The office of the Chief of Staff to the President as we all know, was not created by the constitution. Today, after twenty years, the office is one of the most envied in the land. The office plays two roles, bureaucratic as well as political. However,it is the abuse of the political role that has drew more attention.
President Olusegun Obasanjo created that office for the first time in 1999 to follow the American pattern. The 36 states followed President Obasanjo’s example. Hitherto, the present assignment of responsibilities of that office were done by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as well as the Principal Secretary to the Head of State. The office of Principal Secretary to the Head of State came with the British. The first person to hold that office was Sir Peter Hyla Gowne Stallard (1915-1995) who joined the British Colonial Office in 1937. The then Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa (1924-1966) appointed him after serving as the administrative Secretary of the London Constitution Conference.
He later became the joint clerk for the House of Chiefs and the House of Assembly of Northern Nigeria. After serving as Principal Secretary, Mr. Peter Stallard was posted as Lieutenant Governor of Honduras in 1961. He later handed over to Mr. Stanley Olabode Wey from Lagos. The chairman of the 10th year independence anniversary committee in 1970, who was also deputy Permanent Secretary during the era of Tafawa Balewa in the CABINET OFFICE, Mr. Benjamin Akinnusi Osunsade (93) from Idanre in Ondo state told me last week that the office was too tasking to the extent that Mr. Wey found the job very frustrating. Mr. Osunsade added in his Isolo Mushin house that the system was working perfectly until the military came. According to him “the military ruined the civil service and destroyed the country as well”. Eventually, Mr. Wey became the Secretary to the Federal Government.
During the era of General Aguiyi Ironsi, the Principal Secretary was Mr. Abdul Kareem Disu (1912-2000) from Isale Eko, Lagos.
During the tenure of General Yakubu Gowon, the Principal Secretary was Chief Ufot Ekaette from Ikot-Edor in Onna local Government of Akwa-Ibom state. During the era of General Ibrahim Babangida, he was appointed deputy governor of Akwa Ibom state. He later became Secretary to the Government of the federation under President Olusegun Obasanjo. During the tenure of Generals Murtala Muhammed and Obasanjo, the Principal Secretary was Alhaji Muhammed Arzika from Tambuwal in Sokoto state.
Under President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari (25 February, 1925 -28 December, 2018), the Principal Secretary was Mr. Godwin Edward Michael Prest from Onitsha in Anambra state. Mr. Prest a lawyer/journalist had earlier worked in the British library in Lagos. During the tenure of General Muhammadu Buhari, the Principal Secretary was Alhaji Abubakar Mamu from Borno state who now lives in Karu in Abuja. Alhaji Mamu before his retirement, rose to become Permanent Secretary Ministry of Power and Steel.
Alhaji Mamu had earlier worked with Colonel Buhari in Maiduguri when he was Governor in North East in 1976. He was assisted by Alhaji Muhammed Musiliu Tanko from Sokoto state. Alhaji Tanko who speaks Yoruba fluently had served under the former Vice –President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. As Chief Secretary, he also served Major General Tunde Idiagbon when he was Chief of Staff, General Headquarters between 1984 and 1985. Before his retirement, Alhaji Tanko was a Director in Federal Ministry of Finance.
During the tenure of General Ibrahim Babangida, the Principal Secretary then was, Mr. Hamid Wathanafa from Borno state. The same arrangement existed during the era of Chief Earnest Adegunle Shonekan. During the tenure of General Sanni Abacha, there were two Principal Secretaries that served under him—Ibrahim Seriki and Alhaji Usman Jiidah Shuwa. When General Abdusalam Abubakar came to power he appointed, Alhaji Sadiq Mahmud as Principal Secretary and the pioneer Military Governor of Osun state, Major General Segun Leo Ajiborisha as Principal Staff Officer. General Ajiborisha is from the famous Onimole family in Isale-Eko,Lagos as well as Olorogun Adodo family also in Isale-Eko,Lagos. He lives quietly in his Apapa residence now. All these officers were assisted by bureaucrats including Mallam Y. Abba, M.I. Abdullahi, A.A. Gumi, A. Sulayman, A.A. Esho, M.I. Sulaiman and M.I. Okafor.
It was President Olusegun Obasanjo who created the office of the Chief of Staff and appointed the former Military Governor of Benue/Plateau state and former National Security Adviser, Major General Abdullahi Muhammed, the Managing Director of Toto Press, in Ilorin, to that post with Ambassador Aderemi Olagoke Esan as his deputy. He also appointed Alhaji S. Mamud as Private Secretary to President Obasanjo. In addition, he made Mr. Steve Osagiede Oronsaye (68) from Edo state as Principal Secretary. When President Obasanjo in 1999 created that office, he wanted the Chief of staff to be the head of his domestic staff. A sort of a book maker or scheduled officer who oversees his appointments and meetings like an AJIROBA, whom the Yorubas calls the fellow who first sees the king in office. He copied the American system. Even in America where the office first originated it was in 1946 that the office was normalized and it acquired its current title in 1961.
The Americans labelled the office as “GATEKEEPER”. I remember President Obasanjo instructed the then Secretary of the Government of the federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette to draw for his approval in June 1999 the schedule of the office of the Chief of Staff. I remember the first draft of that scheduled was drafted by Chief Ekaette’s top aide at that time, Dr. Goke Adegoroye and Chief Phillip Chikwuedo Asiodu (85), “a super Permanent Secretary” during the era of General Yakubu Gowon, who was at that time the Chief Economic Adviser of the Federal Government. The leakage of the schedule that was published in the Nigerian Tribune and the Guardian (Martins Oloja), almost put me into trouble. Since that time till now the office has blossomed.
When President Obasanjo introduced the office in 1999 ,some people he appointed as Special Advisers/Special Assistants include Bodunde Adeyanju, Chief Phillip Asiodu, Amb. Raph Uwechue, Prof. Julius Ihonbere, Amb. E.A. Azikiwe, Dr Oby Obiageli Ezekwesili, Mahmoud Waziri, Chief (Mrs.) T. Ajanaku, Chief S.K. Babalola, Prof Ango Abdullahi, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, Alhaji Aminu Wali, Sen. L. Imoke, Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, Dr.Stanley Macebuh, Alhaji Ibrahim Imam, Dr. Mrs. E. Uduehi, Onyeama Ugochukwu, Dt. Ibrahim Y. Lame, Adamu Maina Waziri,Dr.(Mrs.) Catherine Acholonu, Dr. Maxwell Gidado, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Handel Okoli, Stephen Akiga, Dr. Andy Uba, Chief(Mrs)J.O. Ayo and Tunde Olusule.
Eric Teniola, a former director at the Presidency wrote from Lagos.