Three days after his inauguration, President Muhammadu Buhari has not been able to make key appointments due to a crisis of confidence that has pitted him against power blocs in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). This has made the National Coordinator of the Concerned Northern Professional Forum (CNPF), Dr. Mohammed Junaid, to accuse a section of the APC leadership of trying to arm-twist Buhari to make some appointments against his wish. He accused the APC of trying to use zoning to hold Buhari captive, saying resorting to allotting positions on zonal basis is inimical to good governance.
The president, which on Sunday named Managing Director, Sun Newspapers, Mr. Femi Adesina and head of media of his campaign organisation, Mallam Garba Shehu, as spokesmen, is yet to unveil names of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chief of Staff, among others.
But New Telegraph learnt that intense pressure, as well as insistence on certain government positions from intra-party and regional power blocs, might have stalled further announcements of sensitive appointments by Buhari. “There is more to what you think, the president is not keeping the party guessing, rather, a brewing cold war has to be stemmed from getting out of hand”, an insider said yesterday. It was gathered that some powerful Northern power brokers had impressed it on the president to restrict his search for the headship of certain sensitive positions to the region.
The source, a member of the APC Board of Trustees (BoT) caucus, listed some of such positions to that of the SGF, Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser (NSA) and the headship of the Federal Ministry of Finance. He said some young, but powerful confidants of the president had drawn up a list of such positions with the support of certain influential power brokers from the North. “We fear if the president can say no to such persons under the present circumstances,” he added. He said a delegation of some influential Northerners had handed over what he called an ‘A’ list to the president.
“When you say the president as a person is keeping the party guessing, I laugh. In fairness to him, it is not true because we know as a matter of fact that some powerful leaders of the party from the North have insisted on certain key appointments. “Looking at their arguments for such, you will also agree that they might be right to say yes, we need to have these this time around because in whatev-er we do, once precedence has been set, it becomes difficult to fault when successive actions in similar light come to the fore.
“For instance, when today they insist on having the NSA, CBN governor, SGF, COS and even the Minister of Finance, you don’t have to blame them because right from the days of Obasanjo till Jonathan, we have come to realise that these appointments had at one time or the other, resided in a section of the country before. “In fact, there was a time former President Jonathan had his NSA, CoS and Finance Minister all from the South-South. So the issue is not just the president keeping the party leadership guessing, but what is at hand is how we will stem a brewing cold war within us to get out of hand into open confrontation.
“The truth remains that to say no, or simply ignore the demands presented by this group of our colleagues from the North will only be insensitive, that is why we are trying to explore more diplomatic means of concession to one another,” he said. It could not be immediately confirmed if the move by the Forum of Northern States’ Secretaries to Governments to endorse one of their own, the Secretary to Borno State Government, Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda, for the position of SGF was in line with the push as disclosed by the party top shot.
The forum, in a letter to Buhari and signed by the Coordinator of the Forum and former SSG of Niger State, Hon. Saidu Ndako Idris Kpaki, said the recommendation was part of their contribution to support the new administration to succeed in its quest to improve the lives of Nigerians. The position of the forum had raised curiosity; especially following reports that a founding leader of the APC, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, was being considered for the job. For the positions of the NSA and CoS, erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdurrahman Dambazau and Col Hammed Ali, all retired, are the prime candidates likely to get the jobs.
But New Telegraph gathered that on the cards for the positions of Finance Minister is Dr Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, who was Chief Economic Adviser to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. But Junaid, who clarified that he was not speaking for the North, said the APC should be blamed for any crisis and delay over appointments by the president. He alleged that with the zoning of offices, the APC was already holding Buhari hostage. He said: “First and foremost, I have never claimed to be speaking for the North; my attitude has always been what is good for the nation.
Having said that, I think the APC is creating a problem for President Buhari by this zoning mantra. “Basically, I think it is because the party allowed crooks and counterproductive elements from the PDP to join its fold and these persons have now brought in this idea of zoning, which I think is very inimical to good governance. “For instance, the position of the SGF is a very sensitive office and it is the engine room of the government; the head of government must be allowed to pick whoever he feels is best suitable for the job.
When former President Obasanjo picked Chief Ufot Ekaette, it was believed that he picked out of merit and not zoning, so the APC should not try to impose any useless zoning on the president. “The same goes for other offices such as the CBN governor, NSA and all that, including the now annoying jostle for the position of the Senate president.
“Nigerians should be wary of those who want to plant seeds of discord that will cause confusion in the early life of this administration because from the way things are going, if care is not taken, leadership of the Senate might be in the hands of the same ethnic group that has grabbed the vice-presidency; that same ethnic group wants to be speaker of the House of Representatives. But I can bet you, it will not be allowed to happen in this country because we know ourselves.” But reacting to the allegation that the APC was holding the president hostage, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said such a statement should be ignored. “Please ignore such statements; it is too early to give prominence to statements that will not help this administration,” he said.