Prominent Igbo leaders and groups on Tuesday appraised the change of guards at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and lamented the exclusion of the South East zone from the organisation’s Board.
They expressed shock at President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to include any indigene of the region in the new NNPC’s Board despite the fact that two states from the geo-political zone are in the country’s league of oil-producing states.
President Buhari had on Monday removed the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, as the Group Managing Director of the NNPC and named Dr. Kacalla Baru as his successor.
While Kachikwu hails from Delta State (South-South), Baru comes from Bauch State in the North East region.
Of the nine appointees named into the Board, none is remotely associated with the South East zone. When the news of the appointments broke, some Nigerians thought that the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance (a civil servant who could be moved anytime) was from the South East. They were wrong. The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance is Mahmud Dutse, another Northerner.
In a statement issued on Monday, presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the composition of the Board of the NNPC, as provided for under Section 1(2) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Act of 1997, as amended.
“The new board is composed of the following: Chairman – Dr.Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum; Group Managing Director – Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru; the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance; Mallam Abba Kyari, Dr. Thomas M.A John, Dr. Pius O. Akinyelure, Dr. Tajuddeen Umar, Mallam Mohammed Lawal, and Mallam Yusuf Lawal.”
A breakdown of the new appointments showed that six of the nine- member Board hail from the North while three are from the South, with the South East completely shut out.
In separate reactions yesterday, the Igbo leaders declared that ethnicity has taken the centre stage of national affairs under Buhari.
The former President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Dozie Ikedife (Ikenga Nnewi) said that the exclusion of a section of the country in governance is the “mother of all corruption.”
Ikedife said that all well-meaning Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic and other considerations, have been supportive of the anti-graft war of President Buhari.
“But the truth is that corruption stares us in the face on a daily basis, especially with regards to exclusion and disregard to an ethnic group in a matter they are supposed to be key players. I don’t want to talk much, but that is my position. What we are seeing now is the mother of all corruptions,” he declared.
Also, the Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Anambra State and Chairman of Chairmen of Ohanaeze in Seven States, Elder Chris Eluemunor, said that the President’s actions are fuelling more agitations. He insisting the appointments were made in bad faith.
Eluemunor appealed to Buhari to spread his appointments across the six geo-political zones, adding that his lopsided appointments are not helping Nigeria.
He wondered why a northerner would be made the Managing Director of Nigerian Waterways and another northerner the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
Eluemunor concluded that Buhari knows that what he is doing is not helping Nigeria, lamenting that “he has removed Kachikwu and replaced him with a northerner. I don’t know what to say again because the President has a mission and knows what he doing. I taught the alarm we raised would have touched him and make him adjust but he is bent on having his way…it is unfortunate for this country …we have been crying…”
The founder of United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, described the lop-sidedness of appointments in NNPC, where the South East was excluded, as a lesson for the Igbo race to rediscover themselves.
Okorie attributed the scheming out of Ndigbo from the mainstream of Nigerian politics and lofty political appointments to the second fiddle roles the Igbo politicians of the present times decide to play.
He stressed that until the Igbo rediscover themselves in pursuant of a defined political agenda for the South East, they will continue to be neglected and relegated in the system, stating the attitude does not depict the political legacies of front line Nigerian politicians of Igbo origin.
Similarly, the National President of Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC), Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, expressed disappointment in Buhari’s style of appointment.
He said that President Buhari had again reminded Nigerians that he is only pursuing a northern agenda and wondered why he takes delight in excluding the South East from his government.
The OYC helmsman said that Igbo youths had lost confidence in Buhari because of his latest action which has further confirmed the suspicion that he hates the South East zone.
In his reaction, a rights activist, Mr. Paul Njoku, described the President’s action as “ very unfortunate and an aberration”.
He said it was a calculated attempt to sideline the South East zone from the scheme of things, adding that all of Buhari’s appointments so far have been unbalanced and provocative.
“Buhari has never hidden his hatred for Ndigbo but the truth remains that no matter how he tries, he cannot suppress us. By 2019 this yoke will be broken and we will one day be in charge,” he said.
A constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Dr. Anthony Agbazuere, called on Buhari to increase the membership of the board of NNPC and accommodate the South East in it.
The Chairman of Umuahia North Council of Traditional Rulers , Eze Philip Ajomuiwe, said Buhari’s marginalisation of Ndigbo will continue to fuel the agitation for Biafra and the militancy in the Niger Delta region.
He wondered why the President would continue to marginalise Ndigbo in his appointments and policies and expect the people to support his administration.
The monarch contended that both Abia and Imo states (in South East) are part of the oil-rich Niger Delta zone and wondered why Buhari should not consider a slot for South East in NNPC because of the two states.
Dr. Eli Dibia, a political scientist and consultant to the National Assembly, Abuja said: “The appointment of lbe kachikwu ab initio was a decoy, moving him from substantive GMD to Board Chairman is a demotion. It is like removing a school principal and making him the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Chairman. This is another slight on the lgbo by Mr President.”
Another politician, Chief Justin Amadi, asserted that President Buhari is not favourably disposed towards the Igbo.
“I am not surprised that he removed Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. Igbo Nation is never in his agenda. All those Igbo clapping in the All Progressives Congress (APC) it is morning time for them, before evening comes he will send them packing,” he said.
A lawyer and former Chairman of Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State, Chief Enyinna Onuegbu, said: “The problem did not start with President Buhari administration; it is only when you are recruited as a graduate staff in NNPC that you can hold executive positions. But the board appointment of NNPC ought to reflect the oil-producing states. It is pure marginalisation, “ he said.