Dr.Dikwa: The Rise and Meritorious Exit of a Colossus from Public Service
Dr Abubakar Mohammed
Sixty years ago, the clerical and conservative family of Alhaji Kyari and Hajiya Amina were blessed with a child whom they named Mohammed. The boy was born precisely on a Sunday, the 3rd January 1960 in the town of Dikwa which is located in Borno State. He was the youngest of four boys and second to the last born of the family. Unknown to the Dikwas and the people of Borno, the little Mohammad would grow up to be a key player in Nigeria’s public financial sector.
Revealingly, Dr Dikwa started school in 1971 at Central Primary School, Dikwa through the influence of the Emir of Dikwa and the late Sir Kashim Ibrahim who was an Education Officer in the 1960s. Dr Dikwa demonstrated excellence through hard work and diligence at Central Primary School, Dikwa. It was reported by his classmates and teachers that it was a regular occurrence to see him receiving prizes at the palace of the local Chief. This display of excellence in academics and sports became his trademark and made one of his classmates to give him the sobriquet, “Taada hangul kiji” which when loosely translated into the English language means, “The boy with the sharp brains.”
After graduating in 1977, Dr Dikwa and one of his primary school mates were offered provisional admission into Government Secondary School, Gashua where he met people like Dr Yarima Ngama, Prof. Shettima Abdu and Senator Ahmed Lawan, who were a year ahead of him. When Dr Dikwa got to Gashua, the late Ali Pindar Kwajjafa was the principal of the school. Kwajjafa was a no-nonsense school Administrator who ensured that conducive atmosphere necessary for learning was maintained at the school. Dr Dikwa after expectedly graduating with flying colours taught briefly in Dikwa because of his inherent passion to give back to his community. He is still a part-time Lecturer at the University. He later secured admission into Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri to study Town Planning in 1982. He stayed in the Town Planning department for a semester and then, in demonstration of his proactiveness, took a life-defining decision – a decision that once more showed that the vintage Mohammed is gifted with unrivalled wisdom and intelligence. Naturally, he is the kind of person who doesn’t stay anywhere he is not being appreciated. He changed his course from Town Planning to Accountancy. He simply followed his intuition after realizing that Town Planning was not for him. Today, we all know and can therefore, boldly say that it was the Almighty who led him to the best profession suitable for him. Although Dr Dikwa joined the Accountancy department a little bit late, he graduated as the overall best student of Ramat Polytechnic in 1985, as he swept all the prizes and in addition, was offered five automatic employment letters by different banks, the state government and the World Bank’s Project. He took that of the World Bank’s Project.
He started his career in the World Bank project as an Internal Auditor in the Borno Agricultural Development Project known as BODAP. He covered the entire present Borno and the Yobe States, regularly visiting places like Jakusko, Damaturu, Biu, Munguno, Gashua just to mention but a few, to take stock of the World Bank’s agricultural inputs interventions especially fertilizer and seedlings. With maximum commitment, Dr Dikwa displayed efficiency and accountability in the discharge of his duties by visiting all areas of responsibility and rendering account of every penny spent. On numerous occasions, he had returned what was left after his routine visits. The World Bank project’s officials took notice of his excellent performance and professionalism and recommended him for promotions. Dr Dikwa, later on, transferred his services to the Borno State Government. His quintessential quest for excellence and competence made him further his studies. Dr Dikwa got admitted into the Department of Social and Management Sciences of the University of Maiduguri to study Accountancy. His classmates at the University would recall with great joy how committed, friendly and generous he was to virtually all. Combining studies and work as a civil servant is not an easy task, but Dr Dikwa managed both perfectly well and graduated with distinction and thereafter, enrolled for a Master’s degree in Accounting and Finance at the same University. Dr Dikwa would later go on to become a Chartered Accountant of international repute and a member of both ICAN and ANAN. He proceeded to Harvard Business School, Oxford, Cambridge, Thames and Business School of the World (Instead, France) to obtain various International certifications in Accounting and Finance. He kept firing on in the academic world unabated until he reached the zenith of it all and obtained the covetous Doctorate in Public Sector Financial Management.
Dr Dikwa’s professionalism and passion for excellence as an Accountant made him stand out from the coterie of Accountants in Borno State. It is on record that he is the only Accountant to serve five different military administrators as Chief Accountant at the Government House, Maiduguri. He was diligent, hard-working, tolerant, honest, loyal to a fault and also smart. His ability to adapt to different situations and people made it easier for him to work with the military administrators. Some of these military administrators, for example, General Buba Marwa still relate with Dr Dikwa excellently. It should be noted that General Marwa was the Chairman of the Occasion at the wedding reception of Dr.Amina (Dr Dikwa’s daughter). The last military administrator, Group Captain Lawan Ningi and his administration decided to do massive resettlement in the State Civil Service which saw Dr Dikwa moved to the Pilgrim’s Welfare Board as Chief Accountant in 1998. It was at the peak of General Sani Abacha’s era. Not long afterwards, General Abacha died and General Abdussalami Abubakar came in with his new political program which saw the conduct of general elections in 1999.
After the general elections, Alhaji Mala Kachalla of the All People’s Party defeated Alhaji Baba Ahmed Jidda of the People’s Democratic Party to emerge as Governor. Dr Dikwa didn’t know Governor Kachalla. Obviously, some people who placed the development of Borno State above their personal gains might have recommended him to the Governor knowing that the governor was a man who was in love with merit and excellence. Expectedly, Governor Kachalla did his background checks, obtained Dr Dikwa’s phone number and placed a call to him. Dr Dikwa was surprised to hear Governor Kachalla speak to him. In essence, Governor Kachalla introduced himself and made his intentions known to Dr Dikwa. He blatantly told him that he wanted to make him the state’s Accountant General. To make Dr Dikwa understand the importance of this appointment, Governor Kachalla told him that the Accountant General and Secretary to the State Government positions were the first major appointments he was going to make.
Dr Dikwa worked with Governor Kachalla for four years and he was like the Scion of the administration. He was not only transparent and honest to Governor Kachalla but did all to see that the administration succeeded through innovative fiscal discipline and laudable projects that showed value for money. The monthly FAAC allocation to Borno as of then was not more than 200 million but it was judiciously and prudently managed. The Mala Kachalla administration was the height of peacebuilding and conflict management in Borno State. It was said that Dr Dikwa and Governor Kachalla were regularly seen inspecting road projects in the wee hours of the night. It was common to see the late Kachalla measuring the thickness of the asphalt road with measuring tape which he carried around.
In 2003, some not so honourable politicians collaborated with a vicious group of thugs known as ECOMOG and disrupted the gubernatorial elections. Governor Kachalla was defeated and a new administration that was vindictive took over. Instead of the new government to commend Dr Dikwa for the laudable initiatives he brought to public financial management in Borno, they chose to do the opposite. Given that Dr Dikwa doubles as both Accountant General as well as Permanent Secretary at the Borno State Ministry of Finance, the new regime harassed, blackmailed and persecuted him but at the end of the day, the truth prevailed and Dr Dikwa got vindicated.
Shortly after that, Dr Dikwa moved to the Federal Civil Service as an Assistant Director in 2003. Most of the people who were in the same level with him who moved to the Federal Civil Service where absorbed as Deputy Directors but Dr Dikwa, though better qualified than most of them were absorbed as an Assistant Director. Still, he never complained, grumbled or made any protests because although he is not a complacent individual, he is naturally a contented and patient person who believes that God will ultimately make things to work out well for him.
As Assistant Director in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Dr Dikwa attracted the attention of his colleagues and superiors because of his diligence, hard work, going nature, team spirit and innovative ideas. Even as State Accountant General, Dr Dikwa introduced innovative ideas like e-payment-collection and computerisation of all financial transactions and data. He was also credited with changing the nomenclature of Director of Finance and Supplies (DFA) to Director of Finance and Accounts ( DFA) so as to professionalize the accounting sector in Borno State. Prior to his assumption as Accountant General in Borno, it was common to see Marketing and Business Management graduates working as Accountant in the Civil service but immediately he took over, he made it compulsory for anyone who wanted to continue as an Accountant to obtain an Accounting qualification from the polytechnic and university or obtain an ICAN or ANAN certification. At the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Dr Dikwa introduced innovative ideas like Cash Management policy, GIFMIS, IPPIS, Efficiency Unit and so on. When Kemi Adeosun was appointed as Finance Minister, she was advised by her confidants to get Dr Dikwa if she wants to see results as Minister of Finance especially in the area of public financial management in the country. She collaborated with him and formed the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Auditing (PICA) which had saved Nigeria billions of Naira and weeded out over 50,000 ghost workers from the Federal Government’s payroll. Apart from that, innovative solutions like Whistle Blower and Treasury Single Account that has helped the Buhari administration to identify and apprehend corrupt persons were either conceived or midwife by him. There is virtually no innovative solution or concept in the nation’s public financial management sector that has taken place within the last 16 years that doesn’t have the input of Dr Dikwa.
In 2018, the Federal Civil Service conducted a promotion examination for Directors to be considered for promotion as permanent secretaries. Dr Dikwa who has written numerous books on public sector financial management which many Directors consulted for promotional exams ironically, had been bypassed for consideration as Permanent Secretary even though many Directors who were once his junior had been considered and elevated to Permanent Secretaries. But in 2018, he sat for the examination and came out as the overall best. The President who values excellence wasted no time in confirming him as a Federal Permanent Secretary where he was asked to be the pioneer Chief operating officer of the Special Duties Department at the nation’s Finance Ministry. He was asked to oversee and coordinate public sector financial reforms, debt servicing, make recommendations, review the functions of MDAs through a risk-based approach, exercise oversight responsibilities, transform internal audit practice etc.
The contributions of Dr Dikwa to the government and people of Nigeria are numerous but they can be summarized into seven:
1. The entrenchment of fiscal discipline and probity in the management of public resources.
2. Professionalism and diligence in public service. His transparency and incorruptibility will forever be a reference point to civil servants. Bayo Adams of Periscope Consulting was right when he said that Dr Dikwa’s “integrity is next to none.”
3. Strengthening of the Federal Civil Service through rigorous training, study materials and mentorship. His Public Servant’s Companion series is read by Civil servants all over the country.
4. Introduction of innovative ideas like the TSA, Whistle Blower and Continuous Auditing.
5. His efforts and his team had saved Nigeria billions of Naira and millions of dollars.
6. Efficiency in public financial management which saw oil marketers and all persons doing business with the government being attended to in short period of time. It’s on record that there was never a time in the entire career of Dr Dikwa as a public servant where anybody has to bribe him in any way to discharge his duties.
7. The last but not least is that Dr Dikwa is one person who has been able to show to civil servants how to lead as a detribalised leader. It’s no longer news that most senior civil servants in the rank of either Director or Permanent Secretary are fond of assembling staff from their ethnic or religious group thus if the Permanent Secretary is Kanuri and Muslim, all his personal staff will be Kanuris or at most from his state and must be Muslims. But we don’t see this in Dr Dikwa’s office because his staff is a mix. In fact, there is only one Kanuri there as staff.
Come January 3rd, 2020, Nigeria is going to witness the exit of one of its finest public servant who is in the same league with legendary public servants like Ibrahim Damcida, Phillip Asiodu and Ahmed Joda. I believe that Dr Dikwa would have been allowed to stay like other Permanent Secretaries who were given tenure extension by the President if he wants but he chose to lead by example and obey the Civil Service rules as a good public servant. The Civil Service rules state that a civil servant must resign after putting in 35 years of service or reaching the age of 60. The law is the law. It’s good to note that even though some Permanent Secretaries who are above 60 are still in the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Dikwa has shown decorum and grace by complying with the laws of the land. His willingness to retire means that he has nothing to fear or hide; that there is life after office.
As this outstanding Nigerian clocks 60 and bows out of the Civil Service, I want to use this medium to tell him that Nigerians still need him more than ever before; that even though he is retiring from the Civil Service because he wants to comply with the law, we know that he is not tired, that the Buhari administration still needs him. I, therefore, call on the government to engage him in a higher capacity to serve his Fatherland even better. Lastly, granting to this gentleman by the Federal Government, the National Honours (Commander of the Order of the Niger), may not be a bad idea.
Mohammed writes from Lagos