President Muhamadu Buhari same old problem of ethnic politics of his predecessors.


The March 2015 presidential election marked the first time in Nigeria’s history that the ruling party stepped aside for the opposition, a story that graced the front pages and airwaves of major media outlets the world over. Buhari’s victory was framed as a new dawn for Africa’s wealthiest and most populous nation — a nation whose failure to curb widespread corruption and insecurity has been consistently blamed on the absence of strong leadership.

Despite winning the new president plaudits, however, these achievements have done little to root out Boko Haram fighters and end the group’s reign of terror in the northeast. So far under Buhari’s watch, the body count has continued to rise, despite continued assurances that the military is wining. At least 1,000 people have reportedly lost their lives in terrorist attacks since the president took office in May, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker. Meanwhile, many of the individuals captured by the army on suspicion of being Boko Haram militants have ended up having no affiliation with the terrorist group. The military has also come under fire for massive human rights abuses, straining relations with Nigeria’s international partners.
The president’s own rationalization for appointing more northerners has done little to assuage such fears. In a recent interview with the BBC’s Hausa-language service, Buhari admitted that his appointment choices had been doled out as rewards to those who stuck with him through the tough times, noting that this was the nature of Nigerian politics. “I have been with them throughout our trying times. What then is the reward of such dedication and suffering?” he said. The president was not wrong about the transactional nature of the system, but many were surprised to hear him explicitly endorse it after vowing to change the culture of nepotism that plagues every sector of Nigeria’s government. Buhari swept into power with lofty promises to clean up the country’s corrupt political system. How could it be that he was already contributing to the mess?
Buhari’s no-nonsense demeanor and claims to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems that his presidency will likely feature a lot of business-as-usual. And while he has promised to unveil a cabinet before the end of September — laid out like some sort of early birthday present ahead of the country’s 55th Independence Day celebration on Oct. 1 — his delays and willingness to dabble in cronyism may have already squandered the wave of goodwill and optimism that accompanied his election.
Where Buhari has made appointments, he seems to be courting another source of trouble: charges of regional and ethnic favoritism. Key government positions — including the administrative head of the Treasury, the chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the head of the Department of Petroleum Resources — have gone mostly to individuals who, like the president, are northern and Muslim. So far, of the 25 federal appointments he has announced since taking office, only 6 have gone to people who are Southern and/or Christian. In a country where ethnic tensions are always close to the surface, reactions have been predictably explosive. In southeastern Nigeria, the region that sparked the Biafran war in the late 1960s, calls for secession have again intensified as a result of Buhari’s perceived regional bias.

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