Like the Minister of Works and Housing Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola has pointed out, the inks will, for a long time from now, flow in tributes to Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
And, the tributes will, of course, be written by those who loved and despised Abba Kyari, a man who, surprisingly, can be said to be more loved in death than alive. Abba Kyari, in death, seems to be, to most Nigerians, that man who was good, patriotic and humble but misunderstood and had his character disparaged and maligned.
Now dead, we hear and believe that Abba Kyari was Spartan, quiet and reserved individual that many people did not know during his lifetime. As the inks flow, we read that Abba Kyari had many good and interesting sides to him, contrary to the widespread misconceptions of him. In reality, he was to many the simplest, most unassuming, humble and easy-going person.
In fact, for Abba Kyari, it’s the time to harvest love even from his virulent critics. And this exposed the hypocrisy of people in this part of the world. People will hate you with a passion when you are alive and turn out to be your chief mourners in death.
It is in this regard that I respect the view of my boss, mentor and big brother, Professor Farooq Adamu Kperogi. “In spite of who he (Kyari) was, especially the last five years of his life on earth, as a Muslim, I won’t speak ill of him in death,” Farooq Kperogi said in a piece on the death of Abba Kyari. “But I won’t write undeserving & deodorizing posthumous extolments of him, either. That would be as bad as, or even worse than, celebrating his death.” Indeed, it would have been surprising and hypocritical if Farooq Kperogi had done anything beyond that for he appears to be one of the most noticeable critics of the late Abba Kyari, especially on the existence of the much-talked-about cabal at the Presidential Villa purportedly holding the president to ransom.
Of course, many people now wonder why Abba Kyari deemed it unnecessary to defend himself on many of the allegations levelled against him and, from the face of it, one is tempted to say the question was right to be asked.
Abba Kyari, after all, was an appointee of the government who, like the others should, ideally, defend their names and actions if not on behalf of the government they serve but for posterity, family and need to bequeath good legacies.
Abba Kyari, however, did not see it that way, probably believing he would, one day, have his say of the stories. That day, as we all know now, will never come. He also thought that he was not the real target of his critics and their allegations and that so long as he remained loyal, which he did, to his principal and maintained a clear conscience, people had their mouth and could say whatever they liked.
The late Abba Kyari was one of the most generally misunderstood Nigerians with the reason majorly been his taciturn disposition. Another reason for the widespread misconception about who Abba Kyari was and what he represented could be his position against telling his own story or have someone else do that for him, to dispel vicious rumours and damaging stories put out against his person and office.
But those who knew and related with him are not the least surprised, because that had always been his preferred way of managing his affairs.
And after his death, Abba Kyari can now hardly, if ever, be blamed for the approach he adopted to deal with allegations made against him. Had he responded to the many allegations and joined issues with his traducers, he would have become unfocused and compounded some of the problems of the Buhari-led administration and, above that, exposed his principal to some forms of attacks never seen before made against any previous leader.
Of course, this is the kind of loyalty shown by Abba Kyari to President Muhammadu Buhari that has now become a reference point and, perhaps, a thing of study for present and future ogas’ aides.
Now that a good soul has passed on and a good man has gone, the attention of people and, especially, the president could, easily, move to a discussion about who succeeds Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff.
The seeming immediate battle for his succession restates the vanity of man. Once one is no more, people rush to take over one’s most cherished valuable things – your wife, job/position, property and all that.
Prominent figures like the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babagana Kingibe; Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu; Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu; and the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Hamid Ali, are being promoted as the likely successors of the late Abba Kyari. And we are not going to write about their biodata or dwell on their merits or demerits for the job. No!
However, we will raise some fundamental issue thus: Although there cannot be another Abba Kyari, some semblance of the qualities of the late Chief of Staff can be considered in appointing a new occupant for the office.
In fact, what President Muhammadu Buhari owes the deceased is appointing somebody who posses some of the qualities of Abba Kyari, many of which have been highlighted in the torrent of tributes to him. Some of these qualities include his simplicity, reserved nature, nationalistic approach to issues, broad-mindedness, abhorrence for corruption, and vast knowledge of politics, economics, philosophy and social development, among others.
Abba Kyari’s disdain for material enrichments was legendary. No doubt, among the reasons why Abba Kyari enjoyed negative publicity was his abhorrence for corruption. He blocked the thieving elite from pilfering the nation’s resources and fought corruption in many fronts. One of his initial actions in office was to stop the N200 million monthly direct cash advance to the Office of the Chief of Staff while refreshments and other things were taken care of from his purse.
His signature policy initiatives were also remarkably outstanding. To borrow the words of the outgoing Permanent Secretary of State House, Mr Jalal Arabi, the deceased’s many interventions “include the National Council on Food Strategy; Presidential Fertilizer Initiative; Presidential Infrastructure Fund; Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative; Completion of Second Niger Bridge; Initiation for the Funding of 18 Key Road projects across the country; Rehabilitation of Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road Network; Presidential Power Initiative – Siemens; 10MW Grid Solar Power Project In Kano; Planting of 26 Million Trees to address Desertification; Establishment of 16 Federal Science and Technical Schools in the States; Creation of Special Public Works Program to provide part-time employment to 40,000 Nigerian Youths across eight (8) states on a pilot basis; and Federal Government’s COVID-19 palliatives; etc.”
Perhaps, we should add that the greatest things the President and Nigerians owe Abba Kyari are: fixing the country’s infrastructure, sustaining the fight against corruption, promotion of unity among the diverse components making up the country, and ensuring general wellbeing of the people. These are the values he lived to accomplish and died in the process of realising them.
*Gulloma is the Presidential Villa correspondent of Blueprint newspaper*