By Tunde Opeseitan
Today is a great day in Lagos State to roll out the drums to celebrate a great man, a brilliant lawyer from the lineage of profoundly outstanding legal minds, a thoroughbred professional, a humanist to the core, a responsible family man, a consummate administrator, and a fervent Muslim who, by the grace of God, is currently serving as the Lagos State Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola.
Today, this brilliant technocrat with an amiable personality and the handsome number one civil servant in Lagos State, who is popularly known as HMO, is 50.
Born on January 7, 1972, to the family of late Justice Muritala Okunola, HMO graduated from the prestigious Lagos State University (LASU) with LLB Bachelor’s degree and completed the mandatory Nigerian Law School program in 1995, after which he proceeded to the Westfield College, the Queen Mary University of London where he obtained Master’s degree in International Business Law between 1998 and 1999.
He returned to Nigeria and had the opportunity of serving as the Personal Assistant to the then Governor of Lagos State and now National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu where he contributed immensely to the pioneering of modern Lagos which successive administrations have been building on.
He went on to serve as the Executive Secretary to the Governor on Land Use Allocation Committee and later Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Public Service from 2005 to 2018.
As the Permanent Secretary of Lands Bureau in the Governor’s Office, HMO played critical roles in reforming the state’s lands administration, especially improving the state’s ranking in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index through electronic certificate of occupancy (E-C of O), the electronic data management system (EDMS) and the 30-day processing of consent application, as recently attested to by Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State.
He also served as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Social Development where he equally played critical roles in ramping up initiatives geared towards supporting the youth.
When news filtered in that HMO was next in line based on service tradition of appointing the most senior Permanent Secretary as the Head of Service, many had doubted Muri-Okunola’s capacity to lead the service. The reservation was anchored on the fact that he is the youngest to emerge as Head of Service at the age of 47, and that he may be unable to effectively take charge.
On his swearing-in on December 31, 2018, HMO had said and I quote: “Under my leadership, the Lagos State Public Service will improve on all well-known traditions for speedy, efficient, and effective implementation of government policies and initiatives.”
He had also pledged to scale up the welfare of civil servants in the state to motivate them to give their best.
True to his words, today, HMO has proven all cynics and critics wrong. He has brought his knowledge, exposure, experience, and youthful energy to bear and injected fresh ideas, vibrancy, and new energy that have taken the Lagos State Public Service to new heights and contributed to making Lagos a globally recognized city-state through his commitment to efficiency, effectiveness, innovation, and creativity in service delivery.
HMO has not only sustained the enviable position of Lagos State Public Service as the number one public service in Nigeria, but he has also built on it and pioneered great initiatives that have proven beyond all reasonable doubts his commitment to staff welfare and public good of the citizenry in terms of enhancing service delivery by civil servants.
In terms of the THEMES Agenda of the present administration designed to ensure a greater Lagos of our dreams, HMO continues to give his best and the results are there for all to see.
For instance, upon the inception of this administration, HMO facilitated the increase of the Centralized Staff Bus to the Civil Servants in the State so much so that on a single day, 35 brand new buses were injected into the service to replace the old ones.
He soon followed it up with the donation of another ten new buses to the six Educational Districts, Judiciary Staff, Health Service Commission, and the Lagos State House of Assembly Service Commission.
In terms of reforms, HMO has pioneered many firsts. Today, in Lagos State, circulars have become E-Copy so much so that every staff is reached easily with vital service information.
Courtesy of the reforms initiated by HMO, Lagos State Teaching Service Commission now has a standing approval for automatic replacement when any teacher retires. It is now an automatic replacement as it is already being practiced in the Health Service Commission so that the workload is not made to be unbearable for the teachers.
Another outstanding achievement is the standard approval gotten by HMO for an automatic increase in the fleet of staff housing. Before now, civil servants were made to contend for the staff housing built several years ago, however, that is now history as a certain percentage of all the housing schemes in the state is automatically reserved for civil servants.
HMO has also ensured that the number of Permanent Secretaries is increased, while he has improved on the annual HOS Games, by adding more indoor games.
In terms of the Public Service Week which is an annual celebration devoted to appreciating public servants in the state for their diligence, hard work, and selfless service to the people of the state, HMO has sustained this laudable initiative and improved on it through car gifts to outstanding civil servants to motivate staff.
As this erudite lawyer, technocrat, and consummate administrator marks his golden jubilee today, I wish him sound health, greater grace, and wisdom from above to continue to give his best to Lagos State and humanity.
Happy birthday, Sir!
Opeseitan is a Lagos-based Journalist