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Tribute to Zubaida Umar, by MB Sabo


Tribute to Zubaida Umar, by MB Sabo

The appointment of Zubaida Umar as the Director General of National Emergency and Management Agency by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is well deserved.  Browsing through her career journey, from the Debt Management Office to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria where she rose to an exalted position of Executive Director (Finance and Corporate Services), it was service excellence all through. To head the foremost national emergency outfit, be the nation’s Executive Responder is a herculean task, yet, Zubaida, a seasoned public servant will effectively handle her new role.

As a former colleague of Zubaida Umar’s in Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), this tribute is not an abstract exercise, it is intended to recount my official and personal interaction with her. Zubaida is an amazing team player, corporate, humane and a problem solver. She has an arsenal of experience in Human Resources Management, Administration, Finance and Corporate Communication to reset NEMA, to make it more responsive and proactive.  I had the privilege of working with Zubaida in several Committees. She was always the outside-of-the-box thinker. Her paper presentations to the FMBN Executive Management Committee and the Board were often hailed for germane details, adoptable options, flawless writing and confident delivery.  Her papers could easily be rated grade ‘A’ as they elicit a lot of insightful response from her discerning august audience.

Zubaida, contributed immensely to improving Human Resources quality in the FMBN.  The Bank’s enhanced training programme, both foreign and local, had her input while she was in Organizational Resourcing Department.  She also assisted in the takeoff of the Bank’s Training School in Minna.  As the pioneer Head of the Training School, she gave me valuable advice on improvement of the training curriculum and upgrade of some facilities.

When I headed the Human Resources Management Group, we had a serious disciplinary cases of substance abuse involving five staff, which required setting up a Disciplinary Committee. Given her experience in Human Resource Management, Zubaida was my choice for Chairperson of the Committee, and the then Executive Management approved the committee’s composition.  All the five accused staff were invited to appear before the Committee.  After thorough deliberations and review of evidence at hand, the Committee found all the five guilty of substance abuse.  However, while acknowledging the provision of the staff condition of service, which prescribes dismissal for confirmed gross misconduct, the committee recommended the rehabilitation for all the five drug-addicted officers in NDLEA facilities.

This was a groundbreaking departure from the conventional public service approach. It was a herculean task convincing the Executive Management Committee to accept our recommendation.  Consequently, all the five were suspended for three months to undergo the rehab at no cost to the bank, and also issued last warning. All the five officers underwent rehab and returned usefully to the Bank, except for one who had a relapse and was dismissed.

The Bank played both the role of an employer and guardian in the case of the five staff involved in substance abuse. One of the parents visited me at home to not only say thank you, but also confessed that the Bank did what they were unable to do as parents. Another parent, a highly placed Nigerian, sent his son with a letter in which he expressed his appreciation for the humane actions taken by the Bank. The Bank monitored the rehabilitation and Zubaida officially visited one of them in Zaria and submitted her progress report to Management.

Most staff and the media outfits will give credit to Zubaida in the way she handled the corporate image of the Bank when she was the Group Head Corporate Communication. During her headship, she effectively marketed all the products of the Bank.

Misconceptions about, and misrepresentation of the FMBN were effectively sorted out via the media to enlighten and assure our contributors and stakeholders. The Zonal and Branch Managers had series of local Radio/TV programs in their states marketing the products of the Bank. Radio/TV stations were flooded with FMBN sponsored jingles. There was hardly a week that passed that the FMBN was not in the news, for good. She was also able to professionally handle press conferences organized by the Bank.

With over 20 years experience in Mortgage Banking, Zubaida has attended the prestigious Wharton School “International Housing Finance” program organized by University of Pennsylvania, USA. An annual event, that is attended by reputable mortgage institutions the world over.  In 2013, the Bank sponsored ten management staff to attend a two-week program in Singapore on “Mortgage Banking Strategies, Analysis and Credit Administration”.

Zubaida was among the team. Because she had a baby at the time, her mom went along to do the baby sitting. A disciplined, dutiful and committed staff she actively participated in the program including the study tour of Singapore.

Zubaida is not just a work colleague but a reliable friend. In 2018, I spent one month in Dubai receiving medical attention, along with my wife. Zubaida and her husband visited us in our hotel on their way back to Nigeria from Umrah, in Saudi Arabia.  In her usual generosity she insisted and gave some money to my wife.  Initially, the Kanuris didn’t want to collect money from a Fulani, but the gesture was really helpful.  Similarly, her friend Hajiya Rakiya, with her son, visited us in our Dubai hotel to offer their prayer for my recovery. On return to Abuja, recuperating at home, these kind-hearted friends visited me twice. I truly feel indebted to their empathy and friendship.

Close associates/colleagues call Zubaida Princess. In my good moods I also give her that compliment grudgingly.  She knows in our age-long traditional Kanuri-Fulani saga, Kanuri is always the “master” and Fulanis are the “servants.”  I give it to her, She, is indeed a blue blood from the Gwandu royal family.  This royalty and the role of her grandparents in her upbringing is the making of the ‘Essential Zubaida’.  Who would not want his daughter to be a ZUBAIDA? A very respectful, pious, intelligent and willing-to-help personality.  I pray to Allah to guide your tenure in NEMA, and unto the next level.

MB Sabo is a retired FMBN Staff


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