By Okey Muogbo
Let me start by wishing that God forgives late Abba Kyari his sins. In discussing the circumstances of how he ruled, it is my considered opinion that 97 percent of the evils of this administration since 2015 falls squarely on the head of President Muhammadu Buhari while the remaining 5%, sorry 3% falls on late Abba Kyari, his Chief of Staff (COS) until Friday.
I was shocked that the first tribute I saw on waking up on Saturday morning was an acid attack on the man who just died then. It was written by one Remi Oyeyemi. Then I saw other tributes too in quick succession akin to Oyeyemi’s vilifying Kyari. At a point I began fear that Kyari never had a friend despite being ‘deputy president’ for this long five years and under a dictatorship regime where if you have power, you are at liberty to do whatever you like – kill an innocent man and nothing happens or illegitimately turn a scavenger into multi-billionaire just with the words of your mouth.
Then I stumbled upon one tribute from Foreign Affairs Minister, Godfrey Onyema eulogizing Abba Kyari. I also read President Buhari’s tribute of praises but With my gavel (pen) I dismissed it because Buhari is not a ‘credible witness’ of goodness of Abba Kyari. Even Onyeama’s testimony falls short of admissibility but I decided to admit it in evidence for the little value it had. Same rating was given to another tribute by Femi Fani-Kayode because both men had emotional relationship with Abba Kyari which would have impaired objectivity of their testimonies. But between his burial and the time of writing this piece, other good tributes have come up, yet lacking in the quantity expected.
Issues of no tributes, few tributes, hypocritical or genuine tributes are not at the heart of the matter under discussion. The issue at hand is that all powers on this geographical earth called Nigeria has been vested on the President of Nigeria. Outside of him, there is no much political or financial existence of anybody.
Even a young, well-educated, articulate, sagacious, healthy and versatile president cannot singlehandedly run this country. So, the president must delegate authority/power/duties. The quantity and quality of duties delegated to a person determine the enormity of power/influence the appointee wields. But the most critical issue in this relationship is that the appointee must discharge his duties in the spirit and mind of the principal.
In the practice of the Presidential System of government in Nigeria, three or should I say, three and a half organs of the Federal Government get the bulk of the duties of the President of the Federation. They are: the secretary to the government of the federation, the chief of staff to the president and the Vice President. The half office I mentioned is that of minister of special duties. I called it half because it doesn’t exist always. In some exceptional cases, the presidential power moves out of these conventional power points. This was the case under Goodluck Jonathan when the Minister of Finance, Mrs Nogzi Okonjo-Iweala called the shots,
Under normal circumstances, the president and his vice are supposed to hold much of the executive power though the VP’s own is by delegation too. An example was Obasanjo/Atiku before they fell apart. Most presidents do not draw their VPs close because the Vice Presidents are usually imposed on the President to win votes.
In this Buhari Administration, we have a president who by personal admission contends with age and I’ll-health. His Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo who is on the opposite side of mental and physical statistics, could not be ‘trusted’ because his bloc, the defunct Action Congress was used to secure victory for the defunct Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) in the alliance called All Progressive Congress (APC). Sorry for the short digression.
Each time presidential powers move to any of the points outside the VP, animosity builds up. Though the VPs are helpless in helping themselves but each time they lose in the power play, interests around, acting as free agents, have always been vocal against the humiliation of the VPs. Take out some time and analyze the direction, pattern and intensity of the attacks against Abba Kyari and make judgement for yourself.
It was Buhari’s blunder to have delegated almost all the presidential powers to the cabal who exercised such powers through Abba Kyari. Cabals existed in every administration I have witnessed from 1979 till date. It is what the cabal does with the power and influence it wields that defines the glory or ignominy of a given regime. But a cabal must have an authority or institution(s) of government through which it brings in, its decisions as government policies.
In the last five years, the office of chief of staff was used. That Buhari kept quiet while the office of COS did all that had brought this level of anger means the President should take the blame, like I said earlier 97%.
In 2015 or thereabout when Anyim Pius Anyim was taking over from Yayale Ahmed as Secretary to the government of the federation (SSG), Yayale gave him one candid advice: never trampled with the office of the VP no matter how close you are to the President. Anyim, a man born with lots and lots of native intelligence seemed to have managed his office well without overtly rubbing insult on the VP (Mohammed Sambo); though Anyim was not the epicenter of Jonathan’s Presidential power.
One ‘benefit’ of being entrusted with much presidential powers as an appointee is the loads of insults that are heaped on you. If you are power drunk and exercise such powers recklessly, then only God can help you. Okonjo-Iwela took much of the bashing under Jonathan. At a point, I had to go to the Ministry of Finance to ask my good friend who works there why Madam Ngozi and the Ministry had become so notorious.
My friend’s response was an eye opener. The Presidents would approve anything under pressure from contractors and political allies and send them to Finance Ministry. When they went to collect their money, there would be no money in the treasury and the disappointed contractors would blame the Finance Minister.
I believe that what happened to Okonjo-Iweala was substantially what happened to late COS. Abba Kyari’s worst enemies were those he usurped their duties, not much of the corruption tag they are hanging on him. There was also the pattern of appointment that has no bearing with reality which I believe was the making of the President because he stridently defended those actions.
I agree with my friend and media practitioner, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze who in his tribute to Abba Kyari said: “No matter the stand of anybody, Abba Kyari remains the strongest and most powerful Chief of Staff ever, to any President of this country with so much powers to influence most of the government’s policies and direction.”
But like I have said, it is not the office, it is the powers and duties delegated to the office and how the powers are exercised. If Buhari decides to transfer the same powers he gave Kyari to the Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume, all attention would be shifted there and nobody would remember the COS again.
Abba Kyari’s greatest blame was using absolute power absolutely. It is against the run of Nature, Politics and Socio-Psychology. Human beings are no pieces of wood. People bend, and at some point, every person must bend himself, either in looking back or making changes.
Don’t bother too much about who becomes the new COS, bother about what Buhari wants him to do. But for the remaining three years of this administration, let the ministers run their statutory schedule, let the other institutions of government be allowed to do same, let the remaining, yet enormous presidential powers be shared among the other points of Presidential powers.
Do we not have a Minister of Power? Just imagine, if Kyari didn’t go for that Siemens Electricity power deal, just imagine, just imagine and just keep imagining….
Buhari must also remember that whoever is the VP is a constitutional idle man. An ordinary idle man/mind can be dangerous but a constitutional idle man can be extremely dangerous, not forgetting other troublesome offices like the “other room” occupiers as well as unpatriotic cabal members who bother less about the national interest but parochial or ethnic issues. The balancing act must be done by the President, the buck stops on his table.
It was more of the office of COS that brought bad name to late Kyari than whatever bad nature he had. I cannot remember any of those vitriolic tributes that said Kyari was an evil man 15 years ago. It was the office of COS that ruined Kyari’s name and finally killed him as substantially admitted by Onyema when he said: “Abba was loyal to a fault. He decided he was going to protect his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, at all costs and would take any number of bullets for him. And he did!
“Since he became Chief of Staff to the President, Abba never rested. He worked day and night, seven days a week. Abba believed completely in the Nigerian project and believed completely in President Muhammadu Buhari. During the last five years he gave every second of his life for the success of both. His health suffered as a result but it was a sacrifice and investment he was happy to make.”
A Muslim of his geography of origin accepting to be best man to his Christian friend on his (friend’s) wedding, accepting to be godfather to Christian children is not the kind you see every day. Those acts speak a lot about the other side of the man who just died.
Kyari’s successor or to whoever Buhari decides to hand over the running of his government again, must draw serious lessons from Kyari’s story, that is, the best way to work in the Presidency is not to die there but leave alive, first to enjoy your ‘loot’ and secondly to have the opportunity to reflect on your stay there. I was a regular visitor to Aso Rock for three years. I know a little bit about that place.