Adekunle: Grit, gravitas of a quintessential civil servant
To the ordinary mind, Mr. Olusegun Adeyemi Adekunle’s public service career spanning 36 years bears bold marks of grit, grace and gravitas in a nation where genuine public service is sadly scarce. For the Labour Day boy, born on May 1, 1960, in Nigeria’s year of political independence, everything about him sparks of patience, panache and patriotism.
When in September last year he was to retire from the Federal Civil Service as Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, GSO, in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), President Muhammadu Buhari retained him as one of seven Federal Permanent Secretaries he retained for a year saying, ‘’the reward for your hardwork is more work’’.
As Permanent Secretary since 2017, Adekunle caused the GSO to regain its pristine prestige as the OSGF’s situation room, bringing fresh force, focus and functionality to his job in depth, dispatch and delivery. He was driven by uncommon character, competence and commitment to achieve set goals and objectives such that, none, in the recent time has held the office in a three-year stretch.
This record, it is believed, speaks to the excellent charisma, efficiency and effectiveness widely associated with the increasing influence and image of Mr. Boss Mustapha, the SGF, in the Muhammadu Buhari dispensation.
It was providential that the President retained Adekunle for a year. Six months after that gesture, coronavirus invaded the land. As other serious countries elsewhere frantically sought means to combat the pandemic, the SGF made a case for a multi-sectoral platform now known as the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which the President wasted no time to approve thereby paving the way for what has become a successful model to flatten the COVID-19 curve.
At the PTF on COVID-19 briefing, which Boss Mustapha chairs, Adekunle, as coordinator of the activities of the task force, provides critical linkages with the federal bureaucracy, the presidency, sub-national governments and other critical stakeholders.
Olusegun Adeyemi Adekunle, who clocked 60 on May 1, 2020, has come a long way. Born to the famous family of the Adekunle of Ogbomoso in Oyo State, he is a nephew of Nigeria’s civil war hero, the late Brig-Gen Benjamin Adekunle, the Black Scorpion.
Raised on a diet of discipline and purposefulness, he had his early education in Ilorin; did his Higher School Certificate at the Federal Government College, Ogbomoso and graduated at the University of Ilorin in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History.
Thus began his trajectory of career growth when he started as an Administrative Officer in 1984 in the Federal Civil Service. He was deployed to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, where he served until 1999 in several capacities. He was diligent in the discharge of his responsibilities where he was at various times Administrative Officer in charge of the Department of Forestry Resources, Department of Agricultural Land Resources and Department of Fisheries.
To reach the peak, Adekunle ‘rolled’ and gathered experience at several ministries, department and agencies cutting across Aviation, Finance, Commerce, Petroleum Resources, Water Resources, Industry, Trade and Investment as well as World Bank projects.
As the Yoruba say, “A child that knows how to wash his hands would dine with elders”, Adekunle falls squarely into this frame. He has discharged his duties well from all responsibilities that have been assigned to him, in the office and at other fora. He rose from being an administrative officer in the service to the top of his profession as Permanent Secretary.
Adekunle did not only distinguish himself at work, he is also a man who finds time, despite his busy schedules, to serve God. Venerable Ernest Onuoha of All Saints Anglican Church, Wuse Zone 5 Abuja, says of Adekunle: “Indeed, you are worth celebrating not only as a member of the Parish Church Council or a Synod delegate or a member of the Church Renovation committee, but as a humble man of God who lives sacrificially and touches lives quietly. No one can adequately reward you for the milk of human kindness, which you have expressed severally in every department of the church. Therefore, we pray God to bless you and your family in Jesus name.”
The University of Ilorin Alumni Association, Abuja Chapter, in a tribute, said: “We pray that you enjoy many more years of service to mankind and continue to be a blessing unto us and several others. May God continue to enrich you with knowledge, wisdom and understanding.’’
Some of those who have related with him praise his dedication and commitment. Damilola Oni waxed poetic in a tribute to Adekunle: “Your selflessness is a sun within the galaxy of stars; humility in the midst of great affluence; integrity personified even when others have thrown it into the deep blue sea. The strength that covers the weakness of others, you have touched lives, wiped tears and put smiles on the faces of countless people. Simple and arms open wide to all; priceless loyalty to hierarchy; inestimable price of the public service and the rainbow of mentorship. Your memory is on marble hearts.”
There is no doubt that Olusegun Adekunle has done his hometown Ogbomoso and his Adekunle heritage very proud, in erudition, education, character and a distinguished public service record. His mate at Saint Barnabas’ Primary School, Ilorin, Pastor Afolabi Coker describes him as one from “a strong Christian home who showed leadership and rare public service qualities since his youthful days in Ilorin. I am not surprised at all when he was appointed a federal permanent secretary, shortly after that he was knighted in the Church. All these traits were inherited from his parents and we expect nothing less from this faithful, amiable unassuming gentleman even in retirement.”
Toyin Onayingbo is Adekunle’s driver. He has worked since 1988 with a man he describes as “open and very accommodating” to all irrespective of tribe or religion. “His selflessness is unquantifiable and he is always willing to offer the hand of support to all manner of people,” said Onayingbo who offered profuse prayers for his boss and mentor.
• Kareem and Nwankpa wrote in from Abuja
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