The career profile of Boss Mustapha, the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation, is impressive. On paper at least, he seems well-suited for the job. But I hope he also has the temperament and moral stamina for the job. With his pick, it’s obvious that Buhari still wants to play safe in his comfort zone while avoiding the danger of falling into the religious and ethnic, but mostly religious, chasm of the North.
Like Babachir Lawal, Boss Mustapha is a Christian ethnic minority from Adamawa State. That’s commendable sensitivity on Buhari’s part because had Babachir been replaced by a northern Muslim, there would have been (justifiable) grumbling in the northern Christian community, given Nigerians’ hypersensitivity to empty symbolism. Nonetheless, as I argued in my September 5, 2015 Daily Trust on Saturday column titled “Buhari is Losing the Symbolic War,” “Neither the southeast nor the deep south has anybody in the top echelon of the executive branch. It’s a no-brainer that any leader who is desirous of notional national inclusion would have chosen an SGF from either the southeast or the deep south. Now, you may ask: won’t one of the two regions complain if the SGF were chosen from one and not the other since the SGF can’t simultaneously come from both regions? Well, that’s a better problem to have than to exclude both of them. It’s certainly perceptually better than choosing another northerner as SGF. We are talking here of symbolism and perception, not substance.”
Additionally, like Lawal, Mustapha has been personally known to Buhari for years. He worked with the defunct PTF, which Buhari headed, for seven years. Bottom line: this seems like another reward for personal loyalty that doubles as a symbolic gesture to northern Christians. But, whatever it is, it’s both praiseworthy and gratifying that Babachir is gone for good. That should only be a first step, though; he should also be prosecuted for his sack to have any meaning. While we’re at it, other corrupt toadies in the government should be shown the way, too.