The National Incident Commander is 64

Boss Mustapha

With a major national assignment on his hands, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Gidahyelda Mustapha, has a lot to be grateful for on his 64th birthday, which held last Friday, writes Shola Oyeyipo

Aside the fact that his responsibility as the SGF is very strategic and demanding for proper governance, his present job as the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which saddles him with the responsibility of mitigating the effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic, has placed an even bigger responsibility on his shoulders.

That much, his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged in his birthday greetings to Mustapha in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu.

The President affirmed that Mustapha has provided strong and commendable leadership as rallying point for the Federal Executive Council, and “demonstrated high level patriotism by accepting the onerous position of chairing the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.”

The president, therefore, congratulated him and the team for “steadily guiding Nigerians in the midst of health and economic uncertainties.”

According to Shehu, “As the SGF turns 64, the President notes, with gratitude, his sacrifices and selfless service to the nation for close to four decades, taking a stand for democracy and good governance at an early age, and working assiduously to raise structures and support causes that project the ideals of a liberal and accommodating nation, like serving in the Constituent Assembly in 1989, working on many committees and heading several government agencies.”

The president was not alone in recognising the SGF’s meritorious services to Nigeria at various times and in different capacities. The All Progressives Congress (APC), Federal Executive Council (FEC), family, friends, professional and political associates and a lot of other well-wishers paid glowing tributes to one outstanding Nigerian, who has contributed significantly to nation building in his 64 years.

A lawyer, management consultant, politician, businessman and boardroom expert, it won’t be out of place to say that the Adamawa State-born politician has seen it all.

He laid the foundation for the what he is today from Hong Secondary School, in Hong Adamawa State; North East College of Arts and Sciences, Maiduguri, Borno State; sat for WASC and HSC in 1976; earned his Bachelor of Law (LL.B) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1979 and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1980. He also had his mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

His legal interest spans privatisation, commercialisation and liberalisation of public companies/corporate and government parastatals.

After his NYSC, he had a short stint at Sotesa Nigeria Limited, an Italian consultancy firm, as Executive Director in charge of Administration till 1983 when he left to join Messrs Onagoruwa and Co in Lagos. He was later appointed Principal Counsel in the firm of Messrs Mustapha and Associates.

Some other aspects of his expertise are in preparation of banking documents such as debentures, guarantees, mortgages, bonds and loan syndications.

He was appointed as a member of Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), where he served between 2000 and 2007. There, his duty was to produce up-to-date comprehensive project and programme report, including location, coverage and whether performed, performing or abandoned, production of the final report of assets and liabilities, examination of the administrative structure and cost-effectiveness of PTF projects and services among other things.

After about seven years at the PTF, Mustapha returned to his legal profession as Principal Partner of the law firm, Adroit Lex and at a point, he was the Social Secretary and Chairman at the Yola branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

He ventured into politics and was a member of the Constituent Assembly (1988-1989); Chairman People’s Solidarity Party, Gongola State (1989-1990); state chairman, Social Democratic Party, Gongola State (1990-1991); gubernatorial candidate for SDP in Adamawa State in 1991 and deputy National Chairman, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) from 2010 to 2013. He served as the Deputy Director-General of the party’s presidential campaign organisation in 2007.

Lately, through the multi-sectoral and inter-governmental taskforce inaugurated on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, to mitigate spread of the Coronavirus, the SGF has made frantic efforts to slow the spread of the virus and has proven beyond every doubt, that he was worthy of the assignment.

With help from the Ministers of Health, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Aviation, Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development, Education, Information, Environment, Minister of State for Health, the Director-General, Department of State Security (DSS); Director-General, National Centre for Disease Control and WHO representative in Nigeria, the country has recorded noteworthy success in tracking infected persons and in providing premium healthcare to the sick.

While still in his birthday celebration mood, Mustapha told Nigerians that President Buhari Thursday approved the extension of the six-month mandate of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF), due to expire on September till the end of December 2020.

He said the extension was granted after the federal government reviewed the four weeks of transition into the third phase of the National Response to COVID-19, which ende with effect from 12.01 am on Friday, September 4.

Those familiar with the operations of the federal government have acknowledged that the SGF has introduced professionalism into his duties as the secretary to the federal government.

In the civil service, he has insisted on adherence to clear rules and regulations governing appointments, promotion and discipline of workers as against the previously growing trend, where chief executives of federal government agencies were removed and replaced arbitrarily.

Clearly, history will be kind to Mustapha as one SGF, who served diligently and tenaciously with commitment. The changes he has brought to that office will not only be enduring but a guide to after him.