By Auwal Muhammad
Mr Boss Mustapha, even when he was the helmsman at the Inland Waterways Authority, carried out his duties efficiently outside the public glare which is rare for a man of his political standing. This may have prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to choose him to replace the disgraced former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal.
The President, after the heat generated by the indiscretions of the former occupant of that all- important Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), in his thinking, wanted a less noisy and less controversial candidate who will be diligent enough to carry out his duties earnestly and without attracting negative attention either to himself or to his office. So far Mustapha has lived up to the billing combining, dexterously, the administrative schedules of the OSGF with its immense political demands. Though he claimed not to have come into the office with any special skills, but by adopting the strategies that made it possible for him to interface, mediate, negotiate and extend a hand of fellowship to the office’s numerous stakeholders, he assured people with varying shades of grievances, that they are part of Nigeria.
He made the stakeholders that looked up to his office to understand that they can make claims for which the government is obligated to listen to them. Through this approach, he has been able to attain relative peace in areas and among people with issues that had tended to generate conflicts.
Re-echoing the President’s assurances that we would work to avoid the conflicts which are needless, the office of the OSGF which Mustapha occupies, has done a lot in that area. Narrating his efforts in this direction he said in a recent media appearance that “we have tried as much as possible to interface with the traditional rulers who are the first respondents in most communities through the National Council of Nigerian Traditional Rulers, which is co-chaired by the Ooni of Ife and the Sultan of Sokoto. We have had series of meetings. Not long ago, I was in Kaduna, where we had a joint one for the Northern states and subsequently we had that of the South-East in Owerri. We are working to have that of the South West in Ibadan or Lagos, which we haven’t fixed the time and one for the South South.”
Sounding optimistic, he also said that to move a little bit further, some of these conflicts and clashes that were noticeable in the polity are results of unfortunate suspicions that have eaten deep into our psyche as a result of religious and other differences.
To address this, the SGF breathed life into the hitherto moribund Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC). This Council which had existed before he came into office, for a period of about six years, held no meetings. “I had to do a lot of spadework to convince the leadership that we needed to go back to the negotiation table and begin to talk. When the people outside begin to see the leaders of different faiths talking, it encourages them to have a sense or feeling that our problems will be sorted out.”
In his assessment of that approach to conflict resolution, Mustapha said that “it has helped us tremendously and we have had segregated meetings in all the six geo-political zones where NIREC could be meeting at different levels. The same thing with the National Council for Traditional Rulers which is part of what we are doing in addition to what the government is doing as well as the OSGF because we have the responsibility for public safety and security.”
He observed that the government had to take these steps to ensure that the people are in dialogue, talking and trying to find solutions to the problems that have engulfed the country. The SGF expressed his confidence that as much as the dialogue process and peaceful resolution of crisis continues, “it will reflect in our communities and we would find solutions to our conflicts and begin to accept that we need to resolve our conflicts than engaging in the shedding of blood that has really caused a stigmatization of the nation.”
The SGF sees his approach to public safety and security which his association with religious and traditional rulers has helped as a cardinal function of his office. In addition, “it is very imperative for me to have an eye on enforcement agencies when it comes to public safety and security. And part of what we have been able to do concerns especially the challenges that we find in this country.”
In a futuristic note, the SGF continued, “but the basic thing is going forward, as we go into 2019-2023 what the government will be looking at is strengthening the institutions; putting in place mechanism that will help stop corruption from taking place because it comes with a lot of expenses which I know require a lot of paradigm shifts.
One way we can do it as a people is to begin to create safety nets for the people that are involved in the work place. Once you are able to create a safety net; something that can take care of them in terms of any major accident, insurance packages that can cover them and their families, people will have less tendency in indulging in corrupt practices. Nobody wants to be stigmatized with corruption which is the truth, but I know it is this fear of the unknown that normally propels people into doing that.
Going forward, we should strengthen the institutions and build capacities for them; make sure too that we create safety nets around the whole places so that people can have a bit of comfort. No government has ever recovered the kind of money that we have recovered, the kind of properties that have been seized, now going through the processes of temporary forfeiture and eventually permanent forfeiture and after they are disposed and the funds generated will be ploughed into treasury account. Because of the single treasury system that has been put in place, so much money can be accumulated and be used to fund projects, provide for social services for the people of this country. The other aspect of it is the diversification of the economy, I think we have done very well in that area, particularly in the area of development of infrastructure. Most countries long time ago knew that if they could provide roads, provide rail then they would open up their countries, there will be influx of businesses and I think in that area, in a better way, we have succeeded tremendously. Not only that, even in the area of agriculture, so much investments have gone into agriculture. The anchor borrowers’ scheme has provided so much resources. As at the time we went to campaign, it was about N86 billion that was expended from that and you know how many millionaires have come out through the scheme, particularly in the area of growing of rice. We grew the rice farmers population from 4 million to 12 million. So, it’s a mass of people that have benefited from that scheme.
Then the social investment programme has, in the last two years, done so much in creating wealth for the small business people. Is it the farmer money or the trader money, market money, and so many of these programmes have helped generate employment for the people. The school feeding programme in the south has created wealth for a lot of people and so many people have gone back to the farms, millions are required to feed the students on daily basis, so much monitoring are required, so many food vendors, women have been employed as cooks servicing that particular industry. So I believe that to a large extent, we have diversified the economy. We realize that we came at a time when there was a major drop in crude oil prices, but we were able to navigate, despite that to come out of recession, I think we have done so well and therefore we can do better for the people of this country.
Muhammad wrote in from Jalingo