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Sani-Omolori: Garlands for an unsung vanguard

In the hysteria and scramble for maximizing electoral gains by politicians from the forth coming general polls exercise, it is not unexpected that some playouts…

In the hysteria and scramble for maximizing electoral gains by politicians from the forth coming general polls exercise, it is not unexpected that some playouts of genus which may seemingly not be directly connected with the trending hustle, could be overlooked. That may be the story of Barrister Mohamed Ataba Sani-Omolori, currently serving Clerk to the National Assembly. But for his sagacity, industry and sense of responsibility, the tale of the 2019 budget would have been different. Almost belated in its presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari, its outing eventually fell into a period of contention between several systemic factors, each of which if mismanaged, had the potential of compromising the budget exercise. The Presidency had once more failed to present the 2019 budget estimates earlier as advised, and waited till the very end of 2018 to do so. Among the factors under consideration were firstly, the imminence of the series of acrimonious political party primaries pursuant to fielding candidates for the forth coming elections. Secondly was also the imminence of the statutory end of year vacation for the federal legislators, during which they were expected to touch base with their various constituencies across the country. Then thirdly was an ongoing legitimate industrial action by the hard-pressed staff of the National Assembly. Meanwhile, the Presidency was also under pressure to fulfill the constitutional obligation of presenting the 2019 budget estimates in the preceding 2018, no matter how late in the day. The Constitution mandates that dispensation.

The situation therefore required a deft intervention to reconcile and resolve the contending pressures offered by each of these factors. And it was the lot of the CNA in the person of Sani-Omolori to pick up the gauntlet, and deliver positive dividends, without any controversial or debilitating fallout. This he did with resounding success. Already, for taking up the matter in his stride the gentleman earned a copious dose of accolades from far and near, with an affiliate of the United Nations actually awarding him a deserved honour. A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) the Global Association of Christian and Muslim Youth for Peace and Development has honoured Sani Omolori, with respect to his performance in pulling the budget presentation through, and is recommending him for national honours by the Presidency.

With respect to the landmark interventions by Sani Omolori, the budget instance remains just one of such game changing cases. It is easily recalled that early last year the gentleman was credited with facilitating the resolution of the impasse over securing the required votes of 24 states needed to pass the fiscal autonomy vote for state assemblies. While the various state assemblies where prevaricating over voting for their own fiscal autonomy, it was Sani Omolori who rallied the Clerks of the various state Assemblies to prevail on their respective chambers, leading to success in securing 34 votes far in excess of the required 24 to earn fiscal autonomy for them. President Muhammadu Buhari has since signed the law formalizing fiscal autonomy for the state assemblies.

While this column does not intend to indulge in disproportionate adulation of Sani-Omolori, his well proven disposition in public service delivery especially his frequent role as a bridge over troubled waters, qualifies for commendation to other public officers at various levels and in different areas of national life. Not a few commentators on the country’s political life have fingered the public service establishment as the central cog militating against the development efforts to move the nation to the next level. And much of the commentaries border on the syndrome of paradigm paralysis, under which many government operatives hide to perpetuate stagnation in the service delivery expedients of their respective public sector establishments.

At any point in time the political atmosphere in the country remains suffused with blames on the President, with many seeing him as the central factor to all the country’s woes. In this context the serial excoriation of President Buhari is simply an extension to him of the misfortune of his predecessors who suffered the same dilemma during their time in the saddle of national governance. A typical point of reference was when the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan once described himself as perhaps the most abused President in Nigeria’s history. However, in the light of the barrage of invectives directed at Buhari, Jonathan may have to relinquish the title of the most abused President to Buhari. Buhari’s portion of ‘yabis’ has featured even the absurd whereby it was widely circulated that he was dead and one ‘Jubrin’ from Sudan was acting in his place. Even the sheer incongruity of the rumour did not sway many otherwise informed citizens from accepting the white lie from the bottom of hell.  Yet the fact cannot be denied that any Nigerian President so abused remains only a ‘whipping boy’ for the sins of the thousands of public officers in the country’s bureaucracy who have failed to do the needful.

With the benefit of hindsight, it would seem that the game-changing disposition of Sani-Omolori draws its traction from a deep stream of insights shared by a wide cross-section of reform minded pundits on the country’s public service. At several public outings including that at the Nasarawa State University where he was Chairman of a lecture series, the CNA was to adequately make a case for the salvation of the country’s public service resting in the bosom of far reaching reforms.

His homily at that forum resounds with the leading shades of advocacy for reforms in the country’s public service. Topical in his advocacy is that with the increasing democratization of politics in the country, through the proven efficacy of the ballot as an instrument for effecting change of government, the need for corresponding change in the public bureaucracy remains imperative. This therefore calls for a new mindset from the bureaucrats.

His mantra is that the Nigerian public expects service delivery from the public service not excuses. In the days of the military it was easy to excuse failure by government agencies understandably on strictures imposed by the government on the wheels of the public service. With the return of democracy in Nigeria now in its second decade, and the memories of the military era fading from bludgeoning younger generations of Nigerians, the clamour now is for effective service delivery for the public service.

Hopefully, with public spirited bureaucrats like Mohamed Ataba Sani-Omolori still in the service, better days for the country fall within the horizon.

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