On Tinubu becoming King Lear

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An American newspaper columnist, George Will, derisively described former United States President Donald Trump as King Lear because Trump gave his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, appointment into his White House.

Ivanka was an advisor and Director of the Office of Economic Initiatives in her father’s White House, while Jared, Ivanka’s husband, was appointed by Trump to be the Director of the White House Office of American Innovation.

In “King Lear,” the eponymous tragedy written by the bard of Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare, reports that King Lear divided his kingdom into two and gave them to only two of his three daughters.

Critics allege that President Bola Tinubu is favouring his Yoruba kinsmen in his most strategic appointments. And that riles some Nigerians who describe his cabinet as the “Federal Executive Council of Oduduwa Republic.”

Dr Daniel Bwala, lawyer, an erstwhile diehard Tinubu partisan, and spokesman for the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Council, who left the All Progressives Congress because of its Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, says President Tinubu is ignoring some parts of Nigeria while concentrating his appointments in the South-West.

This tendency of President Tinubu may be confirmation that his circle of good hands may be limited to the South-West, or even Lagos State, as some critics accuse him of Lagosisation of his government.

But to his credit, the President has not appointed any member of his family into his government; save for his wife whose honorific title of First Lady comes with the territory of being the wife of the President.

While critics of President Tinubu are uncomfortable with the perceived skewing of strategic political, economic and security positions to the South-West, his apologists justify it with the (almost) brazen Fulanisation of governance under former President Muhammadu Buhari.

You may recall that Buhari loaded both the security and economic portfolios of his government with Northern Nigerians, if not exactly the Fulani of North-West Nigeria, without any apology or remorse.

Of the 17 most strategic security appointments in the Nigerian realm, Buhari conceded two of the Chief Executive Officer positions to Southern Nigerians. He did exactly the same thing with appointments into strategic financial and economic positions.

Like Buhari, Tinubu has appointed the more strategic security positions of the Chief of Army Staff, Acting Inspector General of Police, and Chief Executive of Nigeria Identity Management Commission.

Incidentally, the Acting Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service, who was appointed by President Buhari, is also from the South-West, while the Minister of the Interior is also from Ekiti State.

Tinubu has appointed the Minister of Finance, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Acting Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, and Acting Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, from the South-West.

Other strategic economic portfolios that the President has given to the South-West, or the Yoruba, are the Ministries of Marine and Blue Economy; Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy; Solid Minerals; Power, and Justice.

The big elephant in the room, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, is presumably headed by Tinubu, a Yoruba of the South-West. And if it is true that the mother of Festus Keyamo, Minister of Aviation, is Yoruba, well….

The President has, however, appointed Ministers of State for Petroleum Resources, and Gas Resources, from the South-South, maybe because the bulk of these mineral resources are found in that region.

Tinubu’s “social media warriors” depose that under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of Finance, CBN governor, and heads of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, Nigeria Stock Exchange, Security and Exchange Commission, Sovereign Wealth Fund, Budget Office, and many others, were Igbo of South-East or Delta State.

But understandably, the Chief of Staff and the Principal Private Secretary to the President are Yoruba of Lagos State. These are the officers that the Yoruba would refer to as “Ajiroba” in the order of the English Lord Chamberlains.

Things get even more complicated when members of the Northern Nigerian political establishment point out that the three arms of government- executive, legislature and judiciary- are headed by Southern Nigerians.

But that played out in the immediate-past administration with the Northern trio of Buhari, Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad, respectively heading the executive, National Assembly, and judiciary.

Today, President Tinubu, and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Kayode Ariwoola, are from the South-West, while the Senate President is from the South-South. The Igbo of the South-East may have been schemed out probably because they voted (almost exclusively) for Peter Obi in the last presidential election.

President Tinubu may have substantially complied with Section 147(3) of the 1999 Constitution which requires him to appoint at least one indigene from each state as minister to his government.

Section 151(1) does not impose any obligation on the President with the appointment of special advisers. The constitution merely says, “The President may appoint any person as a special adviser to assist him in the performance of his functions.”

But Section 14(3) requires that, “The composition of the government of the federation, or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs, shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.”

If the President is failing in being intentional in spreading his appointments across Nigeria, as required by Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution, he needs to correct this in his future appointments. This is necessary because of the contentious disputation over the presidential election that brought him to power.

Though former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, respectively presidential candidates of Peoples Democratic Party, and Labour Party, have lost their petition to overturn the election results at the Presidential Election Petition Court, they have indicated their intention to approach the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

By their action, they could ignite unrest in the country, without necessarily having any intention to be mischievous. Right now, keeping Nigeria united is probably the most important job of the President.

After all, the preamble of the constitution states, inter alia, that Nigeria should be governed “on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people.”

The President must be reminded of this requirement of governance so that all Nigerians will have a sense of belonging, equity and justice: the preconditions for peace in an extremely diversified country like Nigeria.

It is also important for the government of President Tinubu to avoid groupthink, whereby policymakers tend to agree on policy options because they share similar world views and perceive things from the same cultural, religious, linguistic prisms.

This is not appropriate for running a country of people with diverse orientations and tendencies. Failure to meet the requirements of diverse interests could prevent the government from delivering the greatest good to the greatest number of citizens.

Some aver that the promise in the Tinubu choice of economic hands from the South-West is that they will help him deliver a stronger economy. Maybe. But the optics is not too good.

  • X:@lekansote1, lekansote.com

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