Ganiyu Olasegun Abiru is the outgoing Clerk of Lagos House of Assembly. He will turn 60 in August 2016, which is the retiring age in the public service. But he has since proceeded on his terminal level.
ENCOMIUM Weekly met with him and he told us his 33 year experience in service of Lagos state, his moment of joy, challenges and what he would be missing and more…
Why are you retiring?
I am retiring because I have attained the retiring age of which is August this year. It is either you retire when you are 60 or when you have spent 34 years in service.
Many people don’t believe you will be 60 very soon because you look young and agile. What is the secret?
It is the grace of God. It is not that I eat any special food or drink any special water. It is simply that grace of God. In any case, I don’t indulge in what many men indulge in.
What are those things?
I wouldn’t say more than that. All I know is that when I close from work, I go home to my wife and children to play with them. I drink cognac occasionally and go to my home town, Ikorodu.
It is not that you do any form of exercise to keep fit?
Not really but I do a lot of walking within my area.
When would you consider your best moment in service?
I have spent some years in the mainstream of the public service before joining the House of Assembly in 2008. I joined the service on October 27, 1983. From then till now, I have worked in several agencies of government. I have also held some sensitive and municipal positions, which of course exposed me to a lot of things happening in the service. I think I worked in two major points that have impacted positively on me.
One is the Civil Service Commission and the other is Lagos State House of Assembly. I worked in the Civil Service Commission for about four or five years. I must say it was a period that I enjoyed very much.
A lot of people who had problems then relating to their careers had them solved through me. I felt good that I was able to impact positively on the career of some officers then. It was also when I was there that I was given an accelerated promotion during that time of Aiswaju Tinubu.
I was deployed to Lagos State House of Assembly as Director of Finance and Administration. That was when Olatunji was the clerk. A.I Olatunji was and still my mentor. He is a man that I respect so much. He is a man that exposed me to a lot of administrative duties. I have worked with him in Central Licencising Authority and when I came to Lagos State House of Assembly, we were able to synergize with each other. This also exposed me to a lot of things before he retired. Luckily, when he retired I was cited for this position of the clerk.
Indeed, it was the incumbent Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, who raised the motion on the floor of the House that I should be considered as Acting Clerk. Not only because of my sense of industry, dedication to duty and commitment but also because I was the most senior officer.
When would you consider the most challenging period of your career in service?
The experience I had in Lagos State Pilgrims Welfare Board. It is one experience I cannot forget. Then, I was the secretary of the board. Something went wrong when we were planning for Ummurah (lesser hajj) trip. There was an administrative flaw which, of course prevented the Lagos state pilgrims particularly those who wanted to go with Lagos state government from going to hajj that year.
I faced a lot of disciplinary committees that investigated the remote and immediate causes of that failed trip. I must give thanks to Asiwaju Tinubu who was the governor. He was the one who saved my job. He was the one who said I should be forgiven and sin no more. If not for Tinubu, I would have forgotten that I ever worked for Lagos state government. That was in 2003. I am using this opportunity to appreciate him.
If I had been dismissed, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for me to be the clerk of the House of Assembly.
The clerk of Lagos House of Assembly is jokingly referred to as the 41st member of the Assembly because of his dual role in relating with the politicians and the civil servants.
How have you been managing these roles?
I have always argued that the Clerk of the House should be paid special remunerations compared to his counterparts (permanent secretaries) in the mainstream service.
The permanent secretaries deal with the commissioners and special advisers who of course, are just two or three in the ministry. But here at the House of Assembly, you are dealing with 40 members. These are the people that the electorates voted with the governor and the deputy governor.
In that case, there is no way you can compare the status of the members with that of commissioners. The members believe that they owe a lot of allegiance to the people who voted for them. Because of that they want to do a lot of things to impress them and they don’t mind breaching any law in doing that. But when things wrong, you the accounting officer would be held responsible. So, one has to be principled and at the same time flexible in dealing with the House members. You have to know how to manage them well. They all have their idiosyncrasies and individual attitudes.
As a Clerk, you have to manage 40 members and at the same time manage about 405 staffers. So, it’s herculean because you cannot satisfy all the members at the expense of the staffers. You just have to do the balancing.
I am lucky because most of the members here are very understanding and cosmopolitan in outlook. Though we have causes to disagree, but we have always settled our disagreement amicably.
There is that impression by the general public that civil servants don’t do anything. For someone who has spent 33 years in active service, what is your opinion?
People who say civil servants are lazy are just saying that out of ignorance. In four or five years I have never closed at 4 pm. I don’t close until 8pm or 10pm. I am always busy trying to finish all the work on my desk. Many people who work in the private sector and later found themselves in public service have had cause to change their opinion about the civil service.
The governor of a state determines, to a large extent the type of the civil service it gets. If a governor is lazy, there is every tendency that the civil servants would be lazy too. But if a governor is proactive and hard working, the civil servants will follow suit.
Lagos state has been very lucky to have governors who are not only hard working but are visionaries right from the time of Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson till the present governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. The present crops of civil servant in Lagos state are not lazy at all. They are energetic and reliable.
What will you be missing in the civil service now that you are leaving?
When you live in a place for over three decades and you are leaving that place, it will seem as if you are leaving a part of you behind. I will be leaving part of me behind. It means people that I have served for 30 years, I will no longer see them anymore. I will also miss so many nice things that I enjoyed in the service.
But I thank God for everything. I have no cause to regret ever being the service of Lagos state. Like some people will say, I have come, seen and conquered. I started on level 8 and I am leaving not at the zenith of my career but beyond it. My zenith is level 17 but to the glory of God I am leaving the service beyond level 17. I thank God for this.
I will certainly miss Lagos House of Assembly. I will miss the honourable members, many of whom are just like my brothers and sisters.
You don’t look tired at all. So, what next will you be doing?
I have not really had time to be with my wife and children in the way I would. I don’t close from work till 8pm or 10pm. Sometimes, we even come to work on Saturdays and Sundays. So, I will want to spend the first few months of my retirement with my wife, children and grandchildren. After about six or seven months, maybe I will start to think about what to do next.
Any likelihood that you would go into politics?
No, I will not go into partisan politics, though in the cause of my career, I mixed with a lot of politicians. I understand the game very well, but I will never go for any elective office.
I don’t have the temperament, endurance and tenacity that most politicians have. I certainly cannot endure what most House members endure in the hands of their constituents. To me, it is unbearable.