaders disagree
However, some southern leaders have pooh poohed the records just as a group under the aegis of retired Civil Servants and Professionals from the Southern States, yesterday, cried over what it described as high level of marginalization and imbalance in appointments across federal parastatals and agencies in the country.
The retired civil servants urged President Buhari to do more on the Federal Character to ensure that a particular region was not over loaded to the detriment of others, especially the Southern part of the country.
Addressing Journalists in Abuja after the meeting, the group urged President Buhari to use his second term to seriously address all outstanding issues affecting national unity.
In a joint Communique by Deacon Michael Adewale, Mr. John Ukaegbu and octogenarian Mrs. Mercy Tamuno, the group pleaded with President Buhari to listen more to the fears and concerns being expressed by people from various parts of the country, especially, southern states, just as they said that he can easily rank as one of the greatest leaders in Nigerian history.
According to them, the government should appreciate the fact that not every group of concerned Nigerians is out to achieve political ends.
They particularly noted that the Federal Character Commission which is undertaking the task is only being headed by a southerner for the first time since 1996, adding that the person has only remained in acting capacity since last year.
They said: "President Buhari's second term can really be a 'Next Level' for the entire federation and the confirmation of the first southerner in the capacity of Chairman at Federal Character Commission will be a productive symbolism of the administration's good intentions. Between December 1995 to March, 2001, Alhaji Adamu Fika from Yobe state was the commission's chairman and he was succeeded by Alhaji Bello Kofa Bai from Katsina State, who was in the position from July, 2002 to January, 2007 when he handed over to Professor Abdulraheem from Kwara State, who stayed from April 2008 till October 2014 when he handed over to Alhaji Ari Gwaska from Nassarawa State, who was acting chairman from 2011 to 2012.
"Alhaji Lawan Funtua from Katsina State was the commission's acting chairman from 2013 to 2014 when Alhaji Bello Alkali from Kebbi State took over and handed over to Dr. Shettima Bukar Abba from Borno State who was there from January 2014 to July, 2018.
"The first southerner, Abayomi Sheda from Ondo State got appointed in acting capacity in September 2018 and it would be a great change if he is confirmed to further give everyone from all parts of Nigeria a genuine sense of belonging."
South-East wants Buhari to be serious about true federalism --ABC Nwosu
Speaking on the issue, Professor Alphonsus Nwosu, former Minister of Health and political adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the South-East is less concerned about who gets what but deeply concerned about true federalism.
"To compare the Jonathan administration to that of Buhari in term of fairness to the South-East is absolutely unimaginable. The Buhari administration knows it has been as cruel as he can be to the South-East by applying 97 per cent and five percent in his apointments. The South-East simply wants Buhari to be serious about true federalism and restructuring of Nigeria which our founding fathers agreed upon."
Buhari's appointments lopsided-- Ozekhome
Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Barrister Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said so far President Buhari's appointments did not reflect the federal character principle and have been biased against the southern part of the country.
He said: "I don't agree at all. In what way has Buhari demonstrated fairness in the appointments he has so far made since he became President in 2015? Rather, his 97 per cent to 5 per cent quota of votes vis-a-vis allocation of important positions in government philosophy has been at work. The entire security apparatchik and architecture of Nigeria is over 95 per cent for Northern Muslims. Is that fair, just and egalitarian?"
You can't say appointments in security structure are fair, balanced -- Ikokwu
In like manner, Second Republic politician, lawyer and an elder of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, appointments in the security structure of the country are not fair and balanced so also recent appointments in the parastatals, Customs Service, Prisons, and the NNPC.
His words: "We are looking at facts not fiction. We are talking about appointments in the civil service, parastatals, and upper echelon of the economy. The northerners who have been appointed will rule this country until they are 65 to 70 years. That is in the next 30 years, they will be in charge of Nigeria's governance structure until they retire.
The only thing that can solve this quagmire of random selection is for the country to embrace true federalism and restructure the governance system, in which case, any state that likes it can appoint only its citizens to man its parastatals and appoint others on contract. That was how it was in the past. That was the system that the military bastardised in the last 50 years. If the governance structure is well distributed, there will be no hues and cries. Is the security structure of the country fait and balanced. Everybody knows it is not."