Since he was appointed as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal has bumbled through one gaffe after the other. In almost all the cases, the error was not externally instigated. Lawal just has a way of bringing problems upon himself.
First, he caused a storm when he said at an event that if not for APC leaders Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande, he would not have become SGF. He made a statement that brought ethnic and religious tensions to the fore.
“I am Secretary to the Government today, because those people-Tinubu and Akande- that I mentioned were the very first to put the idea in the mind of the President. They were the ones that made it possible because if it has been left to northerners, it is doubtful if they will take a Christian man to make Secretary to the Government of the Federation,” he said at an event shortly after becoming SGF.
Just as the dust over that issue was settling, a man called Gideon Samani, who was representing the SGF at an event made a ridiculous comment about why Pres. Buhari has failed to appoint a substantial number of women. The man who was supposedly speaking on behalf of the SGF, said, “If you are close to Mr. President, you will know that he has the interest of the nation as his uppermost priority. He did not intentionally marginalise women. It is just that Mr. President is shy with women. He has been interacting mostly with men. I can assure you that in the shortest time, this issue of gender inequality will be dealt with.”
Again that issue sent tongues wagging, and even the presidency had to release a strong statement of denial signed by Garba Shehu, one of the president’s spokesmen. A few days after that however, Samani was appointed by Lawal as secretary of the Presidential Committee on the Reconstitution of Federal Government Boards of Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions.
Another gaffe by the SGF which came to the open recently concerned his relationship with the PDP governor of Ebonyi state, Dave Umahi. Some Ebonyi indigenes demanded that Lawal should disclose how much he received from their governor otherwise they would be forced to sue.
Here is what Lawal said that did not please the Ebonyi natives: “Another man who I just met recently; the man who read the second verse, David Umahi -what is your second name; whether Umuahia or something like that- really since the time we met, I don’t know why, our spirits locked on. And you see that he has been good; he is somebody I know that when am in trouble I can always run to him. This is a man; I don’t know but he is PDP; he’s Igbo but he sent a trailer load of rice to my governor for the IDPs in Adamawa state recently. May be he did not want me to say it.
“Again, one day I was just in my office looking and sounding broke, he just said ‘during the Sallah, I am going to send Ebonyi rice to you’. And I said I don’t want Ebonyi rice, I have too much rice in my house; I don’t even know what to do with the rice. So later his ADC comes and says oga sent me to you. And I said what is inside that thing and he said money and I said bring it my friend”.
The latest in the long list of gaffes by the SGF came on Saturday in Delta state where Lawal attended the coronation of the 20th Olu of Warri, Ikenwoli Gbesimi Emiko 1, as the representative of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari.
In his speech, Lawal spoke about the ongoing arms fraud case involving the former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki. The investigation of the case is still ongoing and it is a case in which people from all across the country have been implicated. Yet the talkative Lawal did not have any problem injecting a tribal argument.
“Among all the scandals and pilfering, no Itsekiri son is involved. This is a testimony to your strength of character and integrity,” he said.
Of course his conclusion is both simplistic and dangerous. First, the fact that an Itsekiri man was not involved may simply mean that there was none within Dasuki’s circle. There is no evidence that an Itsekiri native turned down an offer from Dasuki. Also, Lawal’s conclusion may then imply that the tribes of those allegedly involved in the scandal so far have no “integrity or strength of character”, whereas it was individuals that were involved in the offences, not whole tribes.
So clearly, Lawal is not a very smart man. Maybe it’s time for his boss to make sure he keeps a microphone far away from him.