Anyim Pius Anyim and his critics

Following the recent appointment and announcement of Anyim Pius Anyim as the Secretary to the Federal Government, SFG, the tribe of the professional attackers and destroyers of public office holders has been let loose with a stated mission of adding yet another conquest to their hunting bag. In this particular instance, the spectacle is made even more interesting by the fact that he is Igbo. Appointments into that office have gone seamlessly in the past without anybody showing any serious interest. However, now that an Igboman steps up to the plate, incidentally for the first time in our history since Fredrick Lugard forged a union we did not ask of him, a microscopic scrutiny of the candidate must be thoroughly carried out to ensure he is the fittest and most qualified. Indeed, he must be put through the flame test and certified to be a superman!

All manner of reasons have been adduced to convince us of his lack of suitability for that office ranging from the ridiculous to the outright absurd. We have heard how only a career civil servant must be elevated to that office. Some have argued that having served as the Senate President, a ÔÇśdemotion' to SFG was only an attestation to his inability to survive outside power, and therefore desire to latch onto the apron strings of government so as to ÔÇśchop'. It has even been suggested that he lacks the administrative presence and intellectual fullness to cope with the challenges of the office which is essentially a clearing house of government activities. In one of the most ridiculous and indeed stupid commentaries so far, somebody said that his physical proportions were a disincentive to the effective discharge of his duties.

Starting from the last, Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, who served the government of Ibrahim Babangida variously including as the minister of budget and planning was quite massive in frame. We have never been told how he failed because of the constitutions of his physiognomy. In any case, if his physical size did not stand in the way of his duties as Senate President, why is it an issue now?

His administrative and intellectual capacities have at all times been found to be top rate on each occasion he has been charged with the responsibility of high office. During the troublous senatorial days of the Obasanjo presidency when we had banana peels littering the hallowed chambers, it is on record that he successfully weathered the storm and coasted home to the end of the legislative term, and that was in spite of standing up to Obasanjo and insisting on the separation of the legislature from the presidency.

If after having served as Senate President , a man is ready and available to serve as SFG, commissioner, director or even councillor, the only visible motive, at least to sane people, is patriotism. Nothing more, nothing less. MKO Abiola during his HOPE '93 campaign said ÔÇśNigeria has given so much to me, raising me from the depths to the heights, therefore I desire to give back'. John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the USA and son of John Adams the 2nd US President, contested and won election into the American Senate after his presidency. Interestingly, his contributions as a senator give him greater resonance with the American people than as a president. Coming closer home, Prince Ogiri Ajene after his tour of duty as the deputy governor of Benue State, contested and won election as the Chairman of his local government area. The common thread in all of these is undiluted patriotism and the drive to place knowledge, experience and goodwill gathered over the years in the continued service of fatherland.

In the other matter of the office of the SFG being a natural career  destination of civil servants, the civil service reforms of the Babangida era clearly solved this problem by separating the office of the Head of Service, HOS, from that of the SFG. The HOS is the ultimate career prize of a dedicated and diligent civil servant, but the SFG is a purely political position into which anybody deemed by the President to be fit, capable and agreeable enough to his core values in government gets appointed. The key words here are harmony and concord between the President and the SFG given that the latter is like the engine room of the government.

In spite of the foregoing, it is not lost on some of us what the real motives of the critics are. This is about nurturing and sustaining the stereotype of Ndigbo as a politically-fractious people by instigating bitterness and possible rivalries. We have walked that road many times before, and we are wiser. President Goodluck Jonathan has found Senator Anyim Pius Anyim worthy of serving in his government as the SFG. We are happy with his choice, and wish them both a harmonious working relationship which will not centre on the elevation of self, but rather revolve around tirelessly working to justify the mandate handed to him by Nigerians in their millions. This they must adopt as their article of faith. May God be with them as they assume the huge task of re-making Nigeria.

Benjamin Udodigbo