By Mohammed Shehu
WHAT if something is wrong – or maybe not right – with the recent suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal. Indeed, there is no denying the fact that the suspension of Lawal came as an afterthought. For months, there was a concerted and sustained campaign against him by a section of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and some of his critics, whom, in the course of his job, he would have stepped on their toes.
Such persons could have cashed in on the report of the Senate Ad hoc Committee to call for his removal from office, even though the matter had been laid to rest following an investigation by the presidency. For months, the attack on Lawal was so intense that it appeared as if his removal from office was the only solution for peace to reign in Nigeria.
The raging battle against the SGF may not be unconnected with the fact that the Office of the SGF supervises the activities of the Code of Conduct Bureau, (CCB) before which the President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has been facing trial since 2015. His apparent posture of non-interference with government structures in the course of their duty has identified him as enemy number one. Furthermore, the budget-padding episode and the constituency-project impasse have pitched the National Assembly against the Federal Government. Those who cannot bend the wheels of progress place the blame on the doorstep of Lawal as SGF who they accuse of not playing ball. The task to dethrone Lawal as the SGF was executed on all fronts.
They, thereafter, set out to discredit the Buhari administration by underplaying the successful decimation of the Boko Haram insurgency and dusting up outrageous corruption allegation in the genuine efforts to resettle Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) being championed by the SGF, Babachir Lawal. It is disturbing that these orchestrated attacks on the SGF are repackaged on a daily basis with a clear intent to discredit him.
Following the phantom allegation of improper contract award leveled against Lawal by the Senate, the Presidency directed the chief law officer, the Attorney General, to investigate the matter and a no-guilty verdict was returned. But not satisfied, some persons, acting the script of their masters, have alleged that there is a cover up by the Presidency and the Attorney General. Indeed, no one is immune to attack by these people so long as they see one standing in the way of the crucifixion of Lawal.
The slur campaign continued unabated with no effort made to hear the SGF’s side of the story. They simply kept on publishing the fabrications and lies.
But, it should also be noted that as the SGF, Lawal inspired the nation with his fearless disposition and courageous hands-on approach to making the change he so passionately championed. Yet, few public figures have caught the imagination of their people as Babachir Lawal. His boldness and no-nonsense approach in contending with adversaries has endeared him to ordinary Nigerians.
An insight into the personality of this distinguished gentleman reveals a man with inner strength of character and an achievement-driven persona whose exceptional vision and charisma stand him out. Lawal’s loyalty and commitment to the Buhari administration also annoyed these demagogue politicians. Unknown to them, Lawal’s passionate desire to change his society, attracted him to active politics in 2002 with the sole objective of working towards the emergence of the then General Muhammadu Buhari as the President of Nigeria.
This was informed by his knowledge and understanding that President Buhari is patriotic, incorruptible and disciplined, with a passion for the unity of Nigeria and justice for all. He joined the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and played key roles in the Buhari Campaign Organization and later followed his beloved Buhari to the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and eventually, the All Progressive Congress (APC) where he played key roles.
To most discerning Nigerians, however, the corruption allegation is a cocktail of misinformation, mischief and outright falsehood meant to cast aspersions on the reputation of the SGF and boot him out. To start with, it is important to situate the genesis of the whole saga in its proper context. The SGF chairs the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) with the responsibility of rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs. In the course of its duties, more than 20 contracts were awarded. The Senate set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate alleged fraud in the contract-award process, following a petition it received.
The sensationalized N250 million for “grass cutting” was simply coined to attract the fury of the general public. The contractor, Josmon Technologies Limited, was engaged to construct boreholes and procure irrigation pumps, fishing canoes, Toyota Hilux Vans, and reclamation of hectares of land, amongst others. Contrary to reports making the rounds, valid documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) show that the SGF resigned as a Director of Rolavision Engineering Ltd following his appointment.
With his appointment, Lawal, who is a well-known disciplinarian and fiery loyalist applied himself totally to the actualization of their manifesto to the delight of everyone. It was the kind of personal commitment and undying loyalty that the office had not seen in a long time.
Ironically, these sterling attributes that created an iron cast loyalty around the Buhari presidency also ensnared him to enemies of change who will stop at nothing to bring him down.
Shehu writes via [email protected]