The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to pick someone out of the permutations of political observers to occupy the post of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) should not shock many as findings reveals it is as a result of the fallout of the endless infighting and perceived disloyal nature of the former governor of Lagos State,Babatunde Fashola,despite Fashola being the President’s prefered candidate.
Fashola’s political opponents believed that with him being the SGF, he would continue to deride and usurp the influence of the National leader of the party,Asiwaju Bola Tinubu,his benefactor,that they felt he is doing,with the recent impasse of the National Assembly elections traced to him.
Buhari’s hand is also forced due to the various allegations of financial recklessness leveled against Fashola in the past few weeks,hence he has to go outside the box to fill the position.
Buhari had on Thursday sidestepped the favourite nominees including Fashola and former Governor Ogbonnonya Onu to appoint Engr. David Lawal, the national vice-chairman, Northeast, of the All Progressives Congress, APC as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF.
Also appointed was the former newspaper editor and banker, Alhaji Abba Kyari as chief of staff while the taciturn disciplinarian and erstwhile chief of staff to Buhari, Col. Hammed Ali (retd.) was appointed as the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service.
Fashola had been widely touted for the position largely on account of his organisational acumen and strides in Lagos as governor. However, local political opponents of the former governor, especially within the All Progressives Congress, APC were said to have been largely uncomfortable with his possible emergence as chief of staff, a position they believed would have given him the impetus to dominate the Southwest APC political leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Though Tinubu has recently denied his personal involvement in the campaign against Fashola that was mounted through publication of allegedly inflated contract awards by his administration, his close associates were, however, known to have deployed other political schemes to knock Fashola out of contention for either the position of SGF or Chief of Staff.
The scheme used in neutralizing Fashola was the nomination of a former commissioner in the Fashola administration as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the president but delegated to the office of the vice-president.
Mr. Ade Ipaye, SAN who worked as attorney general and commissioner for justice in the second term of the Fashola administration, it was gathered has been pencilled down as the deputy chief of staff to the president with responsibilities of working under the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
The deployment of Mr. Ipaye, it was gathered, became the political masterstroke that was used in knocking Fashola out of reckoning in the stiff race for Chief of Staff.
Sources privy to the development disclosed that those against Fashola took advantage of the fact that Buhari is bent on operating a single presidency with only one chief of staff who would oversee the president’s affairs and a deputy chief of staff who would oversee the duties of the vice-president. Given that Ipaye was projected to work with Osinbajo, it became untenable to have another Lagosian in the person of Fashola work as chief of staff.
“You cannot have two of them from Lagos working as chief of staff and deputy chief of staff in the same government,” a source privy to the development disclosed.
Ipaye’s choice as deputy chief of staff was also logical given that before his appointment into the Fashola cabinet he had worked as special assistant to Osinbajo when the latter was commissioner for justice and attorney general in Lagos State in the Tinubu administration.