On the occasion of his 64th birthday last year, President Muhammadu Buhari joined the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Federal Executive Council to celebrate Boss Mustapha as “the legal luminary, party stalwart and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, whose visionary and inclusive leadership style continues to strengthen the governing party and the administration, with remarkable results.”
The President affirmed: “Mustapha has provided strong and commendable leadership as a rallying point for the Federal Executive Council and demonstrated high-level patriotism by accepting the demanding position of chairing the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.” He also congratulated him and the team for steadily guiding Nigerians amid health and economic uncertainties.
With sincerity and deep understanding of their invaluable roles, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, has engaged every segment of the polity – traditional rulers, religious leaders, governors and foreign envoys with open arms and a listening ear to broaden and enrich the quality of governance.
Appointed on November 1, 2017, Mustapha has without doubt, redefined service in public office with his successful management of the COVID-19 pandemic since the President mandated him in March 2021 to lead the Presidential Task Force on the global scourge.
Coordination is the robust suite of the Presidential Team. It has managed successfully the efforts to rally all stakeholders in tackling the national emergency. They include States and Local Governments, health sector stakeholders, players in the private sector as well as development partners. Effective coordination has earned the confidence and trust of all.
Mustapha, while evaluating the county’s response to COVID-19 early this year, said the PTF, which was re-designated the Presidential Steering Committee, did perform very well with a very robust national response even as he profusely praised Nigeria’s health workers for working hard to combat the pandemic.
He proudly gave his committee a pass mark in its assignment as he reviewed activities of the team at the national briefing of the PTF on March 22, 2021.
“We have succeeded in discharging our mandate of managing the pandemic with a well-defined process and a robust national response,” he said.
Mustapha said strategies evolved by the PTF to manage the pandemic were copied by some other countries, especially on compulsory PCR test for travellers. Indeed, the pandemic has helped the country to scale up its health infrastructure. For instance, this country now has 158 infectious diseases testing laboratories. There was only four pre-pandemic.
In January, this year, Mustapha raised the bar of accountability by issuing a detailed statement on the “allocation and management of funds for the national response to COVID-19 by the Presidential Task Force.”
Sources at the PTF speak of its contributions in saving significant resources for the government by eliminating duplication of funds for activities already funded and subsequently appropriated again under the 2020 Amended COVID-19 budgets. An example is how it worked with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning in late 2020 to reverse over N5 billion that was appropriated for Health Operations, and thus avoided duplication.
Country Representative of the World Health Organization, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo has given Mustapha and his team thumbs up. “Nigeria mounted one of the most effective response to COVID-19 putting in place courageous measures and helping to avert the spread that was predicted,” he said in Abuja recently. In fact, the Global Normalcy Index ranked Nigeria 4th position in the Economist’s Global Normalcy Index, out of 50 countries. The rating aims to determine which countries are returning to their pre-pandemic levels, by grading each country using eight indicators of normal socio-economic activities.
In his first encounter with the State House Press Corps as SGF, Mustapha had pledged to implement programmes and policies aimed at uplifting the quality of lives of all Nigerians. He also promised to ensure effective coordination of the activities of government so as to fulfil the promises made to the electorate.
Barely two years in office, Mustapha received a commendation from the President: “I am writing to personally recognise your competence and commend the way you organised and led the Ministers’ Retreat. The benefits derived from the Committee’s discussions were enormous, and the added values to the Ministers’ and Permanent Secretaries’ experiences very much appreciated.
”Your comprehensive speech at the beginning of the second day of the Retreat proved your capacity and experience. For those of us who missed the first day of the Retreat, the speech adequately prepared us for the second and final day of the occasion. I am happy to write this short letter of appreciation to you because I am very impressed with your performance”.
That was rare but fitted the profile of a tried and tested bureaucrat who gets things done unobtrusively.
A skilful mediator, Mustapha, barely a week after his inauguration as the SGF, visited the National Assembly and told leaders of the Senate: “As SGF, my responsibility is to coordinate the implementation of government policies and to ensure that these policies are synergised in such a manner that we will be able to deliver to the good people of Nigeria the good things of life which they rightly deserve.
“I won’t be able to succeed in that task if I do not get the cooperation of the National Assembly. That is why I’m here today. To extend a hand of friendship. To extend the hand of soliciting the cooperation of the National Assembly.”
Subsequently, he espoused his philosophy on political aspirations and accession to the highest office in the land, the Presidency, based on dialogue and negotiations with all power blocs, at a meeting with a delegation of South-East leaders.
Walking the talk, Mustapha has discharged his duties with panache, competence, patience, dedication and total commitment to the realisation of the yearnings of Nigerians for quick delivery of the dividends of democracy. As the coordinator of the machinery of the Federal Government, he has passionately tasked ministers and other aides to deliver on Mr President’s promises to Nigerians; regarding such as a sacred duty to the populace.
At the first Ministerial Retreat he organised in Abuja, Mustapha identified nine priority areas critical to attaining the objectives of good governance: building a thriving and sustainable economy; enhancing social inclusion, reducing poverty; enlarging agricultural output for food security and export, attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products as well as expanding transport and other infrastructural development.
Others are expanding business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialisation, access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians, building a system to fight corruption, improving governance and creating social cohesion and enhancing security for all.
Barely four years in the saddle, Mustapha has functioned as the ‘stabiliser’ and the non-controversial intellectual bulwark in the Buhari Administration.
His appointment as Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 gave the public some peep into his flair for hard work, diligence and commitment. It is no surprise that the committee’s painstaking national mobilisation effort did stem the feared havoc of the global pandemic on the nation. It fetched him the gratitude of the country.
Born in Adamawa State, Mustapha attended Hong Secondary School, Adamawa state and North East College of Arts and Science, Maiduguri, Borno state, crowning it with WASC and HSC in 1976. He earned his Bachelor of Law (LL.B) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1979 and was called to bar in 1980. From 1980 to 1981, Mustapha did the National Youth Service Corps at the Directorate of Legal Services at the Army Headquarters and was in charge of the review of Court Marshall Proceedings.
After his National Service, he joined Sotesa Nigeria Limited, an Italian consultancy firm, as an Executive Director in charge of Administration, leaving in 1983 to join the law firm, Messrs Onagoruwa & Co in Lagos.
With his law practice in full bloom, Mustapha became a principal counsel in the firm of Messrs Mustapha & Associates. His legal interests and expertise spanned privatisation and commercialisation of public companies and government parastatals. He was also involved in the preparation of various and miscellaneous banking documents such as Debentures, Guarantees, Mortgages, Bonds and Loan Syndications.
One of his career highlights was his appointment as a member of the Interim Management Committee of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, serving meritoriously from 2000 to 2007. At the PTF, he was responsible for the production of an up-to-date comprehensive project and programme report, production of the final information of Assets and Liabilities, examination of the administrative structure and cost-effectiveness of PTF projects and services, among other duties.
Recall that Mustapha also played key leadership roles at the Nigeria Bar Association serving as Social Secretary and Chairman at the Yola branch. Not surprising, therefore, after his stint at the PTF in 2007, he returned to full legal practice and was appointed principal partner at Adroit Lex, a thriving law firm.
With a burning desire to serve the larger society, he was at various times, a member of the Constituent Assembly (1988-1989), Chairman People’s Solidarity Party – Gongola State (1989-1990), State Chairman, Social Democratic Party – Gongola State (1990-1991) and emerged the gubernatorial candidate for SDP in Adamawa State in 1991. He was the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria from 2010 to 2013. He was Secretary, APC Presidential Campaign Organization Mobilization (2015) and member, APC Transition Committee (2015). He is also a member, APC Board of Trustees.
He served as Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority from June 2016 till 30 October 2017, before he was appointed the SGF.
Sixty Five cheers to a leader of leaders; the Boss, our Boss!
* Kareem is an Abuja based communication specialist while Nwakanma is a public affairs analyst.