Coming in contact with this gentleman, one is awed by his simplicity, courteousness and frankness which contradict the widely held perception of him. People perceive Rebo Usman, Chief of Staff, Government House Administration, as the ‘Iron Man’, who has an overwhelming influence on his boss, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku.
People believe he decides who sees the governor and who doesn’t including members of the State Executive Council. How true is that? However, the veteran accountant is among the four nationwide that benefitted from a distinguished ICAN award. Having served three governors in different capacities, he was at one time Chairman, Forum of Finance Commissioners and felt he was being limited by his current job in Taraba.
Taravoices’ Nick Dugba, took him on personal issues which he tackled well and which should convince everyone that ‘you don’t judge a book by its cover’.
Taravoices: You are generally believed to be a powerful Chief of Staff who call the shots in the Government House. People say you dictate things and decide who sees the governor and who doesn’t, is that true?
Hon. Rebo: Each time I hear this insinuation, I smile away the statement. I do that because the position of the Chief of Staff is a position that ideally serves as the governor’s clearing house. If it is so, then it is a very busy position.
Unfortunately for us, we live in an environment where gossips and even envy are the order of the day. Sometimes because you are occupying a particular position that brings you closer to the governor, in this environment you have that impression in the minds of the people that you are powerful.
I don’t understand what people mean by, I am powerful! I am a very busy person in government. If I am very busy and that busy schedule is now construed to mean that I am powerful, then it is most unfortunate.
Every Chief Executive has a Chief of Staff. Right from the biblical times till date. Unfortunately for us in our constitution and in our public sector structure, it is not something that is keyed in there. Why it is not keyed in there is because it is a position that is personal to the Chief Executive. He chooses who should be his backup brain.
The office of the Chief of Staff is a backup brain of the Chief Executive. I was giving you example of what I mean by Chief of Staff, even in biblical times.
Even in the time of King Pharaoh, we had the Josephs of those days. During the time of King Darius and the three other Kings that Daniel served under, we had the Daniels of those days. If you come to the American system, you have the Chief of Staff.
As a Christian, during the time of Jesus Christ, you have the Peters of those days. So there is no Chief Executive that does not have a Chief of Staff. Unfortunately for us here, instead of people to sympathise with me for being such a busy person, they see my schedule as being a controlling position on the governor which is most unfortunate. To me, it is an insult on our governor. If somebody tells me I am controlling the governor, I feel insulted, because we did not vote a ‘dead wood’ to be governor of Taraba state.
This is somebody who for one is older than me by age, is highly educated, more exposed than myself, he came with a mandate from God and you sit here and refer to such a person as a ‘dead wood’, as somebody who is being controlled by somebody else. I think we should stop insulting the governor.
He only uses me to actualize his mission. I was in the church one day and the pastor, after praising the governor, then insinuated that I was the one spoiling the government. Now, for goodness sake, if it is not hypocrisy, why would you praise the governor and say somebody is spoiling his government? Why not tell him to his face that his government is bad and then back it up by saying you are bad because you have your Chief of Staff who is bad?
Now let me tell you something for you to know that our people have a lot of mischief. In one of the churches, some people were saying that I was responsible for the salary problem. I am not the Commissioner of Finance or Permanent Secretary, Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs or the Head of Service and above all I am not the Federations Account from where we don’t get enough money again. So why am I the problem?
Some have even gone to say that I control the commissioners, I don’t allow the commissioners do there work! But I want you to understand something, that the governor decides what I do and if I don’t do it very well, he tells it to my face.
He is somebody who would ask you questions about everything you have done. I have worked with governors, he is the third I would be working with. I see him as somebody who is thorough to the core. Unfortunately, we have educated people who live in Abuja, who say the same things. It’s a shame! I think we should know that we have grown beyond that.
Taravoices: Sir! Successive Taraba governors were in the habit of engaging in frequent trips outside the State and to some extent governance has suffered as a result of such trips. Now, it seems your boss has continued with this ‘tradition’. Can you justify such trips considering that the state needs greater attention now than ever before?
Hon. Rebo: I think on the other way round, I would say our governor is one who hates travelling out of Taraba state. He hates it badly!
One thing our people must understand is that we operate a system in Nigeria where activities of States are interwoven with one another and the Federal Government and so each time you see our Governor traveling out of Taraba state, it is as a result of meetings that have to do with either the federal government or with other states for the progress of this state and of course Nigeria. -+Anytime a situation arises for him to travel out of Taraba, I know how he grumbles.
There are things that cannot be done if he doesn’t travel out of Taraba. There are times he goes to follow up on issues that have to do with the interest of our state. As a politician, he belongs to a political party. There are times he needed to travel to attend political meetings. It is politics that brought him to this position.
Mind you we live in an ICT age. He communicates every now and then. If there are issues, he gives directives and things are done. There are times urgent letters have to be scanned and sent to him. Sometimes when we follow him to Abuja, we don’t go to sleep until 12 or 1 am, because of series of meetings that have to do with the interest of the state. So, we shouldn’t say his work should be restricted to staying in Taraba state. He is not a civil servant, he is the Chief Executive of the state who is involved in a lot of interactive meetings and those activities mostly take place outside the state. If he doesn’t participate, Taraba loses.
So, we shouldn’t say his work should be restricted to staying in Taraba state. He is not a civil servant, he is the Chief Executive of the state who is involved in a lot of interactive meetings and those activities mostly take place outside the state. If he doesn’t participate, Taraba loses.
Taravoices: We are all witnesses of history. At one time, the State was alleged to be controlled by a cabal. To what extent would you say the governor has a full grip of governance in the state without any interference from the so-called cabal?
Hon. Rebo: I don’t think in Taraba now, we are talking about anything called cabal. It is people who want to have a full grip of Taraba state by all means. So they felt that some people including our present governor who stood against that move were cabal.
If you are talking about the cabal in the sense of what we have in those days, our governor was one of the cabal. So when you talk about infiltrations, I don’t know what you are talking about because our governor was one of those who stood for fairness and justice.
He was one of the leading members of the so-called cabal. Whoever did not agree with that thinking was regarded as a cabal, especially those of us who were at the forefront of the struggle to ensure that fair play was brought to bear in the politics of Taraba state…
Taravoices: …Cuts in. You know the cabal is a set of people who act outside the government. It happened in the past in Anambra. We have godfatherism and the elite system. They would still want to have control of government..
Hon. Rebo: Well, if you are talking about whether a new cabal has come up against this government, then that is a different question because I was seeing it from the point of view of those people that used to be called cabal in Taraba state, disturbing him.
Now, if you are talking in that sense, I want to tell you that our governor is highly educated, exposed and he has a mission and his mission is to actualize that vision he has for the people of Taraba state and for one who understands that he has the capacity to do it.
I don’t think any distraction from outside would be of anything to him. I don’t see him complaining of anybody from outside trying to control him. I see him being focused in his job, that is why some of us are always under pressure because he would want you to achieve one thing or the other in line with his vision for Taraba state.
If there are distractions here and there, he didn’t care because distractions are normal in politics. He is one person that cannot be given to that kind of thing easily because he understands that it is God’s calling for his life for Taraba.
Taravoice: Thank you sir for your time.
Hon. Rebo: You are welcome!