Every position depends largely on the personality of the person occupying the position and the personality of the person who puts them there. There are those whose personalities overshadow those of their colleagues and even their bosses. There are those who ‘take over’ because they are forceful and hardworking while their bosses are hesitant and slothful.
In some cases, there is a tacit agreement between boss and subordinate. Here, the boss is laidback, allowing the said subordinate to take the initiative. In some cases, the system gives the power to the subordinate to the chagrin of the boss. In some other cases, there is a battle royale over tuff. But at the end of the day, in whatever scenario, human beings often know where real power lies and intuitively gravitate towards it. And an uncontrolled power brings out the best or the beast in us.
The office of the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) was not really meant to be this powerful.It was initially thought to be an administrative position which would co-ordinate the affairs of government. So the job in the Second Republic, went to Alhaji Shehu Musa who was a retired Permanent Secretary and a passive NPN sympathiser.
But the framers of the job description did not reckon with the personality of the President. Alhaji Shehu Shagari was a quiet, decent man who knew the limits of his capabilities. He wasn’t one to pore over volumes of paper work and needed someone to simplify and distil issues. The career civil servant fitted the bill. By the end of the first term however, so much power had been devolved to the office of the SGF by default that Shehu Musa had become one of the most powerful men in Shagari’s government.
By contrast, the personalities of the President and SGF in the Third Republic provided a different scenario. Obasanjo was a hardworking, hands-on man who would read his own memos and make his own decisions. Ekaette on the other hand was the quintessential civil servant. An equally hardworking but diffident man who preferred to work in the shadows.
The result was a considerable whittling down of the powers of the SGF to probably the expectation of those who drafted the role of the office. Then Jonathan came and upped the ante by putting Pius Anyim, a career politician in the office who became even more powerful than late Shehu Musa. Different personalities, different power equations.
Whoever was the SGF was always going to be powerful under President Buhari whose personality in that respect is similar to that of Shagari. Both are not well disposed to poring over memos and scrutinising details. Both tend to hand over responsibilities, sometimes enormous responsibilities to those they trust. Both don’t look over their shoulders once they delegate. Both have been proven to be slow in taking decisive actions when necessary.
Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with delegating. Especially if it allows you to focus on the bigger picture and gives you latitude to have a bird’s eye view of events around you. But one has to be careful of those who exercise power on one’s behalf for delegation must not be confused with abdication. A man you delegate responsibilities and therefore power to should have passed certain tests which include those of integrity and proficiency.
Despite this, he should still be constantly monitored because he has become your alter ego who can enhance or taint your administration. He should be excised the minute he deviates from your professed brand and image. President Buhari has refused to do this. He seems to have surrounded himself with some people whose activities are detrimental to his anti- corruption image. It has taken him forever to remove his SGF. There is no telling how long it will take to remove those who allowed the pension thief back into the system.
President Shehu Shagari’s government is not labelled corrupt because Shagari corruptly enriched himself. It was because he refused to deal with those whose hands fiddled with the Nation’s till. President Buhari’s government might end up being labelled corrupt as well despite all the anti-corruption posturing because he is not as decisive on corruption allegations when they affect those close to him. The eventual removal of Babachir Lawal coming so late in the day, might be viewed by many to be ‘too little, too late’.His silence on other allegations speaks volumes.
AND THE BEAT GOES ON.
I can imagine a small smile lurking somewhere as my big brother Mr Niyi Alonge reads this title. It was the title of an article I wrote several years ago on the apathy of nature. When you are mourning, you want the world to stop and mourn with you but it doesn’t. Right next door, somebody is laughing. On the street, people are buying and selling.
Across the street, music is blaring. In your distraught state, you wonder why. The truth is that life goes on. The world moves on. The beat goes on. For some reason, the article struck a chord with him and he has referred to it from time to time over the years. He was to refer to it again last year when I went to commiserate with him on the death of his son.
Yes, the beat does go on. Last week, a few close friends and family members attended a small, 70th birthday service at his residence – the same place we held a funeral service for his departed son. It was as cosy as it could be. In attendance were people who knew him when he was but a toddler; people who attended primary school with him; those who attended secondary school with him and those who participated in Student Union activism with him at the University.
It was a fair representation of people who have been there through the various stages of his life and their testimonies reflected that. The testimonies also sketched a profile of a carefree but serious minded tactician; a deceptively shrewd investor; a parsimonious yet generous man. It was a profile he tacitly agreed with in parts when he spoke on his life’s journey so far.
Speaking of life’s journey, many of the guests were grey of hair and unsteady of feet. It was clear from their banters that their active years were about over. Yet the winter of life does not mean the end of life. Let me encourage Niyi Alonge and his septuagenarian friends with a couple of lines from Ulysses,a poem by Lord Tennyson. “I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life to the lees. How dull it is to pause, to make an end. To rust unburnished, not to shine in use.”
May you all continue to shine in use. The beat goes on. As always.