Drawing the curtain in the Public Service Life of Kehinde Obateru

The former Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Dr. Kennie Obateru, to his successor, Mr. Garba Deen Muhammad, held at the NNPC Towers, yesterday

By Sulaiman Bello

In a live drama, the theatre, that is, the curtain is an essential tool. When drawn from both ends of the stage to achieve a closure in the middle of the platform, it can signify a lot of things, not least: The end of an episode; An interlude; Suspense (intriguing the audience on what to follow when the curtain bare is laid. For all it’s worth, it could also mean the end of the play altogether. And so on and so forth.
For Kehinde Adebisi Obateru, both seams of the curtain to a close are drawn in his career public service life today Friday 24 September, 2021 as he clocked three scores.
The image of the curtain is not happenchance. Dr. Obateru, unbeknown to many, is a thespian or more appropriately, he was trained to be one, but rather than live by it, he made Public Relations his choice of livelihood.
What does the curtain signify in your case as you bow out of career public service: A break?; Suspense?; An interlude? The end of an episode? Certainly, not the end of the play.
I join hundreds of your well-wishers to congratulate you as you bow out gracefully from career public service.
Our paths crossed in August 1998, when I was posted to Ministry of Petroleum Resources as a Resident Information Officer from the Federal Ministry of Information in Abuja. Oga Obateru had, before then, established himself as Chief Protocol Officer to the Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Dan Etete. In my case, I was second in command, from the military, let me borrow the phrase, to Mr. Sam Dimka who was the Chief Press Secretary in the Ministry.
In a way, it soon appeared our chemistry matched. I become Dr. Obateru’s direct report when I joined the services of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 2007. He was my boss, but the relationship was and still is much more of that between friends. It was a kind of relationship that enabled both of us to engage without any inhibition. We sometimes disagreed on modalities. But the long period of being together enabled both of us to look each other in the eye and tell ourselves the home truth which usually led to success. As Machiavelli, the Italian philosopher noted in his essay: The Prince, every manager needs the support of an assistant who can tell him/her the home truth. I dare say that Dr. Obateru and I worked at that level in our official interaction, if not also in our private lives.
I am still in service of the Federal Republic, therefore, I cannot say openly the supports I received from the iconic Kenny which, among others from sundry senior colleagues, have positioned me where I am today. As the some Christians are wont to put it succinctly in recent times: he has been one of my “destiny helpers” in my career path as a public servant.
Unfortunately, those who came up with the coinage of “a destiny helper” often pray that the benefactor finds no rest until he delivers all the goodies to his purported godson. Oga, Obateru, now that you have delivered to me and others, reaching a bar in your career, I think you may now rest.
In practical terms, he is a shrewd principal. He does not appear to believe that things just fall on peoples’ laps. To him, success is assured when your strategy is right. He is an insightful boss at that. Charismatic and unassuming. I could remember, when he gave me the editorship of NNPC Magazine in 2008, I expected him to give the editorship of the monthly newsletters of the corporation to a colleague who was of my level. On the contrary, he gave it to someone much lower in rank, but who proved his mettle all the same.
He has an aura that made things worked wherever he was. And he spread opportunities to subordinates and was loved truly by many. It is strange how he has managed to win the hearts and minds of most, if not all he ever worked with.
As you leave the NNPC system, my prayers are that you continue to find favours from your Lord. That God in His infinite mercies continues to protect you and your loved ones and that he continues to give you the wisdom to live your life happily and endow you with good health.
Happy birthday, Oga Obateru. Now you may rest, even if for a while, having delivered as destiny helper to hundreds of your subordinates. Congratulations, Sir.
*Sulaiman Bello is journalist, Public Relations professional