His death has, however, offered PMB a golden opportunity to reverse course and chart a new deal with Nigerians by appointing a new personable Chief of Staff with a national outlook and human face.CHUMA UWECHIA
The death of Abba Kyari, erstwhile Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari on April 17, 2020 revealed not just a deep national embitterment and divide about his administrative and managerial style, but an indictment of the circumstances that foisted him on the nation.
Approximately two weeks after his demise, the battle over his true legacy has continued with the likes of Mamman Daura leading efforts to mold an image of Kyari as the best Chief of Staff the nation ever had. With that appellation, one wonders how to describe the likes of Chief Michael Godwin Edward Prest, Maj.-Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed (rtd.), Chief Mike Aiyegbeni Oghiadomhe, all of whom rendered patriotic and dedicated national service as Chiefs of Staff to former presidents without usurping presidential power and devoid of controversy.
The ecstatic expression of public relief on Kyari’s demise was analogous only to the emotive release of a people freed from vassalage; a stupefying public indictment. Elation at someone’s death no matter the circumstances is strongly discouraged in all cultures known to mankind. . It is one thing to be satisfied that a perceived corrupt public official is no more, but another thing to celebrate with glee.
How did Kyari manage to attract more hatred than his benefactor? How did he become the man that Nigerians love to hate? How did he become the parochial face of a distrusted cabal rumored to have hijacked the presidency? It appears that Kyari must have gone to his grave with the inside story of his part in this saga of stolen presidential mandate. His death has, however, offered PMB a golden opportunity to reverse course and chart a new deal with Nigerians by appointing a new personable Chief of Staff with a national outlook and human face.
The most valuable asset in politics they say is credibility, a lot of which Buhari seemed to have in 2015 when he rode into Abuja as the President after ousting Goodluck Jonathan with a sweeping mandate. Back then, Nigerians were dissatisfied with the rising corruption and insecurity and voted for change because PMB had offered credibility on the issues that mattered most to them. It was a reputation built during his 1984 stint as Head of State and Buhari was seen more as an ascetic anti-corruption crusader than an ethnic bigot. What Nigerians wanted from him was simply good governance.
The expectation was that the resources of Nigerians should be used to better the lives of Nigerians. But that capital seems to have been expended, with the increased perception of the federal government as insensitive to federal character and unable to guarantee security of life and property. In addition, there is an ostensible failure to reign in corruption that thrives within the corridors of power, with the strong support of a cabal which Kyari’s critics appear to heap on the dead Chief of Staff.
For five years of Kyari’s service, PMB’s image was in the dog house. His political party APC, the platform on which he rode to power feels alienated by a certain Northern cabal among which Kyari was the “gatekeeper”. Ministers reported to Kyari and not the President, an unhealthy arrangement that kept vital facts from PMB except as determined by Kyari. Perhaps, the string of health issues suffered by PMB may have exacted a toll on his ability to govern which led to that unhealthy arrangement in the first place.
Ironically, while PMB’s regime is running into issues of credibility, his helpmate and wife, Aisha Buhari is enjoying better public appreciation for calling out the cabal’s unpatriotic hijacking of her husband’s administration for sectional interest. The first lady, like Babagana Monguno, the National Security Adviser and a long list of other Nigerians had accused Kyari of undermining the constitution and overriding presidential power. The office of the Vice-President was also alleged to have experienced the meddlesomeness of Kyari. The first lady wants her husband to leave an enduring positive legacy which explains her confrontation with Kyari. Maybe, if the President listens to his wife this time around and selects a truly trusted hand as the new Chief of Staff, the country may end up with better governance in the remaining years of his presidency. Aisha has shown enormous public empathy for the struggling Nigerians and more patriotism than known of Kyari.
History is replete with women who are known to have successfully aided their husband’s administration in their role as first ladies. Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, who served as First Lady from 1915 to 1921, was second wife of the 28th President of United States, Woodrow Wilson and after the President suffered a severe stroke, she pre-screened all matters of state and functionally managed the Executive branch of government for the remainder of Wilson’s second term. One does not see why Aisha should not be more involved in PMB’s administration in light of PMB’s health issues and given her antecedents of confronting the usurpers of her husband’s presidential powers.
As we all know, representative democracy requires a strong connect between the governed and the government for those in power to succeed. In normal circumstances without trust and participation of the citizens, the government of the day will not thrive and the governing political party will surely lose the next election. The prevailing mood in the country is that a northern cabal has usurped presidential power from PMB and APC is no longer in control, which spells doom for the party. The damning part is that the cabal is allegedly pursuing a sectional interest and not a national agenda. PMB can successfully change the narrative by reasserting his authority and appointing a nationally suitable patriot as his Chief of Staff.
This time around, PMB must be his own man, avoid reliance on others and search diligently within his own circle of long serving and trusted aides for his new Chief of Staff. There must be one patriotic good man with a national outlook to help him build a legacy in his remaining three years. A man that will help him reconnect with political allies driven away by Kyari, reconnect with APC, reconcile with the South East and South South, and leave footprints in the sand of time.
There is a burning need to change the political landscape, restructure the country and correct the number of states in each political zone to bring equity to the nation. The cost of governance needs to be pruned. This is the time to deal decisively with the Fulani herdsmen kidnapping rascality, the Almajiri issue and Boko Haram security threat. Health, Education and Social infrastructure requires urgent rebuilding attention. The economy should be diversified from over reliance on oil as its primary source of revenue, which makes steady and constant supply of electricity an imperative.
Real leadership and governance is about nation building and can only truly happen if PMB appoints a man who will do what it takes to make his remaining years a success. We hope he does the right thing because we want the country to prosper.