January 27, 2023

Vanguard Awards: Buba Marwa, a life of public service

By Ezra Ukanwa

OVER time, Nigerians have complained of  leaders who lacked integrity, and competence, only making reference to a few who have got their names inked in the scrolls of history for their sacrifices in ensuring that the objectives and fundamental ideals of our nationhood are sustained. One of these few good men is Brigadier-General (retd) Mohammed Buba Marwa, who, for over two decades, has been the central theme of exemplary leadership. Those who experienced him maintain that he was one of the shining examples of good leadership when the military had its time in the country.

Born in Kaduna on September 9, 1953, the scion of a military family; his father, Buba Marwa, and grandfather, Buba Yola, had served in the Nigerian Army, and Marwa did not deviate from that path. He had his primary school education across Nigeria in Enugu, Zaria, Abeokuta, and Lagos (1960-65) and went on to attend the Nigerian Military School, NMS, Zaria (1966-70). Subsequently, he completed a regular combatant course at the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, and was commissioned into the Nigeria Army Recce Corps, NARC, in June 1973.

The story of how he turned around Lagos, particularly by breaking the stranglehold of robbers and frustrating the vicious activities of Area Boys, echoes now and again of a nationalist of uneven repute. The saying that “one’s deeds speak for him” is a direct reference to President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of the retired brigadier general as Chairman and Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, on January 15, 2021.

The announcement brought back fond memories of an unfazed, patriotic Marwa who, out of patriotism, stepped on toes and went above bars to carry out the Nigeria project right in his own backyard. Twenty months later, Marwa, OFR, has not in any measure failed to prove himself by strengthening and repositioning the NDLEA to deliver on its mandate of eradicating the use of hard drugs in the country.

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Indeed, Marwa has held many high-profile offices in his time, including military governor of Old Borno (1990-1992), registrar of the Nigeria Defence Academy (1992–1993), and military administrator of Lagos (1996–1999). Marwa is the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Youth Association and the Nigeria Maltese Business Council, and a recipient of the Gold Merit Award from the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, and the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC.

Despite these fleeting awards and experiences, what stands him out in the midst of very corrupt and rapacious leaders is that he has maintained a track record of unbeatable achievements attained on the very altar of consistency, doggedness, determination, patriotism, sincerity, purposeful leadership, and effective management of national resources. Also noteworthy is the fact that in a nation where issues are intensely politicised and where public servants’ accomplishments are evaluated with suspicion and scrutinised for hidden agenda, Marwa has maintained a consistent trajectory of achievements attained on the altar of purposeful leadership and effective management. It is little wonder that, in recognition of his patriotic labour on the Nigeria project, which hinges on the development and empowerment of humanity, Marwa has, as of today, received 19 chieftaincy titles across the country.

Marwa, not your run-of-the-mill public administrator, is one with a vivid mission anchored on a sound understanding of public office as a call to service. This zeal and ardour to make a difference, which he had cultivated as a young military officer down to the time he was administrator of Borno and later Lagos, has not diminished but rather has received fresh fire which can be seen in the turnaround we have seen in the leadership he has provided for the NDLEA.

His every action is strategic and calculated to deliver results. An example is his Offensive Action operation, launched a few days after he became the head of the anti-narcotics agency. The results—18,940 arrests, 2,904 convictions, and 3.6 million kilogrammes of drugs seized from January 2021 to July 2022—were watersheds in the history of the agency.

President Buhari proved himself a calm observer when, recently, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, was quoted as telling Marwa, “You have demonstrated over and again that choosing you to lead this fight against wicked merchants of death whose sole aim is to endanger and truncate the future of our youth is a very good choice. Please keep up the good work. I deeply appreciate the work that you have put into the eradication of the drug menace. It gladdens my heart as I continue to follow the successes  achieved under your leadership.”

This presidential commendation came on the heels of Marwa’s “highest cocaine seizure,” worth over 278 million dollars. These and many more attributes of a charismatic and revolutionary leader are true of the person of Marwa who has emerged as the 2022 recipient of Vanguard’s Distinguished Public Service Award.