The new secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) is Boss Gida Mustapha. That you know already. But what you probably didn’t know is that he was appointed in 2000 by President Olusegun Obasanjo to probe Muhammadu Buhari. Or so it seemed.
When Obasanjo was campaigning in 1999, he said he was going to scrap the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) set up by Sani Abacha — because it was a parallel government.
PTF was established in 1994 after an increase in the fuel prices. The body was allocated N5 on every litre of fuel sold to build or rebuild infrastructure across the country, especially roads, schools, water and medical facilities.
With transition to democracy on the horizon and many believing that Buhari had too much money under his control, Obasanjo said he would abolish PTF. Buhari jumped before he was pushed, resigning abruptly as executive chairman of the extra-ministerial body.
With word going round that Buhari was going to challenge Obasanjo in the 2003 election on the platform of the opposition party — All Peoples Party (APP, later rebranded All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP) — many suspected a political motive when Obasanjo set up the interim management committee to probe the PTF in 2000.
Mustapha was on that committee.
Other members: Haroun Adamu (chairman), Abdu Abdurrahim, Achana Gaius Yaro, Edward Eguavoen, Andrew Adegboro and Baba Goni Machina.
The report of the probe was never made public by Obasanjo.
BABACHIR LAWAL’S ‘KITH AND KIN’
In some weird way, Mustapha and his predecessor as SGF, Babachir David Lawal, are so similar it reads like reincarnation.
Mustapha is of the Kilba ethnic stock, like Lawal. He is from Hong local government, Adamawa state, like Lawal. Both men studied at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Both graduated in 1979. While Lawal studied engineering, Mustapha did law.
What’s more, Mustapha is a Christian, like Lawal. While Lawal is a theologian, Mustapha is the national vice president of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Nigeria.
Many Nigerians will hope that the similarities end there — for Lawal was removed from office over corruption allegations.
Contrary to the impression that Mustapha is a political ally of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, TheCable can report that the two men no longer see eye-to-eye. They were political associates at some point, but it did not last.
In fact, Mustapha openly opposed Atiku at the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which produced Buhari as the party’s candidate in Lagos in December 2014. Along with Lawal, the sacked SGF, Mustapha worked for Buhari at the primary, one of the reasons Atiku unexpectedly came behind Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in the final scores. Buhari came first.
“The appointment, like that of Lawal before him, is a slap on the face on Atiku. You cannot describe Mustapha as Atiku’s associate,” an APC insider told TheCable, suggesting that this might be an indirect attack on the presidential ambition of the former vice-president, who is also from Adamawa state.
Mustapha and Atiku have had a cat-and-mouse relationship in recent years, TheCable can report, because of the local politics of Adamawa. Mustapha wanted to contest for governorship in 2015 but Atiku did not support him, leading to a break in their ranks.
A POLITICAL VETERAN
Mustapha has been in politics for nearly three decades, but the latest appointment is yet the biggest in his career. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly, the body that drafted the 1989 constitution that was partially used in running the third republic.
In 1989, he went fully into partisan politics. He was the state chairman of the Peoples Solidarity Party (PSP), one of the associations that sought registration as political parties in the third republic. PSP was led by Olu Falae, former minister of finance and secretary to the military government.
Atiku was in the People’s Front (PF) under the leadership of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the retired major general who was deputy to Olusegun Obasanjo as military head of state from 1976 to 1979. PF was made up of prominent young politicians at the time — Babagana Kingibe, Farouk Abdulazeez, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Ango Abdullahi, Ahmadu Rufa’i, Yahaya Kwande, Babalola Borishade and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
With the military government failing to register any of the political associations because they failed its “litmus test”, PF later merged with PSP and Nigerian Labour Party (NLP) to collapse into the Social Democratic Party (SDP), one of the two parties formed in 1989 by the Ibrahim Babangida administration to create a “new order”. The second was the National Republican Convention (NRC).
Mustapha was Adamawa state chairman of the SDP from 1990 to 1991, and then ran for governorship of the state in 1991 and lost to NRC’s Saleh Michika. Not much was known of his political career after the collapse of the third republic. He was better known in the legal circles, but he joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998.
‘WHEN WE WERE FRIENDS’
As Atiku fell out of favour with Obasanjo and could not pursue his presidential ambition on the platform of PDP, he and his associates left the party for the Action Congress in 2006. One of them was Mustapha. He was the deputy director-general of the Atiku’s presidential campaign organisation in 2007, although the bid failed.
However, their association came to an end in 2010 when Atiku returned to the PDP. Mustapha remained behind in AC (later renamed Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN), and became the deputy national chairman. He served in that position till 2013 when ACN teamed up with other parties to form APC.
Mustapha served in the APC presidential campaign organisation in the historic 2015 election and was a member of the APC transition committee. He is currently a member of the APC board of trustees.
MARRIED TO A YORUBA WOMAN
Mustapha is one of those Nigerians with a heritage of cross-cultural marriage. In southern Nigeria, it is not uncommon these days, but north-south handshake is still a scarce commodity.
The new SGF is married to Funmilayo, a Yoruba woman. They have children.
He enjoys golf, lawn tennis, travelling, documentary films, charity work and meeting people, according to his profile on the website of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), of which he was appointed managing director by Buhari in 2016.
To NIWA staff, he was quoted as saying: “Just call me Boss, there is no need calling me Manager. I don’t have nicknames.”
Mustapha is the boss. Sure.