Mustapha Akangbe Oluwuyi is the former Deputy Director/Clerk of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs. Having served the nation creditably and meritoriously for nearly three decades, he retired recently. Shortly before he quit the scene, Mustapha spoke with Demola Akinbola. Here are excerpts:
Congratulations on your Diamond birthday and your retirement from public service. How do you feel?
I feel great and fulfilled. I give all the glory to Allah whose grace has sustained and kept me till this moment. I am indeed very grateful to God, my wife, children, colleagues at work, mentors, and all those God used for me on this journey.
Tell us briefly about your birth and early childhood
I was born 60 years ago into the glorious family of Salaudeen Olanrewaju Oluwuyi of Isale Oja compound, Gbongan, headquarters of Ayedaade Local Government Area of Osun State. Growing up with extended family members was educating and interesting. Then, a child was raised and catered for by all the women in the house, not just his or her mother. We all lived communally unlike these days when neighbours hardly greet each other. My growing up was glorious with elders gathering us in the night and telling us tales under the moonlight. The experience was profound and unforgettable.
What are the major factors that motivate and inspire you?
I am motivated when I strive to do my best in whatever I set out to do every day. I am always contented to be myself in every endeavour of life rather than comparing my achievements with others. It has been my guiding rule in life to moderate my steps in all I do as experience has taught me that anything beyond normalcy will definitely result in problems.
I will use this analogy based on these three basic human needs: Shelter, feeding, and clothing. If you are so stupendously rich that almost half of the best houses in your community are yours, you can only sleep in one in a day. Even in that one house, you will only occupy a room however obese you are! For feeding, yes, I want to eat to my full. If I ask that the Hilton Restaurant be closed for me with all sorts of foods assembled, the moment I eat beyond the tolerance of my stomach, I will be disturbed, belch, and vomit, thus disgracing myself. Also, if every room in my palace is loaded with golden apparel, I can only wear one at a time. Any attempt to put on three, four, or five at a time means insanity has set in. So, my life has been guided by this culture of moderation, in everything I do and getting daily guidance from my creator through prayers. This has been the source of my inspiration.
How did you join the public service?
I joined the Federal Civil Service through official recruitment by the Federal Civil Service Commission in Lagos, two years after I had been documented for recruitment immediately I finished my NYSC programme.
How would you describe your experience in public service? What are the lessons you learned?
Public service experience for me comes with mixed feelings. For some public servants, it connotes handling of non “ownership properties” thus serving it with levity, and I don’t care attitude, and lack of accountability. To others like me, it is service with all your might, honesty of purpose, transparency, and accountability. Whichever way you serve, the results come to both the public and you as an individual. Structurally, there are some imbalances in policy outlines that various committees are mandated to review. Their recommendations are either partially implemented or not implemented at all. Within the years of my public service, I thank God for the grace to discharge my honest best, however little.
What are the major highlights of your career? What are the unforgettable things you experienced?
Starting my career with an informed educational/professional calling as a teacher/ journalist and progressing on the ladders through enhanced skills and higher education in legislative/democratic processes are some of the things that enabled and motivated me to be effective and efficient as a top legislative manager. On my unforgettable experiences, there are many events in my life before and during my service years that readily come to mind. My career at the National Assembly was ordained and spiritually divine as this was revealed to me before I graduated from the higher institution. So, when this prediction came to pass, it served as the compass for navigating the narrow paths of public service rough edges with steadfastness, principled-mindedness, fearlessness, and uprightness at every stage of my public service career.
Another indelible, mind-boggling event in my working career was that “red letter day”, Wednesday, 18th April 2018, when the hallowed chamber of the Senate was desecrated by bandits who invaded the complex and “forcefully” carted away the Mace, the symbol of authority of the Upper Legislative House, the force of law in a democracy! I was transfixed right inside the Chamber. I wished the ground could open and bury this sinful and shameful act against democracy! I felt hopeless for Nigerian democracy.
How can the legislative process be improved?
We must ensure at every point in time, either as legislators or bureaucrats/ legislative aides, to follow the rules of engagement in the conduct of our activities. Attempts to bend the rules give room for derailment in the discharge of our legislative duties either as political leaders or aides. Above all, legislative practices are anchored on following the best international rules of democratic engagements.
There is a vacuum in terms of the adequate education of the people on the constitutional mandates of the legislative arm of government. So, starting from the basics, the citizens need to be appropriately educated and informed of the constitutional mandates of the legislature rather than the current misconception of expecting the law-making arm of government to do the work of the executive and vice versa.
The principles of separation of powers and checks and balances among the three arms of government must equally be promoted. There are too many expectations by the electorate, and this puts a strain on this arm of government, forcing lawmakers to go outside their constitutional mandate to promise what they cannot and should not do.
What are your plans after retirement?
May God grant us the grace to continue the race of life in good health. I am set to continue spreading the gospel of durable democratic polity through an enhanced legislative education to the people, especially from the basis of the community as a nation. My desire for continuous Ph.D. in legislative studies is anchored on achieving this through research to deepen our democratic education and practice. I should be able to benefit humanity with my 29 years of practical legislative knowledge. All these are realised by being closer to my God who has the final say on all human propositions.
What are your parting words for those in public service, especially professionals?
I implore colleagues still on the call of duty to conduct themselves within the dictates of the service rules, yearn for constant knowledge, and be moderate in their approach to life as an act of man beyond the rules of engagement usually results in problems. They should uphold the ethics of the profession in the daily discharge of their duties. Building the Nigeria of our dream as an enviable society depends on the nature of the advice we offer as professionals and technocrats to our political bosses. On a personal note, let’s not be self-minded in our relationship with others. Let’s be broad-minded, accommodating, and compassionate in the discharge of our duties.
Do spare enough time to rest your body, the machine that carries the burden of our daily activities. Some of us chase life at the expense of our health! Health is wealth. We have to be alive in sound health to serve and reap the fruits of our labour both as individuals and as a nation.
What was your experience like working with politicians?
It’s been historical all through! Nigerian politicians are human beings like all of us. They are Nigerians, not from the moon. Therefore, their behaviour and attitude are a reflection of Nigerian society. My relationship with most of my political bosses was based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When you encounter an average Nigerian politician, you will discover that he/she is approachable, affable, amenable to correction, and prepared to respect your views. The onus lies on you to project yourself in a dignified position to flow with this breed of the people’s representatives. The Nigerian politician is a mirror of the Nigerian nation.
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