President Muhammadu Buhari and the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose on Monday engaged each other in a war of words over the former’s recent appointments into federal government positions.
While Fayose described the President as running the country as if he was the president of northern Nigeria only, Mr. Buhari said the governor’s outburst was capable of triggering ethnic clashes among the nation’s communities.
The governor in a statement, on Monday, said steps taken by the President since May 29, 2015, when he assumed office, were tainted with ethnic and tribal colouration, saying it was inimical to the unity of Nigeria.
But Mr. Buhari responded strongly, denying the allegation, and urging Nigerians to be wary of the antics of Mr. Fayose and the Peoples Democratic Party, who he said are bent on regaining what they lost by stoking ‘ethnic and religious fault lines”.
The governor, in a statement signed by his Special assistant on Public Communication, Lere Olayinka, depicted the actions of the President as the “Nothernisation of Nigeria”, noting that the appointments made by Mr. Buhari so far negated the principle of federal character and had taken the unity of Nigeria for granted.
Mr. Fayose argued that it was wrong for President Buhari to have made 31 major appointments,,with seven coming from the South while 24 were from the North.
“Under Buhari, are people from Southern Nigeria only meant to be hounded and harassed by anti-corruption agencies and the Department of State Security (DSS) while those from the North are meant to enjoy federal government juicy appointments?” Fayose queried.
“Apart from lopsided appointments being made by the President, I am worried that the construction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been slowed down while work has stopped on Lokoja-Abuja roads, which are the major roads linking the Southern part of Nigeria with the North.
“Also, we have been told by the Federal Government that the Second Niger Bridge project has been suspended and one is now beginning to remember how Buhari cancelled the Lagos Metroline Project in 1985 at a loss of over $78 million (then) to the Lagos tax payers.”
He maintained that Nigeria could only move forward if there was equity and fairness, highlighting that those who made the country’s constitution and enshrined the principle of Federal Character were mindful of the ethnic diversity of the country.
According to Mr. Fayose, President Buhari’s running of Nigeria as if he is a Northern Nigerian President was not in the interest of the country.
The governor further argued, “They said the President made the appointments on merit and I wish to ask whether there are no competent people in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Southern part of Nigeria, especially South-East where no one has been appointed.
“Are they saying Igbo leader like Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who graduated with a first class honours degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos, is not competent to be appointed as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF)?
“To my mind, these lopsided appointments skewed in favour of the North is a reminder of President Buhari’s tenure as Military Head of State and I hope the President is not seeing Nigeria of today as that of 1984 because doing so will mean that he has turned himself to a northern president, thereby justifying his notion that those who gave him 97 percent votes must get more benefits than those who gave him five percent votes.”
But responding to Mr. Fayose’s attacks, the Presidency said the governor’s outburst was divisive and threatens the unity of the country.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari had been preoccupied with the revival of the economy, securing the nation and ridding it of corruption.
He said the President would pursue these priorities and would not be distracted by unwarranted criticism.
“Nigerians are smarter than Fayose thinks. The Governor’s outbursts are intended to be a trigger for a clash between communities in areas where deliberate attempts had in the past also been made by the PDP to stoke ethnic and religious fault-lines,” he said.
“Our appeal to Nigerians is that they should ignore these tantrums. President Buhari is a healer not a divider.”
He said Nigerians should see the recent appointments as one wave among the many that will come, noting that the next waves would come with thousands of new jobs.
“The President is conscious of the federal character and the requirements of balance in the constitution. He will be guided by the constitution in making his appointments,” Mr. Shehu said.
“Let me say at this stage that mere appeal to ethnic and regional arithmetic will not give back to the PDP what they lost. They seem to be making a dangerous calculation with their recent outbursts.
“The mere appeal to sectional and religious will not give the party its lost relevance or electability.”
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