By Abdullahi Mohammed
A truism has it that men and women of destiny bloom wherever they are planted. One way or the other, fate manages to make the flowers of their life germinate, take root, grow and blossom. A living example of this self-evident fact is the Permanent Secretary of State House, Mr. Jalal Ahmad Arabi.
As at the time he was “planted” in Islamiyya Primary School, Jos, Plateau state between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, it was not easy to divine which path destiny would lead him. But as time went on, it gradually became evident that young Jalal was like a flower destined to bloom.
At least his level of dynamism, industriousness, intelligence, discipline not to mention his academic brilliance marked him out as a child who, all things being equal, would sparkle in one field or the other to the extent of attaining some measure of greatness. As fate would have it over the intervening years, that’s exactly how things panned out for the youngster. So much so that it has become apparent even to the blind that fate’s “prophecy” has not only come true, but has done so in a heart-warming way. Between then and now, the small boy has risen from that humble background, through the ivory tower to a high pedestal in the Bauchi State Civil Service all the way to a corner of the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As a Permanent Secretary, Mr. Jalal Ahmad Arabi has been distinguishing himself as a dependable agent of President Muhammadu Buhari’s change agenda.
You may wonder who the essential Permanent Secretary is and where he is coming from and what makes him tick? The story started on October 28, 1962 when Jalal was born in Jos, Plateau state. Although a native of Gombe state, he embraced the city of his birth with open arms, enrolling at the Islamiyya School in 1967. After obtaining his First School Leaving Certificate in 1973, Jalal proceeded to Government Secondary School Gombe that same year, rounding off college in 1978 with an enviable performance in the West African School Certificate (WASC) examination.
With his eyes and heart fixed on attaining higher academic laurels, the youngster spent the next two years (1978 to 1980) at the College of Arts and Science, Bauchi, where he obtained his IJMB Certificate before berthing at the prestigious University of Jos in 1980. By 1983, Jalal had done enough to earn his Law degree, LLB (Hons) following which he moved to the Council of Legal Education, Lagos, where he bagged his BL in 1984. Armed with his sparkling academic credentials, he turned to the labour market in the quest for a job.
Mr. Jalal Ahmad Arabi’s working career began in July, 1985 at the Ministry of Justice, Bauchi, Bauchi state. Employed as a State Counsel, he hit the ground running to the extent that barely one year later, his superiors had no option than to insist that he be promoted to the post of Senior State Counsel.
When fortune and fate decide to smile upon someone, they do so faithfully; and it so happened that within another one year, specifically from 1987 to December 1989, the fast-rising lawyer held fort at Manto Processing Ltd, Bauchi as Secretary/Legal Adviser and Head of Administration, a position he retained at Bauchi State Water Board from 1989 to August 1990.
Having came, saw and conquered at the Bauchi State Civil Service in record times, the attention of the proactive young man shifted to the federal level and in August 1990, he joined the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources as Legal Officer and Personal Assistant to the Honourable Minster. And thus he kick-started a career adventure that would see him rising in leaps and bounds, in the intervening years, from one office and ministry to the other, charming everybody with his high level of competence, dedication to duty and passion for excellence.
In May 1993, Jalal Arabi was moved to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) as Legal Adviser to Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). This entailed advising and participating in both legal and administrative matters including policy implementation; defending and representing the Presidency on judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, as well as attending Joint Intelligence Board (JIB) and other security meetings. After this tour of duty, Jalal Arabi was deployed to the Federal Ministry of Transport in December 2000 and for the next two years served dutifully as Assistant Director (Rail).
His next port of call was the Ministry of Defence as the Deputy Director (Parastatals/Special Services) in January 2003. His responsibilities include being in charge of the Para/Special Service Division which oversees the Armed Forces’ foreign training, bilateral and multilateral relations with other nations and organisations on military-civil relations, security and intelligence matters. With this wealth of experience coupled with his remarkable track record in the legal arena, it came to no one as a surprise when he was made the State House Counsel in June, 2007.
Aside from his normal duties, Jalal Arabi has also handled various ad-hoc work for his fatherland over the years. They include being a member of the Inter-Agency Committee for the Final Relocation and Settlement of Public Officers in Abuja – 1993; member of Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Drafting of Terms of Reference and Procedures for the Ad-hoc Constitutional Bodies (Transition Committee, Constitutional Conference Committee etc) – 1994; and member of Inter-Agency Committee on the Reorganisation and Repositioning of the Trade Unions and Affiliate Associations – 1994.
He was also the Assistant Secretary of the Panel on Review of Judiciary and Police 1994; Member of Nigerian Legal Team on Bakassi – 1994 to 2002; member of the Sub-Committee on International Criminal Court (ICC) – 1996 to 2000; member of Nigerian Delegation to the UN Human Rights Committee, Geneva – 1996 to 2000; and also member of the Ministerial Committee on Re-assessment of the Nigerian Railway and Repositioning of the Rail Transport Project – 2001. That’s in addition to being member of the Ministerial Committee on the Reorganization of the Military Pension Board – 2003; member of Ministerial Committee on the Re-evaluation and Re-assessment of Bilateral Military Assistance to Defence Personnel -2003; Member of Inter-Agency Panel on the Clash between Nigeria Air Force and Nigerian Police Personnel – 2003; chairman of Ministry of Defence Anti-Corruption Unit 2003; member of Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force from 2009 to date: and member of Presidential Committee on Inter-Professional Relationship in the Health Sector.
As part of his quest for knowledge and continuous self-improvement, he has attended a legion of conferences, seminars, both at home and abroad, including Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, (Legal Drafting); ASCON, (Management) 1993 University of Maryland, (Negotiations) – 1990, Jesus College, Cambridge, (Economics Ethnics and Etiquette), 1996 and World Bank Institute, (Public-Private Partnership) 2000. Others include Institution forHigher Defence Studies, Paris, (Counter-Terrorism) 2003, Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, (Seminar on Strategy and Command) 2004; Geneva Centre for Security Policy, (Security Policy) 2006; Marshall Centre for Security Studies Germany, (Counter-Terrorism) 2006; Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California, (Civil-Military Relations) 2005; Harvard Business School, (Negotiations for Development) 2010; RIPA, UK, (Management) etc., 2011; ILI Washington (Leadership, etc.) 2013 and LSE, UK (Management) 2014.
For someone who had been rising through the ranks steadily since he joined the civil service, the poser was not whether but when he would reach the ultimate height: Permanent Secretary. This question was comprehensively answered in November, 2015, when he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to the highly coveted post of Permanent Secretary.
With his elevation as the Permanent Secretary of State House, the lawyer-cum-administrator finds himself in a vantage position at the heart of Nigeria’s prime corridor of power.
Typical of the gentleman whose interests include travelling, reading, voluntary service and meeting people, Jalal Arabi sees this as another golden opportunity to be grabbed with both arms, and needless to say, this is exactly how he has acted. Ask any man or woman who has been to the State House of recent and he or she would not hesitate to say that under Jalal Arabi’s watch, things have truly changed for the better in terms of management of activities and public functions at the nations seat of power.
What particularly endears Jalal Arabi to his admirers and foes alike are his ennobling virtues such as courage, resilience, patriotism, endurance, abiding passion for excellence and of course, hard work. As many of those who work with him have testified again and again, he performs his duties with a single-minded devotion.
Bearing in mind his avowed commitment and determination to be a veritable driver of the President’s change mantra, it has come as little or no surprise to none that this one-of-his-kind Permanent Secretary has been acting accordingly in both words and deeds, day after day, week after week and month after month. What’s more, Jalal Arabi determinedly forge ahead even in the face of intimidating odds. Little wonder, he was honoured with the national honours award of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).
From the foregoing, it is obvious to all and sundry that Jalal Arabi is demonstrating impressive intelligence and skills worthy of emulation. He has not only lived up to expectations, but has been a dependable and outstanding compatriot in the service of his fatherland in general and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in particular.