President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his best defence against claims that his appointments are not balanced. In his view, the proof of his fair-mindedness is that whereas he managed only 198,000 votes from the South East in 2015, the zone got four senior minister positions in the federal cabinet.
“There is something that hit me very hard. Seven states of the north are only represented in my cabinet by junior ministers, ministers of state. In south-east, I got 198,000 votes but I have four substantive ministers and seven junior ministers from there,” he told a cross section of APC leaders who visited him on Thursday evening.
“You are closer to the people than myself now that I have been locked up here, don’t allow anybody to talk of ethnicity. It is not true.”
He said he enjoyed the supports of people of other ethnic groups and religious affiliations while he was struggling to be president from 2003.
“There is one thing that disabused my mind in a dispassionate way about ethnicity and religion across the country. You know that tribunal for presidential election started at court of appeal. The president was my classmate. I missed only four of the court sittings,” he recalled.
“For that first phase, 2003, we were in court for 30 months. My legal leader was Chief Ahamba (SAN), an Igbo man. He asked the panel of judges to direct INEC to produce the voters register to prove that the election was done underground.
“When they came to write the judgment, they completely omitted that. Another Igbo man, a Roman Catholic, in the panel of judges, wrote a minority report.
“I went to the supreme court. Who was the chief justice? An Hausa Fulani, a Muslim from Zaria. After 27 months, Ahamba presented our case for two hours and 45 minutes. The chief justice got up and said they were going on break and when they returned the following day, they will deliver the judgment. They went away for three months. That was what made it 30 months.
“And when they came back, they discussed my case within 45 minutes.
“In 2007, who was the chief justice? A Muslim from Niger state. The third one (in 2011), who was the chief justice? My neighbour from Jigawa State. The same religion and the same tribe.”
Among the Igbo APC leaders at the dinner with Buhari were Sullivan Chime and Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governors of Abia and Enugu.