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Is President Buhari Overwhelmed By Serious Issues Of Governance? By Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN)


In this second part of his piece on governance, Chief Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and erudite Constitutional Lawyer, takes a look at President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership style in the last nearly sixty days in office and what it portends for the nation’s democracy and development.

Last week, we wondered whether PMB met intimidating gargantuan challenges such that he never envisaged, on the ground. Did his minders do serious research during campaigns, or were they simply hoodwinking unsuspecting Nigerians? This week, we continue with the many missteps of PMB, which question his readiness for the job at hand.


If Nigerians were taken aback by the disingenuousness in the appointment of Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, they were shocked to their bones and marrows with the next seven appointments made, all from the Northern geopolitical zones of the country.

Wait for it…Lt Col Muhammed Abubakar (ADC) from Kano, North West. For engaging in a supremacy battle with this chosen one, Mr Abdulrahma Mani, another Northerner, was fired.

The next is Lawal Kazaure, State Chief of Protocol (North), Ahmed Idris (Accountant General, Kano state, North West); Mordecai Baba Ladan (North West), and Mrs Amina Zakari (from Kazaure, Jigawa state, North West, as Acting Chairman of INEC).

Never mind that in sections 153, 154, 155, 156 and 157 of the 1999 constitution, there is no provision for “Acting Chairman”; but a Chairman before whose appointment, the President, under sections 154 (1) and (2), must “consult with the Council of States” and the Senate must confirm.

Finally, Lawal Daura (from Daura, PMB’s home town, North West), was appointed Director General of the State Security Service (DSS). Ita Ekpeyong from Cross River state was made to kiss the dust to pave way for Daura.

Thus, of nine appointments so far made by PMB, eight are from the Northern parts of the country, leaving the entire Southern parts with only Femi Adesina (South West).

Many are wondering whether this is a carefully crafted agenda of Northernisation of the Government of the Federation. Nigerians are aghast.


Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the appointment of Ministers by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. The word “shall” which enjoins a mandate, is carefully and advisedly used by the makers of the Constitution. There shall be at least one Minister from each of the 36 states of Nigeria, with one from the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

The Ministers are to help the President discharge the duties of his office effectively. It is said that even God himself, as Almighty, Omniscient and Omnipresent as He is, still requires the assistance of Angels and Saints. Not so for PMB.

Well over one and a half months after his appointment and well over three months after he became aware he had been elected President of Nigeria when GEJ conceded defeat and congratulated him, PMB is still without Ministers, operating alone, like a lone ranger, in the mould of a Military dictator. His slow, nay sluggish pace has become worrisome to most Nigerians.

Commenting on his lack-lustre performance within the first 30 days in office, especially on the non-appointment of Ministers, an economist, at Capital Economics, London, Mr John Ashbourne said:

“Every week that Nigeria goes without a Cabinet increases the chance that it will face a dangerous shock – whether a revenue collapse or a currency crisis…leaving the Federation without a Finance Minister would be a questionable choice at the best of times; doing so during a period of economic instability is difficult to explain.”

Nigeria Labour Congress President, Comrade AyubaWabba, who admitted that 30 days was too short to assess PMB’s performance, had however, declared that Buhari was yet to face the realities on the ground.

He argued that the slow pace of the administration (one month after being declared the winner of the Presidential election on March 28), was a pointer to the fact that the President was yet to acquaint himself with the situation on the ground.


As captured by Vanguard Online of June 22, 2015, in an article written by veteran Eric Teniola, a former Director in the Presidency, he graphically captured the return to the old order of lone ranging, thus:

“FROM January 15, 1966 till June 3, 1967, Nigeria had no Ministers. That is a period of over fifteen months. The two military rulers who ruled during that period——Major General Johnson Thomas Umanakwe Aguiyi Ironsi(1924-1966) and General Yakubu Gowon (80), constituted permanent secretaries as members of the Federal Executives Councils.

As for General Ironsi, the following were appointed—MrIge (Agriculture and Natural Resources), C.O. Lawson (Communications), Alhaji Musa Daggash (Defense), Allison Ayida (EconomicDevelopment), S.S. Waniko (Education),T. Eneli (Establishments), Edwin O. Ogbu (External Affairs), Abdul Aziz Atta(Finance), B.N. Okagbue (Health), Phillip Asiodu (Industries), Grey Eronmosele Longe (Information).

Others were Alhaji A. Mora (Internal Affairs), M.A. Tokunbo (Labour and Welfare), H.A. Ejeyuitchie (Mines and Power), Alhaji Abdulrahman Howeidy (Special Duties-Internal Affairs), Alhaji Sule Kolo (Trade), H.O. Omenai (Transport), S.O. Williams (Works and Housing), Alhaji Sule Katagum (Chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission-Civil Service, A.E. Howson-Wright (Chairman of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, A.I. Obiyan (Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority)and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Gabriel Onyiuke.

There was also the all-powerful Chief Francis Nwokedi, who was Permanent Secretary, Special Duties and, of course, Chief Pius Okigbo. Mr. S.O. Wey was in all but name the Secretary to the government.

As for General Yakubu Gowon, we are all aware of his preference for Permanent Secretaries. The Permanent Secretaries were the ones that paved the way for his coming to power on July 29, 1966 during the historic meeting held at Ikeja Cantonment. So for the first ten months of his administration he had no Ministers. He relied heavily on the counsel of Permanent Secretaries and Judges who administered the country.

They include Sir Adetokunbo Ademola (Chief Justices of the Federation), Alhaji Sule Katagum (the Head of the Federal Civil Service Commission), the Solicitor General-Biliaminu Oladiran Kassim. Others are Mr. Phillip Asiodu, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, Mr.Eneli, Mr. B.N. Okagbue, Mr. Allison Ayida, Mr. Phillip Asiodu, Alhaji Abdul Aziz Atta, and Mr.Buba Ardo, who later became Supreme Court Judge.

Alhaji Musa Daggash, Prince Festus Adesanoye, who later became the Osemawe of Ondo and Mr. S.O. Williams. Some of them were referred to later as “super permanent secretaries.” And Mr. S.O. Wey, who later became the Secretary to Government. There was also Mr.Ime Ebong, who later became Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Planning.

It was not until June 3, 1967 that General Gowon brought eminent Nigerians including Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Joseph Takar, Mallam Aminu Kano, Mr.Wenike Briggs, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Shettima Mongunu, Chief Okoi Arikpo, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Chief A.Y. Eke and Chief Edwin Clarke into his cabinet. Chief Obafemi Awolowo left the cabinet in 1971 for personal reasons.

He later appointed some Military officers into his cabinet. They include Major General Emmanuel Eyo Ekpo (Agric and Natural Resources), Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo (Works and Housing), Brigadier Emmanuel Abisoye (Health), Lt. Col. AhmaduAlli (Education), Captain Olufemi Olumide (Transport), Brigadier Murtala Muhammed (Communication), Brigadier Henry Adefowope (Labour) Col. Dan Suleiman (Special Duties) and Brigadier Mohammed Shuwa.

Even then General Gowon did not make them members of the supreme military council yet he allowed the Permanent Secretaries to attend the meetings of the Supreme Military Council as observers. Worse still, Ministers could not pass memo directly to General Gowon. This arrangement created problems between his Ministers and his Permanent Secretaries till he was removed on July 29, 1975.

Now forty –years after, the same scenario is being played. The recent appointment of Alhaji Ahmed Joda as Chairman of transition committee and the submission of his 800-page report to President Muhammadu Buhari is to emphasise that retired and serving civil servants will play key roles in the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Even though he is now a turned democrat, the military blood in the President is still alive. I am of the view that the Military trusts the civil servants more than the politicians and the civil servants in turn trust the Military than the politicians. The role to be played by the retired civil servants will become clearer in the months ahead. Let us keep our fingers crossed.”

NOW THIS: I cannot agree more with this intellectual analysis of the challenge at hand. It is a clear and present danger. PMB needs to act swiftly. Very swiftly.

AND THIS: Are PMB, APC, Nigerians and the former “Super Permanent Secretaries” still alive and kicking, reading this weekly Sunday sermon on the mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR?

Please, keep a date with the final tranche of this discourse on PMB’s many challenges.

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