By Nikky Onyeri
A few days into office, the Bola Tinubu administration made some consequential appointments, including the appointment of Senator George Akume as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). Like every other SGF appointment since Nigeria’s return to democratic government, Akume’s does not provoke extraordinary interest for good measure.
However, a careful observation will show that Akume will bring differently – a wealth of experience hitherto unknown to the SGF office. His appointment without emphasizing its merit has the trappings of a tailor-made. As a political leader, a governor, a senator, and a minister, Akume has served in all relevant public offices with no want of validation from the court of public opinion. He left each on a high note and has amassed the sophistication necessary to discharge the particularly important office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. A quick check on those who had held the office since 1999 shows they were excellent secretaries and administrators like Obong Ufot Ekaette, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Mr Babachir David Lawal and Boss Gida Mustapha.
But notwithstanding the experiences of these great men and their performances in office, Akume is going into the SGF more prepared because of his vast political experiences. He has as much of the experiences of these men and more. Akume has the rare the interpersonal skill required to handle the delicate office of the SGF. The Nigerian state is volatile and requires a manager with uncanny skills to navigate the mines. Akume’s experiences as the governor of Benue state showed that apart from delivering on developments, he was able to steer the Food Basket of the Nation away from crises. And for the Bola Ahmed Tinubu government to function optimally and have its policies and programmes monitored, coordinated, and implemented, and to effectively drive policy formulation in the ministries, departments and agencies, the appointment of Akume was apt. Perhaps only very few people will appreciate the enormous responsibilities the office of the SGF is saddled with. With up to 20 important offices which include, but are not limited to Federal Road Safety Corps, Niger Delta Development Commission, Code of Conduct Bureau, National Identity Management Commission, National Poverty Eradication Program, National Agency for Control of AIDs, National Atomic Energy Commission, New Partnership for African Development etc, the Tinubu government scored the bull’s eye in the choice of the former Governor.
Mild-mannered, just, and well-disposed to ensuring that the much-expected new Nigeria where neither creed nor ethnic group has any greater importance than merit is achieved. The office of the secretary to the government of the federation is so important that in addition to its core responsibilities, it should be able to wither inevitable political storms that occur on occasion. Nigeria is not in decent shape politically and economically right now. No time in her recent history has she been so disunited and fractionalised with her fault lines quite evident. Insecurity and poverty as well as tribe-on-tribe violence have been so rife and require a public officer with consummate diplomatic skill to address them. The diverse nature of the country demands a great administrator with uncommon skill to manage. Appointment to positions in government should reflect qualification rather than political patronage that has failed to her Nigeria’s journey to nationhood. The Society for Women Mentoring and Advancement believes that the search for a stable and prosperous Nigeria will not be remarkably successful unless she entrenches affirmative action for women. The Society is calling for fifty per cent representation of women in government as this will augur not just for balance, but for a more progressive society. Elimination of unlawful discrimination against women both in appointive and elective positions has a way of building democracy and promoting social justice. The Society, therefore, holds strongly to the belief that fair representation in the Tinubu administration will go a long way in promoting peace and progress. The new SGF is also not averse to this development as was evident during his previous public engagements. Hopefully, the power to aspire to elective positions and the appointment to political positions will be more available to women under the present government.
The appointment of Senator Akume whose eight-year tenure as Governor of Benue state saw to massive infrastructural uplift, especially in healthcare development and the subtle handling of violent ethnic clashes in the state prognosticates the new government has lots of promise. There is no gainsaying the fact that some of the offices domiciled in the SGF are not working at full capacity and may require greater attention to rid them of indolence and neglect. The new SGF should apply his wealth of experience to rejig the offices under his supervision and have them work to form.
Poverty-inspired insecurity is currently ravaging the country and it is high time the office of the National Poverty Eradication Program combated this malaise. No country has any chance of development if it is battling in the main with rabid insecurity. Ditto for the other offices which are only existing in name with no visible impact on either the economy or political development of the country. For example, if Nigeria must join the league of developed countries and improve its technological advancement, the National Atomic Energy Commission must review its services. There should be a more pertinent approach to official conduct and the general attitude to work of Nigerians. The SGF provides the President with strategic advice on policy matters, offers recommendations to facilitate informed decision-making, oversees the day-to-day operations and administration of the government, facilitates collaboration, resolves conflicts, and promotes the implementation of government policies across various ministries and parastatals. These are no easy responsibilities; they require a tested hand like Akume to give these obligations the required bite.
Indeed, the new SGF can turn around the moribund offices within his sphere of influence. His experiences both in the executive, legislative and ministerial offices are enough to effect reasonable changes in the ministries, departments, and agencies. While his mild manner and sense of justice will effectively check the indiscreet activities ongoing in federal offices across the country, there is hope that Akume’s period of service as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will help immensely in restoring the lost glory of Nigeria’s public service.
Princess Nikky Onyeri, President of the Society for Women Mentoring and Advancement writes from Abuja