Who succeeds Abba Kyari?
When Nigeria returned to democracy after a sixteen year hiatus following the collapse of the Second Republic, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo decided to model it after the American style democracy with the creation of the office of the Chief of Staff.
This office was hitherto unknown before Baba Iyabo as Obasanjo is fondly called took over the mantle of leadership. The office even in the United States didn’t come immediately after the then thirteen colonies defeated the British Empire which was the most powerful in the globe at that time. However, it is instructive to note that the pioneer Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton played a similar role to the highly esteemed office during the American war of independence which ended in 1789. Despite not being a soldier, he was the closest to the war hero who later became the first American President, George Washington. He was with him in the war front and was the intermediary between him and the troops that he commanded. He wielded more powers than many of the nation’s Generals and offered to crown Washington as a King after the war was won. He later played a key role in the drafting of the constitution that guided the new nation. The office was officially created in 1939 under the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who brought the nation out of the Great Depression of 1929 that shook her to its very firmament.
Abdullahi Mohammed who served both Obasanjo and Yar’adua was rather self effacing as he handled the Presidency from behind the scenes. It was Dr. Andy Uba, the aide on domestic matters that was more visible and was a darling of the media in the hey days.
After the resignation of Abdullahi under Yar’adua, he chose to scrap the office and rely more on that of the Principal Private Secretary which was held by David Edevbie, a James Ibori loyalist.
The office bounced back to reckoning under the Goodluck Jonathan led Presidency and was held by Chief Michael Oghiadomhe, a former deputy Governor of Edo state and later Brigadier-General Jones Arogbofa (rtd). The visibility of his administration was vested in the person of Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who doubled as the coordinating minister of the economy.
The most powerful Chief of Staff in the nation’s history was the late Mallam Abba Kyari as he was extremely visible in the policy formulation of the Buhari led administration. Due to the confidence reposed on him by his boss, he made many enemies as he was said to have stepped on many powerful toes. We recall a public spat he had with the immediate past Head of Service, Mrs. Winnifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita where a picture of her pointing her fingers at him. She was later to have lost her plum job due to alleged financial impropriety. Her die-hard supporters opined that her exit was as a result of her falling out with the ‘de facto’ President. His membership of the board of the government owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and a leaked memo by the office of the National Security Adviser to the press showed that the Cambridge trained lawyer was sabotaging the efforts of the military in the battle against the dreaded boko haram insurgents.
Popular journalists like Simon Kolawole, Olusegun Adeniyi, Reuben Abati told us through their personal interactions with him that he wasn’t the devil that the media portrayed him to be. We were told that he was merely doing his job. The tribute by Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was apt because he once played a similar role when he was Obasanjo’s aide on public affairs.
A new Chief of Staff should have a commanding aura of Kyari and should possess a lot of exposure – a mix of both the private and public sector. He or she so that one is not accused of sexism should have astute multitasking abilities in order to deal with the high demands of the office.
The nature of the office is such that it doesn’t require the approval by the National Assembly. Invariably, the President would naturally prefer someone he knows and can trust. Kyari was known to Buhari for over 40 years as revealed by both the President and his powerful nephew who is said to be part of the cabal, Mamman Daura. It is most likely that a close relationship between him and Kyari’s successor would play a key role in the next appointment.
Some names have already propped up – The former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), the Head of the Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), Ambassador Babagina Kingibe, Adamu Adamu, the education minister are the most prominent names being bandied about for the highly coveted office.
A well known Lagos based radio commentator has a soft spot for that office and always describes the holder as someone who has the potential to be the President. When you consider the fact that Kyari was nearly Vice-President in 1999 as revealed by Mamman Daura, he cannot be far from the truth.
Some pundits opined that some of the ministers are angling for one of them to be appointed into that office so as to reduce the friction they have with the President since Buhari made late Kyari so powerful that the ministers reported directly to him and not to the President.
We hope that Buhari appoints him or her early enough as we recall that it took him nearly five months to constitute his cabinet in 2015.
Time the ultimate revealer of things will tell who Kyari’s successor will be. We hope Kyari finds eternal rest with his maker as the vagaries of life makes people forget about the departed so soon making nonsense of the concept of leaving a legacy behind.
Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com