￼By Tony Eluemunor
Why are some people unreasonably and immoderately intent on accusing Nigerians of ingratitude or stupidity? They do that when they accuse Nigerians of failure to appreciate the uncommon qualities they claim for the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, late Mallam Abba Kyari.
In his tall tale about how Kyari nearly became Olusegun Obasanjo’s vice president, Daura said in his tribute: “These times coincided with the country’s return to democracy and Malam Abba was among those enthusiastically espousing the cause of General Obasanjo. On his selection as PDP candidate, a group of women and youths in the PDP lobbied Obasanjo to pick Malam Abba as his Vice Presidential running mate. After heated debates, Obasanjo eventually picked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar”.
Please give Daura the former Editor some credit; though he had let it be known that Abba Kyari was proposed to be Vice-President to People’s Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 1999, only a careful reader would notice that he attributed this proposal to, women and youths. Were the women and youths combined in one group or were they in two or more groups? The aged former Editor didn’t say. He didn’t even mention the names of the groups. Then, he added, imprecisely again, that “after heated debates,” Obasanjo picked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Who engaged in those debates? Where were they held? He gave no further suggestion.
So, it was clear that he was trying his best possible to elevate the fallen Chief of Staff to a higher pedestal, just to confound those who thought he bombed as a Chief of Staff. I watched out for the person who would jump into the sweltering and stifling Abba Kyari discussion turf to correct him. And such a correction came; from Dr. Saidu Maidare, former SA to Chief Sunday Awoniyi, late ACF Chairman.
While it is difficult to find the title of Daura’s eulogy to Abba Kyari, (if you find it please alert me) Dr. Maidare’s rebuttal’s is a screamer: “When an old man lies. Mamman Daura’s elegy of Abba Kyari”.He wrote: “Ordinarily I avoid joining issues with you, because as customary in Africa we defer to elders on account of age. However in (an) instance where an old man distort, falsify or even out rightly concoct stories on account of history, it’s mandatory to put the record straight.
The Northern Political Elites presented two candidates for Obasanjo to choose from after the PDP presidential primaries in Jos 1998.
OBJ (Obasanjo) settled for Atiku, as vice president. Atiku on the other hand appointed Bugaje as his Special Adviser political.
“Mamman Daura, Gen Buhari was not even in politics more or less you his appendage. In the period under review you were neither a power broker or warehouse but financially ruined and bankrupt director of BCCI on the radar of American Justice system. Abba Kyari as a VP of Obj?…are you kidding? From which power block…Pls spare us your….b…
Tough words, those, but please note that he rightly named the group that nominated Atiku. Unfortunately, I have to correct both Daura and Dr. Maidare. Here we go: About two months to the 1999 elections, Obasanjo’s campaign train was running out of steam. Source of money dried up; a vast sum that was collected by many, included members of Obasanjo’s own family, could not be accounted for. Then, Atiku intervened and injected the badly needed funds into the campaign just when Obasanjo did not know what next to do.
He also activated the PDM machinery and put it to work for Obasanjo. Then Atiku, who had his own state governorship campaign to handle, brought Chief Tony Anenih to Obasanjo as someone who could revive the dying campaign. PDM members across the states were called up for action.
So even after Obasanjo had agreed with a group of elders representing Northern interests on four candidates for the Vice-President’s slot, he still remembered Atiku, who in the Abacha years had remained unwaveringly loyal to the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and had openly, instead of discreetly, visited both Yar’Adua and Obasanjo in jail.
The four names given to Obasanjo for consideration were Senator Jubril Aminu, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Bamanga Tukur and a much younger person, Waziri Muhammed, who would later head the Nigeria Railway Corporation and die in air crash while championing Obasanjo’s Third Term bid. Some Northern elders were on their way to the Abuja Nicon-Hilton Hotel to meet Obasanjo over the issue when they heard it on that day’s 4pm radio news that Atiku had been chosen vice-presidential candidate.
By then, Atiku had been elected Adamawa State Governor. So he had to hand over to his deputy, Bonnie Haruna. And that is the way it was.
Really, except to point out the facts for fastidious souls who would want Nigeria’s contemporary history to be crisp, I never wanted to intervene because Mamman Daura’s rendition never appeared as something even he regarded as serious. Otherwise, he would not have added that really amusing opinion that Kyari’s intelligence towered above those of all the other of Buhari’s aides and Ministers. Was that supposed to be a justification for Kyari’s alleged supplanting of the Vice-President, sacking some of his aides too, taking over the job of the National Security Adviser? We have been told that Kyari used to buy books for his close acquaintances, so how many books did he buy for the Professor, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo? How many counter-insurgency books did he buy for the NSA? Or didn’t Kyari know that Osinbajo, in secondary school (1969-75) won the State Merit Award (1971); the School Prize for English Oratory (1972); Adeoba Prize for English Oratory (1972-1975); Elias Prize for Best Performance in History (WASC, 1973); School Prize for Literature (HSC, 1975); and African Statesman Intercollegiate Best Speaker’s Prize (1974). At the University of Lagos, he also won the Graham-Douglas Prize for Commercial Law. How many such honours did Kyari win?
Now, what do we call Mr. Jalal Arabi, an out-going State House Permanent Secretary’s write up on Kyari? It is not an encomium (enthusiastic and warm praise) or eulogy (a prepared speech or writing extolling a person’s virtues or services), panegyric (an elaborate often poetic compliment) or a citation (a formal expression of praise say, in a military dispatch for bravery or in the award of a university degree). It came closest to a tribute, not that respected genre of deeply felt praise conveyed either through words or through a significant act but the gutter level type of the original sense of “things given from a weaker group to the dominant power of a region—a bit like the “protection money” the Mafia gets from small businesses after making them offers they can’t refuse, though the older form of tribute actually did buy the weaker group some protection from enemy forces”, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. Smart Perm Sec; Kyari may be dead but the Mafia (sorry, Cabal) still lives and reigns, so it pays to remain in its good books.
Or, what on Earth could have made a real Permanent Secretary to exhibit his total lack of knowledge of how to pay real tribute to the memory of his champion? How did the late Chief of Staff seed the Aso Rock (Presidency) staff? How did he change the organogram? How did he brand its decision-making process razor sharp? How did he make it welcoming for every Nigerian despite his ethnicity and religion? How many of his close aides were not from his own part of the country? How did he place merit above crude prebendalism? He didn’t reckon with such matters that could have told us how effective a Chief of Staff Kyari was. Many commentators have made it appear that Kyari’s life justified why the word PREBENDAISM was invented. Richard A. Joseph, Director of The Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, is usually credited with first using the term prebendalism to describe patron-client or neopatrimonialism in …Nigeria! Since then the term has commonly been used in scholarly literature and textbooks. The Catholic Encyclopaedia defines prebend as the “right of member of chapter to his share in the revenues of a cathedral.” Joseph used the term to describe the sense of entitlement that many people in Nigeria feel they have to the revenues of the Nigerian state. Joseph wrote in 1996, “According to the theory of prebendalism, state offices are regarded as prebends that can be appropriated by officeholders, who use them to
generate material benefits for themselves and their constituents and kin groups. Any who has ever attacked Kyari has always included favouritism and ethnicism as part of his ills.
Arabi wrote about Kyari: “Dear to his heart as legacy projects for our administration 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”.
Haba Arabi, there must be an end to sycophancy! Are you claiming that everything the Buhari administration ever did came from Kyari’s unrivalled incandescent mind? Well, if we believe you on that what about the government’s sins of omission? Now answer these questions: Kyari was a member of the NNPC Board, how many petroleum refineries did he cause to be repaired and remain fully operative? As he took over the duties of the National Security Adviser on the Boko Haram insurgency, what stopped him from ridding Nigeria of Boko Haram? And did he end the general insecurity in the land? Thursday 30th April, the Vanguard newspaper had a special report of how suspected herdsmen have held the Issele-Uku, Ubulu-Uku, Issele-Azagba and Ogwashi-Uku and Ibusa axis, the entire Ughelli and Kwale areas of Delta state, hostage. They would come into peoples’ homes, force them to cook for them, then they would take the food and drinks before marching off their victims into the surrounding bushes. It is a sad story that contained that horrendous abduction and killing of Ubulu-Uku’s king, His Royal Highness Obi Akaeze Edward Ofulue III, a murder not yet solved. It is like Abuja has forgotten that those parts belong to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but have been surrendered to suspected herdsmen. Poor Governor Okowa; how distracting this must be to him!
Haba Arabi, Haba! You even credited Kyari with having the Covid-19 palliatives close to his heart. Yet, was he not the same person who got the Ministry of Health banned from purchasing anything directly but to go through the Agriculture ministry? Have you, a Perm sec, told us how that helped Nigeria’s anti-Covid-19 fight?
Abba Kyari is dead; may his soul rest in perfect peace. From the bottom of my heart, I wish his family well. The bookish man must have been nice to friends and some colleagues and earned their tears. But to cast him as a supper patriot and unrivalled achiever on behalf of the down-trodden, is to accuse Nigerians of either ingratitude or stupidity. And that is not right. Again, R.I.P, Mallam Abba Kyari.
Mr. Eluemunor, an authority on the Presidency, lives in Abuja.
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