Garba Duba, Chinwe Obaji: Where are they now?

At different times in the life of Nigeria, they served the country meritoriously, but long after they left service, it’s not clear where they could be and what they could be doing now; IDACHABA SUNNY writes.

Garba Duba

Garba Duba is a retired Lieutenant General in the Nigeria Army, but long before then he was appointed as military governor of Bauchi state under Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State from July 1978 to October 1979. He was at another time the military administrator of Sokoto state from January 1984 to August 1985 during the military regime of Maj.- Gen. Muhammadu Buhari having joined the army as a Cadet Officer on December 10, 1962.

He was one of the northern officers who participated in what has been known as the 1966 counter-coup that led to the murder of then head of state, General Aguiyi Ironsi. As Bauchi governor, he provided infrastructure in the form of residential accommodation and offices, including secretariats, for the 16 local governments in the state. This was because the state was relatively young then.

That was not all, Steyr Nigeria Limited, a tractor manufacturing company, was founded and located in Bauchi during his tenure. He also established the Bauchi State Polytechnic and used one of the teachers colleges in the state as its initial premises. The rector then was given a Brigade Commander’s guest house to use as his quarters, while army offices were used for administration before a permanent site was provided. He went ahead and expanded the number of Teacher Training Colleges and also established a School of Basic Studies on the site now used by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University. In the state, his administration supervised orderly elections that returned Nigerian into the Second Republic in 1979.

Aside from these, he has held military assignments with dispatch, for instance, he was Commander of 2nd Mechanised Division from 1987 to 1988; Commander, 3rd Armoured Division and Commandant, Nigerian Defence Academy before he retired in 1993 and went into private businesses ranging from banking to manufacturing as he held top board room positions in those companies. Even though this Niger state-born former military officer is still around, not much has been heard about him in the recent past.

Mike Onoja

Mike Okibe Onoja is one of the prominent sons of Idoma land in Benue state. A technocrat public servant who retired from public service in 2003 after rising in the civil service to the position of permanent secretary. In many senses, Onoja can be described as a core public administrator. Onoja studied Economics at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria and graduated in 1972, after which he picked his first job as an account clerk in defunct John Holt PLC in Jos. 

Thereafter, he worked at various times in government ministries, including the Federal Ministry of National Planning, Federal Ministry of Transport, Federal Ministry of Industries, and Ministry of Defence from where he finally retired some years ago. His public service career which began in the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning in 1972 took him to so many places both within and outside the country where he gathered wider experiences.

During his career, he attended United Nations sessions in New York from 1988 to 1999, attended other meetings of the United Nations Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Group of 77 in Arusha, Tanzania. He also attended and represented the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning on ECOWAS meetings between 1978 and 1980. 

In 2007, he joined politics and entered the primary election for the governorship in Benue on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against Gabriel Suswam, Steven Lawani and Abba Moro. However, he failed to secure the ticket. Again, he ran on the same platform in 2015 for Benue South Senatorial primary election, but later left the race for Senator David Mark in the interest of Idoma nation.

Like other politicians, after the gruesome defeat of PDP in the 2015 general election, he and other politicians defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016.

He returned to the PDP in the run-up to the 2019 Benue South Senatorial election, but after the party’s primary election in 2018, he again crossed over to the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

While reflecting on his life as a philanthropist some time ago, he said, “As a Christian, we don’t boast of what we do. We leave it to posterity and history to judge us. Particularly, I don’t like talking about my achievements because of the fact that it’s in the Bible that if you boast and talk so much of your achievements then, there is nothing for God to, at least, reward you for. But if you achieve something silently, you leave it to posterity. I don’t think it is nice to boast about your achievements in life.” It is not clear where he could be at the moment.

Chinwe Obaji

Mrs. Chinwe Obaji is an educationist, teacher and professor, but basically the former minister of education between June 2005 and 2006. Obiageli Ezekwesili was later appointed in 2006 to replace her after she was affected in a cabinet reshuffle. Under her watch as minister was when the now-famous post-UTME started as she directed that universities should administer the Post University Matriculation Examination to candidates in effort by-pass what she called the inefficiency of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

Expectedly, President Obasanjo called for enhanced support for the policy. However, there was controversy over the fees charged by universities for the test, but in October 2005 after a meeting between the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, it was agreed to peg the test fee at N1, 000. The controversy that emanated from this policy was without limits as other institutions like polytechnics, colleges of education and other higher learning began to seek ways of administering such tests for their candidate thereby resulting in enriching the principal officers of those institutions.

Writing on its fall-out, Atayi-Babs Ezekiel Opaluwa said, “Chinwe Obaji, Nigeria’s first female substantive minister of education since 1958 when the ministry was created decided, in her own wisdom and with presidential approval, to curb the problem of the absence of correlation between JAMB scores and the actual performance of candidates by directing individual universities to further screen candidates seeking admission after obtaining their JAMB results.”

She went further to add in a recent publication that the screening exercise would take care of all kinds of ills in the universities as it would make sure that it is only those students who are ready to learn that are given admission. Upon implementation of the directive by the nation’s universities, widespread condemnation and discontentment reverberated far across the land, thus leading to a nullification of the directive and an order to return to the status quo ante coming from the House of Representatives.

However, while justifying the policy many months after her exit from the cabinet, Obaji said, “When I came in 2005, I was already angry with the system because I had taught for 25 years and I knew there was no correlation between JAMB scores and actual performance of students in the class; I knew that things were growing worse and worse. You had graduates who if you asked them a question, they would answer you, ‘I does not know.’ I also knew that we had ‘miracle centres’ all over the place. The rot was already there,” she said.

For a long while now, this former minister has been away from public glare and it is not clear if she returned to the ivory tower.