Suspended SGF Babachir Lawal was a bad example for anyone who wants to join the public service.
It was during one warm afternoon in October of 2016.
“I have no apologies to make”, he added for emphasis through chubby cheeks.
He was responding to reports in the local and international press insinuating that alongside a certain Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari, he belonged to a cabal within the presidency which was holding Nigeria hostage.
"I have no apologies to make..."
Lawal was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 27, 2015.
He hails from Adamawa State.
His time in office until he was suspended on April 19, 2017, is better forgotten.
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Lawal regarded himself as some kind of tin god within the presidency.
He was practically untouchable.
Much of the blame for that feeling of invincibility on Lawal’s part has to go to President Buhari himself.
In the face of allegations that his SGF was receiving kickbacks and enriching himself illicitly, Buhari looked the other way.
When a senate committee on the humanitarian crisis in the north east alleged that Lawal had awarded a grass cutting contract worth N200M to a company he owns—money meant for the rehabilitation of a war ravaged north east region—Buhari asked for fair hearing from lawmakers and stood by his tainted SGF.
For a sandal-wearing ascetic who assumed the reins of the Nigerian presidency with a reputation for not tolerating corruption, Buhari tolerated Lawal and his idiosyncrasies way too much.
Cabal members often assume that they are larger than life.
And until last Wednesday when news of his suspension first made it into cyberspace, Lawal was larger than life.
He thought so highly of himself that when state house correspondents informed him he had just been suspended by the presidency, Lawal’s retort was an arrogant “who is the presidency?”
The man actually believed he was the presidency.
He had been made to believe that he is the presidency.
He had been made to believe that the presidency revolved around him.
Cabal members always feel that way.
Working with Lawal was a tortuous experience, presidency staff disclosed in the past.
He would chop out names penciled for appointment in boards and parastatals and replace same with his own picks.
He would ask that his palms be greased if you didn’t want your name chalked off the president’s list of would-be appointees.
“The entire SGF office and all the agencies under it, erupted in wild celebrations when news of Lawal’s suspension became public knowledge. I don’t know of anyone who was so hated by everybody”, a Director General in the federal civil service told Pulse late Friday.
When President Buhari inaugurated a committee to rehabilitate the north east in October last year, Lawal who was wearing a bespoke suit, mouthed a few platitudes of his own.
“We thank you for this occasion. Mr. President, on behalf of the people of the north east, we thank you very much”, the disgraced and suspended SGF had said.
He would go on to corner some of the funds meant to alleviate the sufferings of his own people.
As he was driven out of the presidential villa when it suddenly dawned on him that he had actually been suspended, Lawal rolled out a tongue to mock the nation.
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For a man who said he had no scruples belonging to a cabal Nigerians disliked so much, this was a spectacular fall from grace--even if the man won't admit that it was.
And should he be eventually fired as everyone hopes, this should mark the end of another sad chapter in our nation’s history.