Welcoming The ‘Boss’ On Board

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Mariam Mohammed –

Let me begin with an unreserved apology. After my last piece I took some kind of ‘French’ leave at the expense of you, my esteemed readers. It is my slightest doubt that my inability to feature in subsequent editions of this column may have in a way robbed off on my readers. Evidently, some of you like my good friend and professional colleague, Aliu Akoshile, called and whimsically inquired if my ink had gone dry. Far from it! The unavoidable break was actually not intended and while I deeply crave your indulgence for the momentary ‘blackout’, I hereby resume with renewed vigour and a solemn pledge to always keep a date with you….

Be that as it may it suffices to recall that events happened in quick successions within the past couple of weeks that made headlines in the news media. Some of these events stretch through the mist and dust of remembered agonies, excitements and even angers. From the controversial memo by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, to the concerns raised by Mrs. Aisha Buhari on the sorry state of the Presidential clinic at the Aso Rock Villa and, of course, what has now become known as the Maina gate…

While these events raised dust, President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, took a bold step that is regarded by many as an elixir in his administration’s war on corruption.  In a firm demonstration of political will, Buhari sacked Engineer Babachir Lawal who hitherto occupied the powerful position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).This was based on the recommendations of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo led panel that had probed allegations of financial improprieties against the former SGF.

Not a few Nigerians were excited when Buhari approved the appointment of Boss Mustapha as the new chief scribe of the country. Given the circumstances that led to the inglorious exit of Babachir, there was a crescendo of ovation at the choice of the new SGF, especially given his intimidating academic credentials and vast public sector experience.

Of course, the overwhelming public confidence in the new SGF is quite pellucid. A lawyer, management consultant, politician, businessman and boardroom expert of considerable repute, the appointment of Boss Mustapha will not only inject life blood but also lead to the cleaning of the Augean stables within the federal civil service.

It is rather difficult to exhaust the tall credentials of the new SGF so let me highlight on the key areas of his profile. Born in Adamawa State, Mr Mustapha attended Hong Secondary School, in Hong Adamawa state and the North East College of Arts and Sciences Maiduguri Borno state, crowning it with WASC and HSC in 1976. He obtained his Bachelor of Law (LL.B) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1979 and was called to bar in 1980.

After completing his mandatory one year national youth service, he joined Sotesa Nigeria Limited, an Italian consultancy firm, as an Executive Director in charge of Administration, leaving in 1983 to the prestigious law firm Messrs Onagoruwa & Co in Lagos. With his law practice fully taken off, he was appointed Principal Counsel in the firm Messrs Mustapha & Associates.

Another major career highlight of the new SGF was his appointment as a member of Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) where he served meritoriously from 2000 to 2007. At the PTF, he was said to be responsible for production of an up-to-date comprehensive project and programme report, including location, coverage and whether performed, performing or abandoned production of final report of Assets and Liabilities, examination of the Administrative structure and cost effectiveness of  Projects and Services among other duties.

He was member Federal Republic of Nigeria Constituent Assembly (1988-1989), Chairman People’s Solidarity Party-Gongola State (1989-1990), state chairman, Social Democratic Party-Gongola State (1990-1991) and was even a gubernatorial candidate for SDP in Adamawa state in 1991.

Mustapha was the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria from 2010 to 2013 and in 2007; he again played a prominent role, serving as the Deputy Director General of the party’s Presidential campaign Organization.

He was a member of NCC and Secretary APC Presidential Campaign Organization Mobilization (2015) and member, APC Transition Committee (2015). He is also a member, APC Board of Trustees. In addition to the NBA, the Mustapha is a member of various professional bodies including African Bar Association (ABA), Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Internation    al Bar Association (IBA) and Human Rights Institute (HRI).

I have taken time to highlight his rich career background in order to underscore the dauntaing but insurmountable task that lies ahead of the new SGF. Of course, his rich career profile notwithstanding, nobody, least of all this writer, is under the luxury of any illusion that it is going to be a tea party for the new SGF. Indeed, the challenges are enormous, especially given the fact that the federal civil service constitutes a critical factor not only in providing policy guidelines but implementing same within the framework of current APC led administration which places premium on public accountability.

In order to surmount the challenges and succeed as the 19th substantive SGF therefore, Mustahpha must avoid playing to the gallery; the ‘grass cutting’ escapades of his predecessor(s) and live above board. Of, course; he does not seems to be oblivious of public expectations and task before him.

I was gladdened to hear the new SGF pledge on assumption of office that he would guide the staff and the 21 agencies under his office to ensure the success of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. At his swearing in ceremony last Wednesday he acknowledged his role in coordinating and ensuring the implementation of government policies.

While urging staff to drop all appellations like “His Excellency” which he said is a like banana peel and simply call  him “SGF” of “Boss”, Mustapha promised that he would treat those who work with him on the basis of their individual skills and competencies, rather than prejudices.

Mustapha the immediate past Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) said: “Buhari has a deep compassion for the suffering of the masses. Our people have been pauperized for a very long time and it is the vision of the Buhari government that this is removed. We should be able to help government turn around this tide.”

Perhaps the more instructive part of his speech was when Mustapha said: “I have not come to this office with any special skill but the grace of God upon my life which is sufficient to strengthen me and sufficient to enable me to do all things. I do not think of any impossibility. I have never been given a task and I ran away from it, however herculean the task is because I believe that all I need to do is to get the support of the people that I am working with,” Mustapha reportedly said.

Apparently mindful of the responsibility of those in leadership to provide an enabling environment for those who work under them to thrive, the new SGF also said: “We have the responsibility of ensuring that this government succeeds. If this government does not succeed, it means that we have not done our job. We are supposed to coordinate, monitor and ensure the implementation of policies and programmes of this government.”

The new SGF seemed to have acknowledged President Buhari’s concerns for the masses when he said: “Buhari has a deep compassion for the suffering of the masses. Our people have been pauperized for a very long time and it is the vision of the Buhari government that this is removed. We should be able to help government turn around this tide.”

Indeed, the appointment of Boss Mustapha couldn’t have come at a better time than now; especially given the renewed efforts by the current administration to implement its change contract with the people. For the new SGF his appointment is measure of confidence by the President which he must strive to justify by living above board.

While I join many other Nigerians in congratulating Boss Mustapha on this well-deserved appointment, I hasten to add the inglorious exit of his predecessor should constantly remind him of this wise saying: the fall of the brown leaf is a warning to the green ones.