Federal character and matters related to its reflection in public administration is a contentious matter in Nigeria. It is for this purpose that what is now called the federal character commission exist – to ensure that the diversity of Nigeria as a republic reflects in the distribution of human intellectual resources across federal institutions.
Beyond every other reason, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has been at the receiving end of very harsh criticism from Nigerians who believe his administration has shown bias for citizens from a particular region and those who profess the same faith with him over other Nigerians.
It is therefore not surprising that words like clannishness, tribalism, loop sidedness and even nepotism have received the most frequent mentions in public policy debates in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians believe that a lot still needs to be done by the federal government to give all Nigerians a sense of belonging as means of building national unity. For this, so much is expected from the federal character commission.
Muheeba Dankaka is the incumbent chairperson of the commission. Whereas her suitability for the role is still open to debate, what is not open to debate is that the commission under her hand has failed to live up to expectations by the slightest imaginable standards.
Simply put, nothing indicates that the federal character commission under Madame Muheeba Dankaka is capable of stringing thoughts together towards fashioning a policy pathway for inclusivity in corporate governance in public service.
In the last one month, there has been a war of words at the federal character commission. Some say it is about the incompetence and shallowness of the mind of the chairperson which has negatively impacted the mandate of the commission, others say it is a question of the newly introduced organizational processes.
In the middle of all these is however a clear consensus that Madame Muheeba Dankaka is a problem and what readily comes to mind is the proverbial and biblical question. Can the blind lead the blind?
Madame Dankaka is presently investing heavily on a personal war with commissioner at the commission who represent the respective states of the federation. What this simply means is that the commission under her cannot set a national agenda for inclusion in governance along the lines of tribe, religion and political inclination. One therefore wonders why certain commissioners a sensitive national integration commission are on the suspect list of who should lead the commission.
Can a person whose “domot” is on fire be busy putting out fire elsewhere?
Madame Muheeba Dankaka must stoop to conquer and the time starts now. If for any reason it is imagined that she has a 5 years tenure, she must quickly understand that upon the exit of the incumbent president in 2023, appointments made by Him into boards and management of federal agencies including those of ministers and ambassadors become 100% open to review based on yet to be known standards.
Not only are there suggestions of fraud here and there, it is interesting that 11 persons out of the 22 personally recruited by Madame Muheeba Dankaka in exercise of her statutory responsibility as chairman of the federal character commission are from her maternal senatorial zone in Kwara State.
What this means is that 22 employment slots were filled up in 24 hours with Nigerians out of which 11 of the citizens emerged from a particular senatorial zone. Presently, nothing suggests that these fellows; qualified or otherwise are not brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunties, neighbours or even church or mosque members of Madame Muheeba Dankaka. Such tastelessness!
This is certainly not how to build a world class institution expected to drive an agenda for progressive integration in Nigeria.
Beyond the confines of the federal character commission, Madame Muheeba Dankaka is expanding her conquest agenda to the presidential villa where distinguished aides of president Buhari like Seriki Abba are placed on her watch-list. Who picks a battle with trusted aides of a president instead of winning their support and leveraging their experience to succeed in office?
The task of nation building is not one to be taken for granted. Madame Muheeba Dankaka must quickly choose her side of the divide between building Nigeria or tearing it down and the first step to take is to build sustainable peace in the commission with federal commissioners who by the way wear the same rank and title with her. This is suffice to say that her headship of the commission doesn’t confer on her the title of commander-in-chief but that of a first amongst her equals.
The most important task before the federal character commission are those of building a national consensus and narrative to give all Nigerians a sense of belonging in public service. That task must start from the commission and her co-commissioner.
It is very okay for her to elect to step aside if the task is too broad for a narrow mind but if she chooses to stay put, she must quickly discard the robes of petty clannishness, develop a brand new pan-Nigerian mindset and steer the commission in partnership with her staff and co – commissioners to achieve their mandate.
Bukola Fatomilola is a doctorate researcher at the University of Lagos.