Remi Babalola, Silas Zwingina: Where are they now?

It is not clear where these gentlemen who once served in past administrations in the country are at the moment. ELEOJO IDACHABA seeks to know.

Remi Babalola

Dr. Aderemi Babalola is the former minister of state for finance appointed by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007. It is on record that Babalola, being the first technocrat that served in that administration was also the first minister that publicly declared his assets in line with extant public service rules. In late 2008, he combined his duties as finance minister with that of the FCT briefly in acting capacity following the removal of the minister of the FCT. Prior to his appointment as minister in 2007, he had carved a niche for himself in the banking sector where he occupied management positions in Zenith and First banks, respectively. However, he began to have problem in that cabinet following his disclosure in 2010 that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was broke, a claim that was, however, refuted by the corporation in a statement by its spokesperson, the late Levi Ajuonuma.

According to Ajuonuma, “We cannot be classified as insolvent when we have healthy cash flow and we can pay for our crude and product import obligations.” Subsequently, Babalola was removed from the finance ministry and deployed to the Ministry of Special Duties which was a way of rendering him redundant. Considering his wealth of experience and the number of years he had served in the banking sector, he resigned and refused to resume in his new place of deployment. Investigation has it that his stint in the ministry of finance was marked by a concern for transparency in the manner government’s activities should be carried out especially as it concerns the management of finances. This was why he focused on improving the public expenditure management framework that led to the institution of checks on irregular deduction from source of funds as well as from provincial and municipal government’s statutory allocations. In 2009, shortly before he left the cabinet, he helped to raise the sum of $1 million to build a state-of-the-art clinic (known as Remi Babalola Red Cross Medical Centre) for the Nigerian Red Cross Society in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital. Report has it that the facility has since supported the delivery of primary healthcare services in that ancient city. Since Babalola left the cabinet, there has not been any news about him again; therefore, one wonders where he is presently.

Silas Zwingina

Senator Silas Jonathan Zwingina is a former law maker who represented Adamawa South Senatorial Constituency in the Senate between 1999 and 2007. Therefore, he is the first senator to represent that part of the country in the Senate when Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. He got re-elected in 2003 but could not return the third time as the people preferred Grace Folashade Bent to him. However, while in the red chamber, Zwingina was a popular contributor to almost every motion in the House. This earned him greater popularity as he was appointed to head several committees like works and housing establishment, internal affairs, information, special projects, privatisation and economic affairs.

Shortly before his tenure ended in the Senate in 2007, his palatial house built behind the Community School located in Asokoro was pulled down on the order of former FCT minister, Malam Nasir El Rufai, on the ground that the house violated the city’s master plan. As powerful as Zwingina was to the powers that be, he was helpless in that circumstance as he could not stop the bulldozers from pulling down the complete structure.

Zwingina has been in politics right from the aborted Third Republic where he served as national co-coordinator of MKO presidential election, Hope ’93 which the late Abiola won, but was unfortunately annulled by the military. Prior to that time, he was a commissioner for health and water resources in his home state of Adamawa. He was involved in fake currency scandal in 2012 following information that he allegedly contracted the services of three foreign firms to print fake currency for him. As wild as this allegation was, this former senator was not prosecuted, an indication that after investigation, he was not found wanting after all. After Zwingina left the upper chamber, he was appointed as coordinator of Jonathan’s re-election in 2011, for which he was rewarded with the position of chairman of an agency of the government on rural electrification, but long after then no one has heard much about this former eloquent senator from Adamawa state again and he has not been in government since then.

Femi Ajayi

Olufemi Ajayi is the former executive secretary of Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) until 2015. Appointed in 2014 by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, he replaced Oluwola Oluleye, its former executive secretary. Ajayi, before the appointment, was the director general of National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). This Ekiti state-born technocrat who headed the nation’s institution charged with the mandate of training local manpower for the oil and gas industry once allayed fears that the scholarship scheme the agency embarks upon on behalf of the government to train Nigerian youths and researchers was cancelled for inexplicable reasons in 2015.

While explaining the true position of things, he said, “The PTDF has not cancelled the scheme. The point I have made is that as much as possible, we want to increase capacity-building locally here and because of that even our training partners, we have told them that going forward, and people that we would be favourably disposed to, are those partners who are ready to encourage our domestication drive. We are asking them to come and set up shops in our country here to do what they are doing for us over there, here.”

According to him, cancelling the scheme is not likely to ever happen because of the importance of encouraging interaction.

“In fact we are not likely to be able to cancel it outright because don’t forget, there is a need for intellectual interaction and diffusion even within the country.

“If you bring scholars who were trained in the US, Germany and the ones that were trained in the UK, the mix is the best you can have and the better for you because we are combining the expertise from so many places.”

It is not known about his whereabouts long after he left PTDF.

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