By Thomas Uzah
We all know, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is the most formidable, outstanding and symbolic humanitarian face of the nation’s public expression of its affections as a father-figure, anytime its citizens are in sudden distressful, traumatic and distraught conditions. In the last few years, the ever-maddening wave of disasters’ assailing Nigeria have compelled President Muhammadu Buhari into a meticulous search in the appointment of NEMA’s administrative helmsman.
Its barely six months, I heard the news of the appointment of Mr. Mustapha Ahmed Habib as the Director -General, National Emergency Management Agency (DG-NEMA). The new sheriff of NEMA has attracted my attention from several captivating neon. He is young, and brims with productive ideas. He has cultivated a national image based on the previous other assignments assigned to him.
Ahmed Habib’s relatively young age notwithstanding, the NEMA boss displays an extensive multi-sectoral experience spanning nearly 25 years. His credentials yawns loudly as the ideal man for NEMA’s job, an agency in need of critical and urgent intervention from a dedicated leader. And to my utter amazement, he is justifying every optimism about his success on the job, as Nigeria’s chief humanitarian apostle.
What has excited me passionately about Ahmed Habib is that his appointment as NEMA boss did not attract the usual facetious outbursts, criticisms and adversarial resentments as usually known with us. He sauntered quietly on the podium of leadership and also, significantly impacting silently on this sensitive national assignment.
By my humanitarian proclivities, the activities of NEMA naturally catches my attention. I have perused a couple of commentaries celebrating the new NEMA’s boss. But none has deviated from the fond description of Ahmed Habib as a focused pathfinder in leadership. His pats records of public service have also not betrayed him. Ahmed Habib’s gifted attributes of hard work, patriotism, selflessness and commitment resonates in each of my encounters with him in the media.
Gladly, I have also enlisted in the league of those feting Ahmed Habib today because of his exuded signs of seriousness. It has reflected in his initial official actions and demonstrated inclination to see that every Nigerian, in any part of the country, deserving NEMA or his personal attention is instantly reached by the dictates of his office.
Some persons might find my eulogies of Mustapha Ahmed Habib odd or even strange. Those with this mindset might even claim, there is absolutely no need singing praises of anyone who is performing an official responsibility, which attracts personal remunerations. After all, we do say, every chief executive earns salary, allowances and other juicy pecks of office. Which means, the system is already structured to reward labour.
It’s very true, but there are cherished exceptions. I will outrightly disagree with such assertions in the case of the current DG NEMA. We are unfortunate to have had experiences where public office holders are more famed for dereliction or negligence of duty. Others prefer a notoriety for scandalous acts, which most times sprout from previous positions of responsibility assigned to them. But Mustapha Ahmed Habib is a unique breed and different public servant, as manifest in the manner, he has freely dispensed himself to the service of our fatherland.
We don’t need a soothsayer to understand that in the last five months, the NEMA boss has marketed himself as a no-nonsense, strict and disciplined public servant, who does not take excuses for failures on official duties. He appreciates and rewards hard work, but also frowns deeply at indolence. The NEMA boss has set his eyes on the professional sabs in the system, who stop at nothing to frustrate government’s good intentions for the people. And to my mind, tough times awaits such subversive elements insofar as he presides over the affairs’ of NEMA.
What caught my attention as a public affairs researcher, investigator and analyst is the constitution of a Joint Task Force comprising, the Police, civil defence and operatives of other agencies to police disbursements’ of NEMA relief packages across Nigeria. It is to ensure supplies do not only reach the marked destinations, but to always stamp it that what has the seal of NEMA gets to the right people.
Many may not decode the wisdom in this simplistic approach of the NEMA’s new Sherrif. But if we rewind back slightly, we would understand why his decision is praiseworthy and timely to curb incidents of dubious diversions, feigned robbery tales and similar such acts perpetrated by saboteurs’ during disbursements of NEMA relief items. At least now, Nigerians and indeed, Ahmed Habib have people to question where there are lapses and no vaguely imaginary fables would ever vitiate any such indulgence or betrayal of public trust anymore.
Ahmed Habib neither hates anyone nor is he out on a vindictive mission. But his cardinal principle is to ensure that interventions get to the distressed people who needs them desperately and urgently. The DG-NEMA’s only obsession is to ensure that every supply released gets to the store and to the final destination in order to place him on a sound psychological vitality to defend his actions before his Mother Ministry, and the Presidency; at the same time, justifying his excellence in public service to Nigerians.
So far, he has taken right steps and decisions. He is looking at the bigger picture ahead, with its attendant challenges and the best strategies to surmount them in disaster management of national magnitude. Therefore, to stimulate internal performance and boost the capabilities or competence of NEMA Staff, the NEMA boss brought staff of the agency to an umbrella of a “Think Tank” interactive session under the auspices of a retreat as soon as he resumed duties.
I was pleasantly buoyed when the NEMA boss proclaimed that the agency under his leadership will not dread emerging problems. Rather, he will develop solutions to these challenges that will empower NEMA to perform its lawful functions in consonance with global humanitarian standards of agencies of its ilk.
The NEMA boss has targeted to build staff proficiency and strengthen mechanisms of disaster management at community, local government and state levels for handy emergency preparedness, detection of early warning signs and the expected quick responses as circumstances demand.
It’s a common African cliché that prevention is better than cure and Ahmed Habib’s fixation with these operational basics, loudly trumpets the message of a leader who is armed to walk the talk. We are now in the era of a rebranded and refined NEMA. With the obsession for capacity- building, staff welfare and rejigging of the agency’s resources, they are already yielding fruitful results with workers re-commitment to the duties of NEMA.
So, I am more comfortable to predict that the NEMA-DG, Mustapha Ahmed Habib has the potentials and exemplary leadership qualities to finish his four-year tenure as the unbeatable records of a “star- boy” of the agency in recent times. Let’s support him to uplift NEMA forward in greater exertions beyond what we have experienced in six months.
Uzah PhD is Dean students Affairs, Kwararafa University Wukari.