By Uche Mbah
The appointment by Akinwumi Ambode, the Lagos state governor, of a new Head of the Civil Service, has been received with mixed feelings by the civil service community.
At 47, Hakeem Muri-Okunola was sworn in on 31st December 2018 as the 21st Head of Service, the youngest ever to head the Lagos Civil Service. He took over from Folashade Adesoye who retired four days earlier. The ceremony, which saw the Godfather of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, in attendance, attracted who is who in the ruling party in the state.
But the swearing in was marred by grumblings from career civil servants who felt deprived of opportunities of climbing up the career ladder since he was said not to be a career civil servant. Besides, some see him as not having the temperament for the job, being given to youthful exuberance.
Muri-okunola, a Lawyer, was called to the Bar in 1995, after which he proceeded for his masters in England. After his masters he had a stint private practice, and was later appointed Special assistant to Tinubu, who was governor then. It was not clear what portfolio he was assisting on, but he was later moved to the position of Executive Secretary to the Governor on Land matters in 2005. Hence Lagos Land issues fell under his portfolio. In 2011, the then governor Babatunde Fashola made him Permanent Secretary, Land Bureau and finally drafted him in as Permanent Secretary, Youth and Social development.
His career thus spanned only 18 years, whereas others before him has put in more than 25 years of service. Many rose through the ranks.
Part of the fears expressed by some civil servants was that he may have been imposed on Ambode as a check in these last days of transition. “He is too young and reckless to be saddled with such responsibilities”, a civil servant grumbled recently.
It is believed that it is part of the strategic placement of loyalists by Tinubu for future use. Speculations are rife that he is being groomed to replace the new APC governorship candidate Sanwolu in the next eight years or if he fails out of favour within four years, assuming that the APC wins the election.