CIA Declassified Information: Buhari’s Nepotism and Appointment Pattern, Past and Present Administration

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A CIA declassified document originally published in February 1984 sheds light on past practices of Buhari’s 1983-1985 regime. The document, titled: Nigeria: Six-Month Outlook for The Buhari Regime, was declassified in 2012 and provides information on Buhari’s administration after he took over from the democratically elected civilian ruler Shehu Shagari in a military coup. With the new Buhari’s regime in 1983, there was little hope that the administration was capable of overcoming the political and economic challenges facing the country. Some of the concerns raised by the report are highlighted below and compared to the concerns of his current administration: 

“the delay in naming a Cabinet and outlining policies reflects the government’s difficulty in finding capable civilians willing to serve in the new government, as well as likely differences of opinion and jockeying for position among key senior officers.”

  • Delay in cabinet appointment: the CIA report mentions that there was a delay in appointing Cabinet positions and outlining key policies. The delay was partly attributed to the inability of the Buhari’s administration to recruit civilians willing to serve. According to the document, “the delay in naming a Cabinet and outlining policies reflects the government’s difficulty in finding capable civilians willing to serve in the new government, as well as likely differences of opinion and jockeying for position among key senior officers.” Buhari’s current administration also faced similar criticism after he was democratically elected in 2015. It took President Buhari almost six months to appoint key cabinet positions, which many criticized him as being disorganized and unprepared to lead in a democratic state.   
  • Inexperienced/unqualified appointees: Buhari was accused of hiring people without the right qualifications for the job. It was stated that the “US Embassy reports that most civilian members of the new Cabinet appear ill-suited by background and experience to their assignment.” This is also one of the greatest criticism of the current Buhari’s administration. An example of a lopsided appointment that was highly criticized is the appointment of Hameed Ali, a retired Nigerian Army Colonel as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service.  
  • Nepotism: This is by far the greatest criticism faced by Buhari’s current administration, which the CIA document reveals was the practice in his past administration that threatened national unity. The document reveals that “while the new regime has tried to ensure a relatively representative balance among major ethnic groups, regions, and military services in making high-level appointments, senior officers of northern, Muslim Hausa-Fulani origin appear to dominate the Supreme Military Council and top Army positions.”

The CIA report stated that if the government had the interest to foster national unity, it must “shuffle some appointees,” in order to achieve “a more acceptable ethnic and regional mix.” This also captures the current sentiment. Many critics and supporters have called on Buhari to reshuffle his executive cabinet, ministerial appointees, his defense team, to reflect the rich diversity of the country and to foster national unity. President Buhari is yet to heed to those demands made during his past administration as well as the current administration.

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