Babachir: Forget not where you are coming from
David Babachir Lawal is like a dreamer. And, like the blind man whose eyes were opened in the bible, Babachir sees men as equivalent of trees. Even so, were he to be a plant, he would have preferred to be a climber.
Lawal’s motives for joining politics, according to records, is mainly to help General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), become Nigeria’s civilian President. Towards that end, it could be safely surmised that Babachir’s mission statement in public service lacks depth and originality. His philosophy of function, at best, could be said to simulate that of a saprophyte, the species of plants that not only climb on others, but above all, depend on other trees for survival.
Although there is something similar to plants about him, Babachir has the presence of a natural chairman. When he was appointed on August 27, 2015 as the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), many Nigerians wondered whether the chair in the SGF’s office is meant only for denizens with mass of cytoplasm.
His predecessor having been also a hulk of a man, Lawal’s appointment was seen as a fitting replacement. But while the man he succeeded was a member of the Senate where the business includes taking a nap in the open, Babachir was an electrician although not the pole-climbing type of the infamous NEPA brigade.
The only vertical pole Babachir ever climbed was the 21-storey structure that housed the Nigeria External Telecommunications (NET) office in Lagos. When it was becoming increasingly burdensome for the man from Kwambia village in Hong local council of Adamawa State, to lift his weight to the rising floors of NET building, he tried his luck elsewhere, before deciding to set up his Rholavision Engineering Limited.
In setting up Rholavision, it was not as if Babachir wanted to imitate a rolling stone that gathers no moss, rather, he wanted to give expression to what he learnt in the university as an electrical engineer. But it was from that Rholavision that Babachir’s vision of helping Buhari become president became realistic. It was also from that Rholavision that his love for plants, mosses and other creeping grasses (inverwoths) became notable.
Babachir’s electoral worth does not seem to consist of great speeches or soap box oratory. If it does, no prodigious mention of it was made during the All Progressives Congress Presidential campaigns. The first time David Babachir’s elocution was on public display was when he went to his church in Wuse 11 to thank God for his appointment as SGF.
If he was addressing a campaign rally, most voters would have turned against him that day. He displayed a habit of spilling everything, both bright and not so beautiful.
Whether out of jest or desire to entertain, he has a way of annoying his listeners. Such was his display on the podium of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Abuja, that most of those in the audience wondered whether, having trained in ECWA seminary in Jos, their David mistakenly tasted real wine.
After recognising one governor from the Southeast, whom he described as his friend, Babachir forgot the fact that he had become a public servant and an appointee of a government that declaims corruption. He described how his governor-friend sent a trailer load of rice and yams, which he rejected in preference for currency notes.
In his talk, he branded his benefactor in bad light. It was the same public speaking credentials that the SGF carried over to the National Assembly, when he took the lawmakers on the issue of performance of oversight and constituency projects.
As he drove his darts against the occupants of the Red Chamber, David Lawal, forgot that he was before the men and women that spell out to his principal the facts and figures that govern his actions.
Accusing the senior lawmakers of abusing privileges, Babachir also spoke of the legislators in a condescending manner, such that what remained was for him to pick an electric cable and whip some sense into them. In him was a secretary that does not limit his work to writing, but appropriates speaking opportunities to throw punches.
Babachir’s lack of experience exposes the gaps existing in the performance of his office. The office of SGF oversees no less than seventeen parastatals and agencies of the Federal Government, including the Presidential Initiative on North East, stylishly abbreviated as PINE.
PINE also became an opportunity for the SGF to turn his vision of supporting the Presidential aspiration of Buhari into every eye could see.
But before he could complete the Rholavision and rush for a testimony and thanksgiving, the Senate started looking into the execution of the Presidential Initiative for North East, regarding the award of contracts for the clearing of wild grasses, alias invasive plants in Yobe.
Intimated of Senate’s investigation of the conduct of his office in the dispensary of N1.3b meant for IDPs, Babachir dismissed the lawmakers’ oversight as part of legislators’ meddlesomeness.
Feeling the pain from Senate’s seeming irritation, Babachir forgot that in trading tackles, there is always a day of reckoning. They accused him of not resigning from the firm he founded, as and at when due, opened him up to ridicule. Did Babachir resign on August 27, 2015 or the following day?
And the Senate called him to account. But, instead of sitting down, as one trained in the precision science of engineering, he mounted the soapbox and attempted empty gesticulations that sought to abbreviate the invasive misapplication of cash and process.
If he is named among the malefactors, it was not necessarily because he joined the stone throwers, rather it was most assuredly because he forgot who he was and where he was coming from. In the details of the exercise of the functions of PINE, the SGF became a recent example of what the APC made the former NSA to look like.
Not minding that he was from the northeast part of the country, ravaged by insurgency, Babachir like others demonstrated lack of discretion in the way issues concerning the internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially their rehabilitation, were handled.
But, over and above nonchalance, it seemed that his inability to abbreviate public speech is what courts trouble for him. Regarding the operation of PINE he stated: “When it got to budget period, I asked the minister of budget about PINE, he said it is your office or the NSA’s office. What I discovered was that there was a consultant, Senior Special Assistant to the former NSA who was in charge of PINE.
“The man who was claiming to be leading the PINE was an adviser to the former NSA and such a person’s tenure lapses with the other principal officer. So I said you can no longer run PINE. At that time in 2015, there was N2.5b for the programme. The money was just there doing nothing, but paying consultants. I understand that at one time they were using it to buy pre-fabricated schools.”
Like very wise ants that can separate grains of sugar from sand, Babachir knows how to focus on his preferences. But it was the same way he told the emissaries of his governor-friend to go away with rice and yams, and leave currency behind, that he mismanaged the PINE opportunity.
It was a similar way he allegedly coveted and appropriated appointments meant for members from legacy parties, in the early days of the administration, which made APC to quake with instability. The Senate did not see the relationship between an engineering firm and weed clearing or the propriety of the SGF ensuring that his former firm netted the juicy contract. Equally staggering is the allegation that monies accruing from the contract hit the firm’s account before the hasty resignation of the SGF in September 2016.
As Babachir tangles with the Senate, he would learn that not all trees serve as stakes for saprophytes. He would learn that in high stake politics, anyone could be vulnerable, especially one with his type of provincial background. After all, even Ali Ndume was unhorsed.
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