OPINION | DSS lopsided recruitment shows Buhari belongs to Somebody

An online news portal Premium times published on the 28th of April 2017 a report detailing a strange recruitment exercise by the Department of State Security Services.

The agency had commissioned 479 cadet officers after their passing-out parade in Lagos on March 5, 2017, after  a nine-month training programme under the agency’s Basic Course 29/2016/17. The listing of those recruited into the service has now become a subject of concern to Nigerians who are confused as to what the DSS aims to achieve by the oddly disproportionate nature of its recruitment. The exercise was expected to award five slots to each state of the federation but the final listing shows a huge disparity in allotment cadet officers from each state.

For example, Katsina which is the home state of the President produced fifty-one cadets while Lagos had just seven; ditto for Kano which had twenty-five while Abia got seven slots. In aggregate, the North had more slots than the South.This is a clear violation of the principle of federal character of the Federal Republic. But this is not its first occurrence under the Buhari led presidency.

On the 15th of March 2016, Sahara Reporters and Premium Times reported the illegal recruitment of 91 individuals who are relatives and wards of political office holders into the Central Bank of Nigeria, the recruitment was done in secret by the Apex bank, devoid of the necessary due process. The job was not advertised for public participation rather the individuals were handpicked and the Federal Government kept mum on the issue.

Also in 2016 the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr Babatunde Fowler, illegally recruited people into the agency as reported by the Media. The presidency kept silent on the issue and a terse statement was released by the SA on Media and Publicity to the Vice President, Laolu Akande claiming that no such recruitment took place. As we know, the media won’t report what they don’t know but it has become the norm for the government to deny every allegation against it, however compelling they may sound.

However, the current skewed recruitment by the DSS is one that has cast a blithe on the transparency and accountability being championed by the Federal Government. It lends credence to the statement attributed to the President after his election that he would pay more attention to those who voted for him than those who gave him no votes.  The statement was rebuffed by Nigerians, as it contradicts his inaugural promise of “I belong to everybody, I belong to Nobody” but the presidency has carried on by implementing the statement through its actions as seen in the recent DSS recruitment.

The future implication of this is that a time will come when the DSS will be seen as an ethnic fiefdom, belonging to one part of the country. Already the southerners have expressed concerns about the “northernisation” of Buhari’s appointments and the president has not done much to assuage their fears.  One of the greatest mistakes of President Goodluck Jonathan was the promotion of an Ijaw based agenda which was roundly criticised and which eventually backfired. Buhari is doing the same at the moment. It has shown that the continuous ethnic agitations in the south against the Nigerian state won’t end anytime soon unless the south is given a sense of belonging.

I’m a firm believer in One Nigeria and the indivisibility of this country. However, we must not embark on actions that fuel agitations for self-government and secession. The DSS recruitment is a slap in the face of an administration that espouses the idea of change but is found stuck in the mire of the status quo.

The action of the DSS DG is inimical to the change agenda of the APC-led Federal Government and the government must speak out to condemn this abuse of power. If the government allows nepotism to go unchecked, then we are not yet ready for change.

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