The death of the former Super Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Allison Akene Ayida, has robbed Nigeria of a brilliant public servant. Chief Ayida, the quintessential administrator and statesman, was the contemporary of the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Philip Asiodu and others. Born June 16, 1930, Ayida died on October 11 in Lagos at the age of 88. In his tribute to the deceased, President Muhammadu Buhari lauded him for his “wide experience in public and private services.” Other Nigerians have also praised him for living an exemplary life. Ayida’s career was defined by the unfortunate Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970 which the country was plunged into six years after political independence from her erstwhile colonial master, Britain. The deceased and his colleagues in the public service had the unenviable task of keeping the country one during the war.
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The deceased and some of his colleagues, such as Philip Asiodu, Sunday Awoniyi, Ahmed Joda, Ime Ebong and S.O. Wey, were instrumental to the policies of successive military regimes in the country from 1966 until 1977 when he retired from service at the age of 47 years.
Ayida achieved the distinction of being appointed a Permanent Secretary at the youthful age of 33. He recalled later in his book, The Rise and Fall of Nigeria: The History and Philosophy of an African Experience in Nation Building, that his appointment was part of a deliberate effort to integrate the new breed of public servants into the commanding heights of the civil service. Ayida knew that he needed mentorship and he found one in his senior colleague, Chief Michael Ani.
This act of humility should be emulated by our civil servants. It is not in doubt that mentorship is essential to a successful career in the civil service. He was a disciplined, loyal and distinguished public servant. Commenting on the tumultuous period of the Nigerian Civil War, Tunji Olaopa, a policy expert, described Ayida as one of the “silent voices behind the military programmes and policies of the time.”
Ayida served as a Permanent Secretary under the first military government of Maj.-Gen. J.T.U. Aguyi-Ironsi in 1966. He also served in the regimes Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Murtala Muhammed and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. He later became the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Head of Service in 1975 and retired in 1977. Ayida was a successful civil servant who contributed much to the development of the country. He was an exemplary civil servant.
Ayida was educated at King’s College Lagos,1952; Queen’s College, University of Oxford, England, 1956; and London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, England, 1957. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Ayida worked as Assistant Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Lagos, 1957-1963; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economic Development , 1963-1971, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, 1971-1975 and Secretary to the Federal Military Government and Head of the Civil Service, Lagos, 1975-1977.
The deceased will be remembered for his contribution to the building of the nation’s civil service. Without doubt, Ayida was a patriotic and an iconic civil servant. He will be sorely missed now that the country needs people of integrity and patriotism in high offices. Let those in the civil service emulate his shining example. Some of his publications include Development Objectives (1969); Nigerian Revolution 1966-76 (1972); Federal Civil Service and Nation Building (1976); Reflections on Nigerian Development (1987); The Rise and Fall of Nigeria: The History and Philosophy of an African Experience in Nation Building (1987) and Contractor Finance and Supplier Credit in Economic Growth. We urge the Federal Government to immortalise Ayida for his contributions to the development of the nation’s civil service. We commiserate with his family, friends, the nation’s civil service and the Federal Government for the irreparable loss. May God grant his soul eternal repose.