By Eric Teniola
IN fact, the finance in the Villa before 1996 was directly under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, administered by Alhaji Baba Farouk, who was then director of finance and supply. Alhaji Baba Farouk who later became permanent secretary, Ministry of Water Resources recently succeeded his father as the Emir of Katagum in Bauchi State.
It was President Olusegun Obasanjo who created the office of the chief of staff and appointed the former military governor of Benue-Plateau State and former national security adviser, Major General Abdullahi Muhammed, the managing director of Toto Press, in Ilorin, to that post with Ambassador Aderemi Olagoke Esan as his deputy. He also appointed Alhaji S. Mamud as private secretary to President Obasanjo.
In addition, he made Mr. Steve Osagiede Oronsaye (68) from Edo State as principal secretary. When President Obasanjo in 1999 created that office, he wanted the chief of staff to be the head of his domestic staff. That is a sort of a book maker or scheduled officer who oversees his appointments and meetings like an Ajiroba, whom the Yorubas call the fellow who first sees the king in office.
He copied the American system. Even in America where the office first originated, it was in 1946 that the office was normalised and it acquired its current title in 1961.
The Americans labelled the office as Gatekeeper. I remember President Obasanjo instructed the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, to draw for his approval in June 1999 the schedule of the office of the chief of staff.
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I remember the first draft of that scheduled was drafted by Chief Ekaette’s top aide at that time, Dr. Goke Adegoroye and Chief Phillip Chikwuedo Asiodu (85), “a super permanent secretary” during the era of General Yakubu Gowon, who was at that time the Chief Economic Adviser of the Federal Government. The leakage of the schedule that was published in the Nigerian Tribune and The Guardian (Martins Oloja), almost put me into trouble. Since that time till now the office has blossomed.
When President Obasanjo introduced the office in 1999 he later approved the following as special advisers/special assistants – Bodunde Adeyanju, Chief Phillip Asiodu, Amb. Raph Uwechue, Prof. Julius Ihonbere, Amb. E.A. Azikiwe, Dr. Oby Obiageli Ezekwesili, Mahmoud Waziri, Chief (Mrs.) T. Ajanaku, Chief S. K. Babalola, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, Alhaji Aminu Wali, Sen. L. Imoke, Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, Dr. Stanley Macebuh, Alhaji Ibrahim Imam, Dr. Mrs. E. Uduehi, Onyeama Ugochukwu, Dr. Ibrahim Y. Lame, Adamu Maina Waziri, Dr. (Mrs.) Catherine Acholonu, Dr. Maxwell Gidado, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Handel Okoli, Stephen Akiga, Dr. Andy Uba, Chief (Mrs) J.O. Ayo and Tunde Olusule. He appointed the following as special advisers/special assistants to the office of the Vice-President, Shola Akanmode, Abdullahi Nyako, Chris Mamah, Mahmoud Abdullahi, Sajo Mohammed, Professor A.B. Aborishade, Dr. Usman Bugaje, Dr. Hamilton Isu, Dr. Adeola Akande, Mr. Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, Tokunbo Ayenuga, Umar Ardo, Ajuji Ahmed, John Agwu and A.A. Achibong,
The only president who did not appoint a chief of staff was President Umaru Musa Yar’dua (1951-2010) whose tenure was between 2007 and 2010. Instead he appointed on the recommendation of the former governor of Delta, Chief James Ibori, the then Delta State commissioner of finance, Olorogun David Edevbie as principal secretary. He married an Ile-Oluji lady in Ondo State in 2002.
His brother Matthew is a billionaire and they are from Afiesere in Ughelli North local government area of Delta State. The governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa (60), “the road master general” recently appointed Olorogun David Edevbie as his chief of staff.
When President Obasanjo left in 2007, he wanted Major General Abdulahi to be retained as chief of staff, but the powerful men from Katsina State resisted.
People like Dr. Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, the then minister of agriculture and water resources; Abba Suyyad Ruma, Shehu Inuwa Imam, the CSO, Yusuf Tilde and the ADC, Colonel Mustapha Onovieda encroached on that office and in the end, Major General Abdullahi left the villa in June 2008.
The situation became confused at that time and no one could possibly say who was really in charge. In the end President Yar’Adua scrapped the office of chief of staff and sacked all the special assistants of President Obasanjo.
Those affected include Dr. Gbolade Osinowo, who was initially the senior special assistant on political affairs to the president; Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah; Deaconess J.O. Ayo, senior special assistant on economic affairs; and Princess Gloria Nweka, senior special assistant on presidential matters.