Many regard him as Mai gaskiya, otherwise interpreted to mean the man who lives by the truth. Others applaud him as frugal and taciturn. All these are known attributes of President Muhammadu Buhari.
While the president has seldom wielded the big stick on erring state officials, he has effusively commended his number one bureaucrat, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha. In appreciation of the selfless service of the gangling SGF, PresidentBuhari has severally applauded his diligence, commitment and leadership qualities.
Two years after assuming office,Mustapha received a commendation from the President saying, “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.”
When he attained 64 years in September, 2020, President Buhari joined the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) and the Federal Executive Council to celebrate Mustapha, describing him 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 that, “Mustapha has provided strong and commendable leadership as a rallying point for the Federal Executive Council and demonstrated high-level of patriotism by accepting the demanding position of chairing the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.”
On September 2, 2021 the president wrote, “Since his appointment as SGF, my respect and admiration for Mustapha have grown ever stronger and deeper because of the passion and energy with which he does his job. Mr Mustapha is a remarkably competent person who enjoys the confidence and support of his colleagues.”
The president also commended him for playing a big part in the nation’s unparalleled success in combating the Covid-19 pandemic even as he urged other public servants to borrow a leaf from Boss Mustapha who does his job with passion and amazing talent for details.
But Mustapha, not carried away by the encomiums from the president, has rightly identified the ‘spark plug’ in his domain- the incontrovertible engine room of the government.
The Cabinet Affairs Office(CAO) is one arm of the OSGF.There are others namely, Special Services, Ecological Projects, Political and Economic Affairs as well as General Services. The CAO aptly described as the spark plug is the hub of the federal bureaucracy. This office is saddled with the task of processing the memoranda and notes for the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting. It also produces council conclusions and the extracts of FEC approvals. It provides administrative support for the National Council of State, the Police Council and all other councils where the president presides.
In the words of Mustapha, “The CAO is the arm of the government that services the highest administrative and policy decision making process.”
The CAO rarely visible to the public is the organ saddled with the organisation and management of Ministerial Performance Review Retreats for ministers, permanent secretaries and top government functionaries hosted by the president in Abuja. The last of such forum was held in October, prompting the rave commendation by President Buhari.
The president’s message was conveyed in a letter of appreciation to the SGF and the staff of the Cabinet Affairs Office. President Buhari who presided over the two-day retreat, attributed its success to the hard work and commitment of the SGF and his team in his letter which partly reads, “The success of the retreat is something to be proud of. You and your team made it happen. Please accept my congratulations.”
Mustapha, at a post retreat meeting, lauded the permanent secretary, CAO, Mr James Suleand staff of the Central Delivery Coordination Unit who worked with both local and international partners to make the event a success. “Under intense pressure, you kept your cool; you did what was needful and we presented and executed a master plan that has never been done in the history of Nigeria where a government would willingly subject itself to the interrogation and investigation of what it has done with the mandate that the people of Nigeria willing gave to it.”
He also reiterated the directive of the president to convene quarterly coordination meetings for each priority area based on the collaborative result framework even as he explained that the objective was to ascertain the status of implementation across the nine priority areas, identify bottlenecks and proffer immediate solutions.
The nine priority areas are building a thriving and sustainable economy; enhancing social inclusion and poverty reduction; enlarging agricultural output for food security and export as well as attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products.
Others are expanding transport and infrastructural development, business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialisation, access to quality education,affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians.
The administration has also prioritised building a system to fight corruption, improve governance and create social cohesion as well as security for all.
The SGF said government would engage with stakeholders to develop a framework to institutionalise the Central Delivery Coordination Unit to ensure that the current efforts are sustained by the next administration come 2023.
Mustapha promised to support the staff of the Cabinet Affairs Office and the Delivery Unit for effective service delivery.
“Let me reassure you of our commitment to addressing the challenges being faced at the Cabinet Affairs Office. To this effect, I have directed that the monthly overhead allocation of the CAO be increased. We would also explore every opportunity we have to provide improved welfare for our staff,” he told his cheery staff.
“Whatever are the expectations and desires that you have set for yourselves on your career progression, nothing would stop you from getting to that desired destination. Therefore, I cannot but thank you for the high professionalism, efficiency, and effectiveness that each and every one of you continued to demonstrate in all the activities of the cabinet office.
“You don’t have a day off because as you are finishing from the Federal Executive Council, you are preparing the minutes; you are preparing the agenda item for the next Federal Executive Council; you are pushing out the notices; you are working out the conclusions until very late on Sundays and it is signed off for production and circulation on Monday.
“People don’t know what you do behind the scenes to ensure that the government moves efficiently and is provided with the services that are required,” Mustapha told the staff.
Sule expressed appreciation to the president for the commendation and also thanked the SGF for the leadership and support he has provided which enabled civil servants to perform optimally.He pledged the loyalty of his staff to the SGF and promised to carry out all directives of the president to sustain the gains of the retreat.
EsegeEsege, a principal planning officer at the CAO who worked at the Central Delivery Coordination Unit, recalled a rewarding experience working for nine months. He specifically appreciatedthe opportunity for capacity building and the hands-on experience.
“We have been able to institutionalise the delivery unit as directed by the president. We also had the opportunity of working with a wide range of sector experts and collaborating with the delivery managers who are handling different priority areas.
“The retreat afforded us the opportunity to engage with ministries in terms of setting their targets, collating and analysing data, working with them.
“It is important to mention the overwhelming support of our able permanent secretary, who came in and took charge of institutionalising the delivery unit and from January till now he has been overseeing thisproject and that is why at the end we succeeded in achieving the mandate of the President,” said Esege.
The director, economic and finance, Mrs NkemAnwunah expressed gratitude for the rare recognition from the president as she thanked the SGF for providing effective leadership.
“We are grateful to the president that he has publicly recognised us, writing a letter to the SGF, commending the team for the second time running.It’s a wonderful privilege: it’s a good thing and we are happy and some of us that are going to retire very soon, we would retire and keep smiling,” she said.
Kareem wrote from Lagos