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Opinion: Public Service And The Hakeem Muri-Okunola Example




By Michael Effiong

In today’s Nigeria we are always quick to heap condemnation on public servants and officials when they falter,  we should therefore not hesitate to commend when they act responsibly-and this what ignited this piece.

I am a professional journalist and news junkie, and have been for decades and would not be shy to say except I have very important meetings, or gym sessions, I try to have a feel of early morning television and radio shows before dipping myself into the business of the day.

From AIT’s Kakaaki, I usually swing to Channel TV’s Sunrise Daily, and now I have added, Arise TV’s Morning Show before rounding off on TVC’s This Morning anchored by the veteran, Yori Folarin.

Unlike the other shows, This Morning is a programme that allows immediate audience participation via a phone-in segment-and it was during this segment last week that Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, the Lagos State Head of Service made quite an impression.

The discussion was on the JUSUN strike and there was a healthy debate in the studio when suddenly the Anchor announced that he had Hakeem Muri-Okunola on the line.

As a celebrity reporter of over 30 years, I know famous people and faces, and definitely knew Hakeem Muri-Okunola. I was first shocked, then the Nigerian in me kicked in “How can a whole Head of service call? Then I thought maybe it was just a same name coincidence, then the caller began to speak. The voice was unmistakable, it was the Head of Service, the cool, bespectacled gentleman everyone calls HMO.

Mr. Muri Okunola began by explaining that he had no problem with the agitation of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), especially because they are agitating to enforce a constitutional position and provision. But wondered why the Lagos State Chapter of JUSUN was on strike when the state government was not in breach of the said provision that the others are fighting for.

He went on to explain that Judicial autonomy was not strange to Lagos State as it has been in force for years. He said Lagos State is in 100 per cent compliance in respect of recurrent expenditure and 80 per cent compliant in terms of capital expenditure. He said the capital expenditure issue is as a result of dwindling revenue of the state which has affected spending projections of all the other tiers of government.

In the view of Mr. Muri-Okunola he does not see why members of JUSUN, Lagos State Chapter should embark on a strike.What are they fighting for? he asked rhetorically.

Since the call came towards the end of the programme, there was little time for Anchor and guest to digest this information and allow others weigh in.

Though what Mr. Muri Okunola has stated is in the public domain as it had already been disclosed by the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu during a meeting with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Lagos State Chapter but the fact that he picked up his phone to call and explain is the “koko”.

Some cynics will say, what is the big deal? Is it not a mere phone call? Well, I dare say in today’s Nigeria where even the file-carrying level 4 clerk thinks he is doing you a favour to perform a duty he is paid for, that call is a big deal.

What he did should be the norm, but is anything normal again in Nigeria today? The abnormal is our new normal especially when people who are elected into office see themselves as rulers instead of the servants they ought to be.

Unlike some haughty Public officers, the Lagos State Head of Service, did not speak about JUSUN with derision. He simply explained what he termed as the facts and allowed the viewers to make their own deductions.

I am a good judge of character and I can say that his composure and comportment during the call showed him as a good manager of men. He came across as friendly, urbane, sincere and someone who has the right balance of standing up for principles when need be and using diplomacy when necessary.

When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode swore him in on December 28, 2020, Muri-Okunola made history as the youngest person ever to attain the position of Head of Service in Lagos State.

The then Governor described the appointment as a new chapter in the state’s civil service. He expressed strong optimism in the ability of Mr. Muri-Okunola to effectively take charge on account of his capacity, knowledge, exposure, experience and youthful energy. He urged him to lead by example and encourage accountability and professionalism in the service.

Those were weighty words that conferred a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the 46 year-old, it is enough to overwhelm anyone who is to begin the assignment of being the numero uno civil servant in the Centre of Excellence. But it seemed Mr. Muri-Okunola was not fazed.

People can speculate about his network, his heredity and say that he rose rapidly because of this or that, but Mr. Muri-Okunola has got juice period! Though I have not bothered to investigate how he has so far performed as Head of Service, but he has shown capacity and competence on the job by that seemingly innocuous action. If he has faltered, we would have heard about it.

When people in government speak to the citizenry, it is not a favour. Today, many top government officials hide from the people and churn out statements through their spokespersons, but nothing beats the human touch.

Another good example is the video message being circulated by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu on his second anniversary plans. That hit the mark big time too.

Speaking directly to the people or about a problem serves many purposes: it can deescalate tension, it can reduce friction and has the tendency to build goodwill and better friendships as we say in Rotary International. The bond between the government and the governed would rather than widen be shortened.

According to the late Super Civil Servant, Allison Ayida, a nation’s civil service should habour its best brains because if the nation was a car, the civil service will be its engine.

In his view, Nigeria’s gradual degeneration from the zenith to the nadir of the development index is as result of the dwindling standard of personnel in the civil service. “In those days, our best and the brightest joined the civil service, today, it is no longer the case. The engine is faulty and it has been so for many years”

The point being made by this late astute Public Administrator is that we need more men with impeachable sense of duty in our civil service like HMO to drive Nigeria out of its current state of inertia.

If our Civil Service is made up of first class brains, we can only expect first class performance. It is therefore time for an overhaul of the recruitment process into Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government at the State and Federal levels. If not for anything, let meritocracy be the new order.

Mr. Muri-Okuola has shown that even the minutest of things matter, let others follow, and gradually, we will get to our Promised Land.








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Identity Saga: Tinubu Pleads with Court to Release Only His Certificate, Not Academic Details




President Bola Tinubu has reluctantly allowed a federal judge in the United States to give his university certificate to his political opponent Atiku Abubakar.

But the Nigerian leader pleaded with Judge Nancy Maldonado to block all other details, especially the gender, and admission records, among others, of the person who owns the certificate from being disclosed.

Mr Tinubu’s prayers on Monday morning came as part of the ongoing legal battle unfolding at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

The case was brought by Mr Abubakar, who has been on a judicial quest to establish that Mr Tinubu was not eligible to be Nigerian president despite his election in February 2023.

He won the election by 36 per cent of the vote after Mr Abubakar and Peter Obi, who was his running mate in the 2019 election, fell out, subsequently dividing their potential votes into at least two parts, paving the way for Mr Tinubu’s victory with the slimmest margin in Nigerian presidential election history.

Mr Tinubu’s acceptance that his certificate could be released came after he narrowly escaped full disclosure on September 21 by pleading severe harm to his life in order to obtain a stay of a magistrate judge’s order on September 19.

“There is harm in allowing discovery on issues and documents outside the diploma,” Mr Tinubu’s lawyers said in their full briefing to the court seeking a review of Judge Jeffrey Gilbert’s order by Ms Maldonado, a district judge.

The identity of who was admitted into Chicago State University in the 1970s has been a hot issue after college transcripts emerged that indicated the school admitted a female Bola Tinubu from Southwest College Chicago in 1977.

Source: People’s Gazette

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Sanwo-Olu Floors Jandor, Rhodes-Vivour As Court Dismisses Petitioners’ Application




The Lagos Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, on Monday, dismissed the petitions brought by Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and the Labour Party, and Olajide Adediran, also known as Jandor of the Peoples Democratic Party, challenging the victory of Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the March 18 governorship election.

The tribunal therefore, affirms the election of Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the March 18 Lagos State governorship poll.

Jandor and Rhodes-Vivour had contested the results, challenging the victory of Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.

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Supreme Court Building Catches Fire




A portion of the Supreme Court is on fire.

The fire, according to source, engulfed a side of the judges’ chamber of the apex court.

Details about the incident are still sketchy as of the time of filling this report.

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