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Hadiza Bala-Usman: Fall of another Buhari woman


At the time of her nomination and appointment, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman came highly recommended. She had served previously as the Chief of Staff to the Kaduna State Government, despite coming from Katsina State.
But, somehow, Madam Hadiza’s selection to serve as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Ports Authorities (NPA) was seen as a reward for her roles in the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) that shamed and helped to dethrone the former governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In July 2016, the former Chief of Staff to Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai was chosen by President Muhammadu Buhari to head the NPA as MD/CEO. Although she secured the President’s approbation for another term in office long before the expiry of the first, on May 6, 2021, two months shy of her fifth year in office, the curtain suddenly fell on her stint in that crucial Maritime sector.

And though her long association with el-Rufai cast her as a female version of the Kaduna State chief executive, Hadiza became one of the very few women that won the confidence of the President to be appointed into positions of authority, responsibility and trust. The case of NPA was outstanding being a sensitive money-spinner for government.
At the onset of the Buhari administration, concerns were raised to the President’s near indifference to gender inclusion in governance. Some commentators observed that Buhari’s body language and religious fervor do not give hope that his administration would attain anything near the 35 per cent affirmation as advocated by the Beijing Conference on affirmative action on women inclusion in policy and decision-making in governance.
Comparison was drawn between the Buhari administration and the preceding President Goodluck Jonathan era, when as many as 33 women accessed public offices, with many people noting that the composition of President Buhari’s delegation on his foreign travels after swearing in did not show that composite number of women will find their place near his cabinet.
By the time the list of the President’s cabinet nominees hit the public space, the following were considered very privileged subsets: Ms. Amina Mohammed, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, Kemi Adeosun, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Hajia Hadiza Abdullahi and Aisha Abubakar. A year after those women were sworn into office as ministers, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman (HBU) was named as MD/CEO of the strategic federal parastatal under the Ministry of Transportation.
The appointment of Governor El-Rufai’s former Chief of Staff as Ports Authority boss raised the badge of honour on President Buhari’s confidence in women to deliver the goods.
Not minding the feeble opposition of some public intellectuals as to HBU’s suitability for the position of NPA MD, the 45-year-old young woman mounted the saddle and kept the agency going with some flashes of probity and forward looking initiatives, particularly in the areas of transparent remittances of accruing revenue to the Federal Treasury.
Speaking when he participated in a recent webinar organised by African Leadership Group, with the theme, “Developing A Viable Nation 2,” Governor El-Rufai said President Buhari finds it hard to dispense of his appointees.
The programme, which was the brainchild of Pastor Ituah Ighodalo of Trinity House Church, provided the Kaduna State governor the opportunity to share his ideas of leadership and expectations for the 2023 general election.
While expressing his wish that President Buhari’s successor should be a Nigerian of not more than 65 years of age, the former Minister of Federal Capital Territory asserted that, “political leadership is mentally and physically draining.”
Sounding further as if in allusion to the incumbent President, the controversial Kaduna Chief executive noted that a younger person is more disposed to handle the stress of leadership better than an older person.
“President Muhammadu Buhari hardly achieved much, because he is a nice guy that doesn’t like to sack. I believe in sacking incompetent hands, that is why we achieve more results.
“I fire people, so I get higher execution rates. President Buhari is a nice guy, he doesn’t fire people, and so he has a slower execution rate,” he explained.
It is on record that Governor El-Rufai contributed to why President Buhari decided to contest the 2015 Presidential election after announcing that the 2011 exercise was to be his last search for Nigeria’s leadership as a civilian.
Was El-Rufai’s newfound position informed by the curious developments in the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) or he had inkling of the impending sack of his political goddaughter?

What Went Wrong
ON Thursday may 6, 2021, the former MD of NPA was asked to handover to the Executive Director of Finance and Administration in the Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko, who is to act as MD, as she proceeds on suspension.
In a statement, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Public Affairs, Mallam Garba Shehu, disclosed that the President approved the recommendation for an administrative panel on the NPA management and the suspension of the MD, Bala-Usman.
The suspension, according to Shehu, was to allow an unfettered probe of allegations of impropriety against Madam Hadiza as recommended by the supervising Ministry of Transportation.

Not long after the suspension was made public, Nigerians were left aghast as to why the sudden turn of events, especially given that HBD has been a long standing political ally of President Buhari. She joined the President’s defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and contest unsuccessfully for the Musawa/Matazu Federal Constituency of Katsina in 2011.
Some watchers of the APC pre-2023 politics allege that Hadiza’s fall could be traced to the loss of political understanding between Hon. Chibuike Amaechi and the Kaduna State governor on the issue of which zone produces President Buhari’s successor.
Although Amaechi’s ally, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, failed to get President Buhari’s nod to serve as the Director General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for a second term, there is no immediate indicator to show that the removal of NPA MD was to compensate for that.
However, on February 27, 2021, Ms. Bala-Usman turned to her twitter handle, @hadizabalausman and twitted as follows: “The state of insecurity in the country that has led to the kidnap of Kagara boys and Zamfara girls need to be addressed URGENTLY…We can’t go on like this! Rescue our children and secure our country that’s all we ask! SecuretheNorth, SecureNigeria.” She signed off her tweet with three broken heart emojis.
And, as her tweet received 1606 likes, 615 retweets and 114 comments, another twitter user @Oy_Simeon replied in pidgin, saying, “Dem go soon sack you as MD of NPA now. You better behave yourself.” It was obvious from the laughing emojis displayed, that the reply was meant as a humorous anecdote.
But, barely one week after that exchange, what was meant as a funny rejoinder proved true: Hadiza was axed! With the exit of the young activist, whose diastema enhances her charm, the development makes her the second Buhari woman to fall out of grace.
The first was Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who was forced to flee the country after her failure to obtain a regular National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate, opened her up as the laughing stock and negative attacks on the integrity quotient of the governing APC.
HBU may not have much to prove, but what her sack underscores, however, is that unlike El-Rufai’s grandstanding, President Buhari does not indulge his aides, especially when issues of propriety or due process are involved.
At the beginning of Nigeria’s fourth republic in 1999, Hadiza was at the Centre for Democratic Development and Research Training in Zaria, founded by her late father as a research assistant. From there she joined the Bureau of Public Enterprises. After four years at the BPE, as Enterprise Officer, HBU was engaged to serve as Special Assistant to the FCT Minister (El-Rufai) on Project

After her unsuccessful bid to go to the House of Representatives in 2011, she became part of a non-governmental organisation, the Good Governance Group till opportunity called in Kaduna for the position of Chief of Staff.
What next for the enterprising daughter of a prolific socialist? Would she go back to her civil society base to continue advocacy or begin to oil her machineries to have another try at electoral contest? Would El-Rufai take her back?
There would be many openings. But first, the outcome of the administrative inquiry would be the base and focus of Nigerians, particularly public intellectuals, who are keeping tab on the Buhari years and the female aides he enlisted.


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