.Tinubu battles intrigue as Masari, El-Rufai, Bagudu jostle for SGF slot
This expose on the powers and influence of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF will show that the office is very powerful, and President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu must get it right by appointing an unblemished individual and one that can be trusted.
In the opaque world of Nigeria’s politics, the undercurrents in the ensuing contestation for the job are already setting a tone for the type of power play that may herald the Tinubu administration.
Yet, as the president-elect grapples with the contemporary realities of the larger Nigerian space – different from tiny Lagos – there are indications that he will make a choice that will serve the ethos of decency, service and clear-headedness.
This report presents the powers of the OSGF as well as the chances of the major contenders in the unfolding power play.
In a 2011 document detailing the responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, which was published by Vanguard in May 2011, the full complement of the powers of that office was laid bare. It revealed, perhaps, for the first time, the powers inherent in that office. Traversing over two dozen spheres of control, the occupier of the office packs a punch.
Therefore, on August 25, 2019, at the height of the controversy which raged about the pre-eminence of one above the other, regarding the office of the Chief of Staff to the President on the one hand, and the OSGF on the other, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, had said, “the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, is responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government policies and programmes. All cabinet matters must go through him.” To date, there have been 19 SGFs. The incumbent is Boss Gidahyelda Mustapha.
OSGF and its Strategic Importance
Sometime in August 2014, just after the submission of the report of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Conference, which was meant to address “inclusive national consensus on the structure and guiding principles of the state,” the OSGF, with former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim as the incumbent, was insinuated into a scenario that has since left observers wondering why the report was never implemented by Jonathan.
The conference was inaugurated on March 17, 2014, and had the late Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi as Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi as Vice Chairman and Dr Valerie Azinge as Secretary, and 492 delegates. According to some of the leaders of the conference, a certain minority report was suggested but never saw the light of day on the floor of the conference.
Whereas the said minority report was meant to be smuggled into the final conference document, a final document which enjoyed the benefit of consensual agreement of all members, it was the furious and instantaneous outburst of the late Yinka Odumakin against the minority document that sang its nunc diminish. Yet, when it was suggested that the report, too, be presented on the floor for consensual adoption, the promoter demurred. Unsatisfied, the promoter of the report allegedly worked through the OSGF to convince the former President that the implementation should be delayed until after the 2015 general elections.
That way, according to one of the very prominent leaders in the secretariat of the conference who kicked against the minority report, the perquisites of the OSGF would be maintained until after the elections. Jonathan reportedly swallowed the bait.
And that was how the national conference report was not implemented by Jonathan. This was the genesis of why then-incoming President Muhammadu Buhari refused to act on it because those around him were very aware of what went down and, therefore, decided not to touch the document with anything. Whether Anyim Pius knew about this or not is another matter.
However, at a book launch in June last year, Jonathan, who was represented by Pius Anyim, while giving his version of why he did not implement the conference report, said his government had already lost control of the House of Representatives by the time the report was submitted in August 2014. He insisted that the mass defection led by then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, made it impossible to send the report to the National Assembly.
Tambuwal, currently Sokoto State governor, had dumped the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on October 28, 2014, and defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC. He is back in the PDP. After defecting from the PDP at the time, Tambuwal adjourned the sitting of the House to December 3, 2014.
Between the two versions of why Jonathan did not implement the report of his conference, the OSGF remains central as it was supposed to be “responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government policies and programmes”.
Powers of the Office
The responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, OSGF, are enormous.
More specifically, the office undertakes the following responsibilities:-
i) Coordinating policy design and formulation by Ministries, Departments and Agencies for approval by Government;
ii) Serving as Secretary to the Council of State, the Federal Executive Council and other Constitutional Councils, which are chaired by the President;
iii) Coordinating the activities of Ministries and Government Agencies on the implementation of Government decisions, policies and programmes;
iv) Dealing with constitutional, political and socio-economic matters as may be referred to the Presidency;
v) Administrative Tribunals, Commissions and Panels of Enquiry;
vi) Coordinating national security and public safety matters;
vii) National Honours Award;
viii) Prerogative of Mercy;
ix) Protocol Matters;
x) Channeling of papers and directives of the President;
xi) Processing and granting Government approval for Overseas Tours, Intergovernmental Meetings/Conferences, medical check-up/treatment by Public Officers;
xii) Processing requests for Overseas Duty Tours/Conferences including medical check-up/treatment abroad for members of the Judiciary, Chairmen and Members of Statutory Commissions/Bodies for approval by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
xiii) Coordinating the appointments to Headship of Statutory Bodies, Commissions and Agencies by the President;
xiv) Dealing with matters relating to conditions of service of political office holders;
xv) Intergovernmental Affairs and relations with State and Local Governments;
xvi) Liaison with Secretaries to State Governments;
xvii) Allocation of Office accommodation to Political Office Holders.
But, that is not all that he does. In terms of the structure of that office, there is more.
In discharging the aforementioned responsibilities, the OSGF is structured into the following offices, each headed by a Permanent Secretary. There are six such offices:
*General Services Office;
*Political Affairs Office;
*Economic Affairs Office;
*Special Services Office;
*Special Duties Office.
Then there are the supervisory roles that have also been lumped together in that office and the list is legion.
The following Parastatals/Agencies are supervised by the OSGF as listed in that 2011 document: (i) Ecological Fund; (ii) National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP); (iii) National Economic Intelligence Committee; (iv) Presidential Advisory Council; (v) Code of Conduct Tribunal; (vi) Code of Conduct Bureau; (vii) Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency; (viii) National Hospital; (ix) Federal Road Safety Commission; (x) National Commission for Refugees; (xi) Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS); (xii) Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); (xiii) South-South Health Care Programme; (xiv) National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA); (xv) National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC); (xvi) Ministry of Special Duties; (xvii) Secretariat of the Presidential Council (PAC); (xviii) Secretariat of the Presidential Committee on National Identification Systems, Consumer Credit and Outsourcing initiative; (xix) Galaxy backbone; (xx) NIMC; (xxi) Christian Pilgrims Commission; (xxii) National Hajj Commission.
However, by August 2019, President Buhari created the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, was also moved to the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy.
Enter Bola Ahmed Tinubu
As president-elect, Bola Tinubu has been inundated with pressures from different camps and persons angling to become the SGF. And whereas there is no official statement yet as to where the office would be zoned, there are strong indications that the North-West geo-political zone may get it.
If and when zoned to the North-West, some issues would naturally come up, viz: Who are the contenders? What have they contributed or what did they contribute to Tinubu’s victory? What can any of them contribute to his presidency? How do they stand (what are their chances)? What should Tinubu be looking out for?
Being a man imbued with his unique approach to statecraft, Tinubu is said to know what he wants and how to get it. Some of the known contenders have been sending emissaries to the president-elect. Some have visited under the guise of welcoming him back to the country after his thirty-something-day vacation to rest.
Sources close to Tinubu say he has a set of criteria he is looking out for Commitment to serve, diligence, loyalty, competence and a history devoid of unnecessary controversy. Because of the radical nature of the types of reforms, he plans to engage in once he is sworn in, those close to Defence House, his temporary residence, say he wants an SGF who is level-headed and diligent and not one given to unnecessary controversies, controversies which may obfuscate the essence of government policies if ventilated in a manner that evokes suspicion from the Nigerian public.
Still, feelers are rife that the stature of Tinubu’s Chief of Staff could determine the effectiveness or otherwise of the SGF. In a situation where the President and Commander-in-Chief decides to alter the status quo and move some responsibilities into his office where his Chief of Staff takes charge, the SGF may not be as powerful as would have been, judging from the established roles and responsibilities.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that there are three major frontrunners vying for the job of SGF. And three of them, incumbent state governors, are close to Tinubu.
First is Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. The other is Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State. And there is Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.
Each of the contenders has played a major role in the emergence of Tinubu, first in their individual and collective roles in the emergence of Tinubu as the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate last June. Each also featured prominently during the presidential campaigns and the quantum of votes delivered during the presidential election of February 2023. There are others who are not known for now; a black horse could as well emerge.
Nigerians will recall the famous press conference addressed by El-Rufai where he reaffirmed the commitment of some 13 northern governors to back the aspiration of Tinubu at the APC presidential primary. It was he who forcefully made it clear that there was a contingent moral obligation on northern leaders to ensure that power returned to the South after the eight years of President Buhari.
This was at a time when there were suggestions that a section of Aso Rock Presidential Villa was not in support of the emergence of Tinubu as APC presidential candidate. Following up on that, El-Rufai also made a frontal charge at the Town Hall Meeting in Kaduna where he made an open commitment to why the North would deliver massive votes for Tinubu.
In doing that, he practically demarketed the Labour Party, LP, and presidential candidate, Peter Obi, at the event.
Beyond his open preachment for Tinubu, the outgoing Kaduna State governor is credited with revamping the economy of his state as well as the revolution in infrastructure, agriculture and revenue generation, as well as the establishment of a process that reduces corruption in government dealings. Before his tour of duty in Kaduna, El-Rufai, as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, brought zest and life back to the Abuja Master Plan. But for his insistence on getting it right, the FCT was already becoming a glorified slum by the time he became a Minister.
However, some people see him as a divisive element, a charge which they try to substantiate with his handling of the Southern Kaduna crisis and his alleged insensitivity to the religious and ethnic diversity of Kaduna State. El-Rufai’s people insist that the end justifies the means and that the man has no apologies.
Perhaps, at further, greater risk of rendering discombobulate, an already mutually suspicious relationship between Government House Katsina and Aso Rock, Masari was one of the earliest northern governors who did not wait for the body language of Buhari before throwing his weight behind Tinubu. His underground activism for Tinubu’s emergence drew consequential flak from a section of Aso Rock. For a man who had had to endure Buhari’s ‘Dauranisation’ of appointments meant for Katsina State, the move by Masari to stick out his neck for Tinubu was considered by some as loyalty on steroids.
For, in Buhari’s eight years, the other emirate of Katsina State, Katsina, was as good as relegated to an inconsequential sphere as Buhari favoured Daura many times over, while treating Katsina Emirate as if it did not exist.
Sources close to Tinubu say Masari’s role in the negotiations that birthed the APC, negotiations which started in October 2010, and culminated in the formation of the party on February 6, 2013, is the stuff of a mature mind and one set to ensure that a matter reaches its logical conclusion. That role earned him the position of founding Deputy National Chairman of APC (North)
Being a regular discussant with Tinubu, Masari, according to those close to the president-elect, endeared himself to him because of his calm, calculating disposition, different from the rambunctious dramatisation of loyalty which pervades Nigeria’s political sphere. As Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007, Masari managed the adventurist voyage of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, especially during the Third Term saga which some latter-day democrats who worked with Obasanjo and formed the Obasanjo cabal now dissociate themselves from.
Masari, whose birthday is May 29, is said not to be too keen about anything in life but is always willing to serve.
Yet, some people say Masari’s demure demeanour presents him as lacking capacity, a charge which his supporters counter by insisting that a book should never be judged by its cover, since Masari has been able to excel in every public office he’d held before now.
Whereas Kebbi State was just a sleepy, dingy glorified entity as one of Nigeria’s 36 states, it must be placed on record that but for the emergence of Bagudu, the fortunes of Kebbi may have gone from bad to worse. Said to be selfless, and courageous but a quiet achiever, Bagudu is credited with giving life to Kebbi State. On the economic and infrastructural front, Bagudu’s tenure as helmsman will forever be remembered for first creating a fortune for the state – it is only a fortune that has been created but which may be dwindling that can be turned around. He created.
By the time he became governor, the state was as good as a wasteland. Spearheading one of the earliest collaborative engagements between states in Nigeria, Bagudu pursued the establishment of a commodity value chain between Kebbi and Lagos, with then-Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos. That alliance sought to “ensure food security, job creation, increase in farmers’ income and overall improvement in the living conditions of residents of both states through wealth creation and poverty eradication”.
As Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Bagudu is credited with promoting the ideals of the group as well as integrating the body into a bigger, mutually beneficial synergistic relationship with the Federal Government, which the APC controls. A testament to this was the successful rice pyramid display which Buhari oversaw in Abuja, a manifest statement of the power of collaboration.
In all of this, however, Bagudu carries a burden of smear-by-association. Known to be a long-term associate of the Abacha family, his name regularly comes up in discussions about how the Abachas ran Nigeria and the benefits which accrued to the family. But Bagudu’s people quip that there are many politicians today who were not only associates of Abacha but who worked and were more prominent than the Kebbi State governor. Buhari headed the Petroleum (Special) Task Force, PTF, under Abacha; and some prominent players in the polity, today, like Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe and Chief Tom Ikimi also worked for Abacha as Ministers.
However, president-elect Tinubu is said to be set to pull off a joker. Whatever the joker will be, Tinubu is keeping it to his chest. In the end, he is expected to appoint a person who would help him ensure “the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government policies and programmes.”