Justle for SGF post intensifies


The suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, may not return to his post, credible sources have confided in Daily Trust.

A decision to that effect has already crystallised, multiple sources within the government and the ruling APC said last night.

Babachir was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari last week for alleged contract fraud under the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE).

He is already under investigation by a committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo which report is due to be submitted to the president next week.

The SGF’s fate is “virtually sealed,” a source said adding that the government is already looking beyond his era as it shops for his replacement.

A number of names are being bandied around as possible candidates for appointment to the most powerful position in government.

However, our sources said several of the names being mentioned are not in contention but such persons are themselves pushing their names forward to gain attention.

He said the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), who is from the North East, is one of the leading names of those being considered as the new SGF.

“As a former military administrator who equally worked very closely with President Buhari, he’s eminently qualified for the job,” he said.

He added that the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu is also being considered for the job of the SGF.

“Adamu Adamu is a long term ally of President Buhari; he served as his personal secretary during the PTF days and is now a minster who is doing pretty well in his calling,” he said.

But Joe Alfred, a legal practitioner in Yola, Adamawa State, said while Buhari should select a competent person with impeccable pedigree to replace Babachir, “he should be mindful of some obvious sensitivities of the people.”

Asked to speak further, he said, “Yes, knowledge of the job is one thing but it would be great if someone from the same zone with the removed SGF is picked, someone who the people would be happy with,” he said.

Another senator said there was pressure from the South East for Buhari to take the new SGF from there.

“The name of Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu from Anambra State is being mentioned for the job, I don’t know how it will work out,” he said.

He said Mokelu, a delegate to the National Constitutional Conference and former minister of information and Culture has been a close ally and had played vital role in the APC project that led to the emergence of Buhari as presidential candidate.

The senator said his selection will also calm frayed nerves in the South East, where political leaders feel marginalized.

Two credible sources at the APC national headquarters said the new SGF should come from the North East.

One of them said, “Political balancing is very important and since the suspended SGF is from the North East, his replacement, by no matter who should obviously come from the same zone.”

Another source said there was equal pressure from the South West but not necessarily for a candidate from the zone.

“The power bloc from the South West is working for the SGF to either emerge from the South South or from the South East, I think this is for some political scheming,” he said.

According to him, “They are rooting for Prince Tony Momoh who is from the Edo in the South South or the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu from the South East.”

Momoh had served as minister of information during the General Ibrahim Babangida era; chairman, Media and Publicity of the ANPP Campaign Organisation in the 2003 and 2007 elections and also Chairman of the Political Committee of the Muhammadu Buhari Organisation.

Onu was repeatedly touted for the post shortly after the 2015 elections.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is watching how the selection process unfolds, with credible sources saying the party would be glad to have someone that will help President Muhammadu Buhari in actualizing the mission, vision and manifesto fo the ruling party.

Daily Trust gathered that apart from the names of some retired technocrats that rose through the ranks in the core civil service that are being scrutinised by President Buhari, other people who have made their landmark in recent political developments are also being considered for the post.

A senator close to the corridors of power said that the fact that President had set up a committee to unravel the circumstances that led to the suspension of Babachir, with a mandate to tidy its work in two weeks, means that there will not be delay in taking a tangible decision on whether the embattled SGF will go back to his office or not.

“Though no decision will be taken until the Vice President Osinbajo’s committee report is submitted, Buhari is none-the -less being extremely careful in the selection process of the probable replacement.

“For those of us in the ruling government, the simple argument is that many factors were not considered during the selection of Babachir; it’s not about loyalty or compensating someone. It’s about getting someone who can drive the engine of governance which is vested in the cabinet office, that’s the office of the SGF.

“Remember, there are at least six or seven permanent secretaries in the SGF office and under normal circumstances, the overall head, the SGF if you like should have additional expertise and grounding in the workings of government,” he said.

Meanwhile, the suspended SGF, Babachir Lawal was yet to appear before the presidential panel probing him for alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the Northeast.

A Presidency official, who is close to the investigative committee, told our correspondent, last night that the panel had not yet opened Lawal’s case.