Sina Ogunbambo pays tribute to Marwa, former military governor of Lagos State
On Saturday, September 9, 2023, Brigadier – General (rtd) Mohamed Buba Marwa, former Military Administrator of Borno State, Lagos State and now Chairman/Chief Executive of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) will be 70 years old.
His Chef Press Secretary, Sina Ogunbambo, when he was Military Administrator of Lagos State from August 21, 1996 to May 29, 1999, pays a tribute to this living legend.
“On the day that God was making baby Mohamed Buba Marwa, three Angels were on hand to give a helping hand. They were the Angels of beauty, which endows him with handsomeness, that of luck, which makes good luck follow him wherever he goes and ensures he has the midas touch, the third was that of intelligence which made the scholar, author, the soldier, the administrator and diplomat, an intelligent and hardworking achiever. “
These words were that of the former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Late Justice Omotunde Ilori (an accomplished Jurist not known for flattery) at the handing over of 40 stenographic recording system by the then Colonel Marwa’s administration for the use of the judiciary in the state in 1998.
This computerisation method which makes retrieval of information easy and give Judges less of long hard writing was the first of its kind in Nigeria and it was the type of equipment used for the celebrated case of O. J. Simpson trial in the United States.
Marwa who also scored Lagos State government as the first state to have a website in Nigeria, also built courts within the prison premises and appointed an appreciable number of Judges for the judiciary.
Outstanding legal luminary and Pro – democracy activist, Mr Femi Falana (now SAN). on Wednesday, September 3, 1997 (page 8) publication in The Diet newspaper, cautioned Nigerians and Lagosians in particular, to be wary of the federal government antics to sell General Sani Abacha (former Head of State, now late) to the electorate through spectacular outing of Lagos State administrator, Colonel Mohamed Marwa.
In his column “Crossroads” in The Guardian newspaper of Sunday, May 17, 1998, the renowned intellectual, critic and journalist, Dr Reuben Abati, published an article “Marwa and Abacha “.
He did an appraisal of the administration of Abacha, the then Head of State and Commander – in – Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria with that of Marwa whom Abacha posted to Lagos as one of his 36 Military Administrators, employing what he called the transactional (deal cutting, wheeler dealer form of public service) and extreme transformational leadership approach.
Abati in summary wants General Abacha to learn from his junior officer, Colonel Marwa through exemplary performance, stating that Abacha does not know how to cut deals, build bridges and reach out to constituencies. Such were the views freely given by moderates, critics and even hardliners to measure the performance of Marwa in his nearly three years sojourn at the seat of power in Lagos State.
With his extraordinary performance, I have made an acronym out of his name MARWA, translating it as “Meaningful Actions Reinforced With Authority.”
An international scholar and diplomat who also had a column in THISDAY newspaper at that time gave MARWA another meaning, “Moving Along Radiantly With All”. The King of tabloid journalism in Nigeria and media icon, Mr Mike Awoyinfa called his era in Lagos State as “Marwamania” due to the love by the people and his soaring popularity till he left that office.
The unforgettable human dynamo and Senior Advocate of the Masses, Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN, once rejected two rams sent to him as Sallah gift, calling it a Greek gift from Lagos State government, promising he will return to Alausa seat of government. When Marwa got his response through the media, he did explain to him that the gift was from Marwa as a person and a Muslim to his fellow Muslim Brother.
He further explained that as a Fulani man, he has cows and rams in his “gado” as inheritance and it is from these that he has reached out to fellow Muslims at the top, middle and lower levels, and that he will receive the rams back in good faith, wishing Chief Fawehinmi a happy Sallah. Chief Fawehinmi did return the rams as he promised but remarked that he did not know that such refined officers still exist in the Nigerian military.
The courageous Marwa who during his term in office publicly disowned a pro – Abacha group called YEAA (Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha) wanting General Sani Abacha to transform from a Military Head of State to an elected civilian President would have paid a tragic price for his popularity through hard work and milk of human kindness. There were two separate bomb attacks within a month, targeted at him, but by God’s grace, he escaped death by whiskers.
Marwa did not just endear himself to Lagosians by luck, he worked and sweated for it. During his tenure he fought armed robbery to a standstill with his reinvigorated Operation Sweep outfit (a combination of soldiers and policemen). It got to a point when the robbers sent a letter to him, pleading he should give them a few days to operate, so as to celebrate Christmas. More fire power to silence these men of the underworld was his response.
The Cable Network News (CNN) was so impressed on his performances that they did a positive feature on his administration. He fixed reconstruction of 100 roads as first phase of tackling horrible roads in Lagos, moving to another 250 roads as phase two and continuation of others to infinity. This included the dualisation of Lagos to Ikorodu road. All the roads were fixed by engineers and other workers in the Lagos State government employment under the Direct Labour Agency (DLA) under the leadership of Engr Kehinde Osikoya, a Permanent Secretary. Over 1000 Area boys and girls were rehabilitated, trained to acquire skills and employed.
His administration employed a lot of other workers, especially doctors and nurses, established the Lagos State College of Medicine and upgraded Ikeja General Hospital to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) status. Housing projects embarked on by his predecessors were completed and named after them by him.
His administration housing projects came out too in torrents, the climax being Marwa Gardens, renamed MKO Abiola Gardens by his successor, but which till today is still more known as Marwa Gardens by Lagosians. He provided a fleet of buses for public transportation and for the civil service too.
He introduced the use of tricycles in Lagos State and made it affordable for the masses to purchase. The tricycles till today are referred to as Keke Marwa or simply Marwa and it serves the needs of the masses.
When there was bean scare in Lagos State due to a rumoured beans poison, he did not only allay the fears of the people by issuing statements that there was nothing of such, but went out to demonstrate publicly that the beans scare is a mirage, by buying “akara” (beans cake).from a roadside seller at Ketu in Lagos, and eating it at the spot along with his officials. He invited members of the public to join him which they did with enthusiasm. He paid the bills at the spot.
At moment of crisis such as fuel shortage or protest when Chief Moshood Abiola died whilst in detention by the federal government, he employed the use of dialogue and persuasion, going out to filling stations to ensure fuel was not hoarded and that no one disturbed a peaceful protest. Though, a military lord with officers and men at his beck and call, he was amiable, approachable and simple.
A gold fish they say has no hiding place, it is the same zeal and dynamism that he has brought into National Directorate of Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). He has fought to near standstill the drug couriers and barons, while also introducing a lot of measures to rehabilitate drug addicts and educate our youths on the dangers inherent in adhering to usage of drugs.
Marwa indeed is God’s gift to our nation, Nigeria and humanity at large.
Born in Kaduna on September 9, 1953, this native of Michika in Adamawa State, had his education at Nigeria Military School, Zaria, Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, University of Pittsburgh and then University of Harvard, both in United States of America where he has two Masters degrees in International Relations, and then Public Administration. He had series of military training in other countries
Once a Defence Attache for Nigeria in Washington, DC in America, he was one time, Chairman of Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) , and also, a High Commissioner in South Africa .
A loving husband of Mrs Munira Marwa, father and grandfather, here is wishing my boss for life, big brother and friend, Brigadier – General Mohamed Buba Marwa rtd, a happy 70th birthday and triumphant entry into the seventh floor.
Ogunbambo, a media consultant and public affairs analyst was Marwa Chief Press Secretary in Lagos State