By SKC Ogbonnia
The death of Abba Kyari, the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, has elicited a great deal of controversy, but posterity demands that the history of our leaders bears the truth.
Without doubt, the history of Kyari will cite powerful voices that remember him as a very loyal servant. These voices were diverse. They came from different shades of the political spectrum. They came from different parts of the country.
The Minister of External Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Kyari’s friend of over 42 years, delivered a testimonial for the ages. An excerpt reads as follows: “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!”
The most compelling yet came from no other than Femi Fani-Kayode, a frontline critic of the current government, and a former Minister of Aviation, who had equally known Abba Kyari for over 40 years. Kayode put politics aside to tweet that the Mallam was a good and loyal man.
Not to be forgotten is the eulogy from a prominent member of the main opposition party and a former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who mourned that “no Chief of Staff anywhere has shown as much loyalty and commitment as he showed to President Muhammadu Buhari.”
But none has meant more than a special tribute from President Buhari himself. The President, a man not known for many words, could not hide his emotions when he described the departed Chief of Staff as his “dearest friend.”
Even his harshest critic would marvel at the point Buhari wrote that Abba Kyari “strove quietly and without any interest in publicity or personal gain to implement my agenda.”
The accolade from the venerable Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, is not only instructive, it also provokes another vital foreground to my thesis. He wrote, Abba Kyari “executed President Buhari’s vision with his own single-mindedness…He was driven by conviction and never shied from an intellectual argument because his intellect was vast.”
The problem, a huge problem, is that the Buhari’s vision, as well as conviction, have been an embarrassing failure. In short, if his Presidency were to end today, he would have been remembered as the nation’s worst civilian leader ever. No close second!
Where does one begin and where does one end? There is palpable anger in the East, North, South, and West. Even where Buhari recorded some measurable success, such achievements usually fail to engender hope, because of his style of leadership.
Besides Buhari, no one is more associated with this failure than Abba Kyari, the President’s most trusted and influential ally. Said differently, Mallam Kyari was so single-minded to Buhari’s visions and convictions – visions and convictions well proven to be stridently divisive, unjust, inhumane, and unpatriotic.
This view must not be misconstrued as suggesting that leaders should always waver in their visions or convictions. The point is that any worthwhile vision or conviction must not be antagonistic to the greater good. Moreover, political rigidity, which Mr. Kyari roundly endorsed, is another name for dogmatism, which typically leads to destructive power.
Hillary Clinton phrased it more mildly, “Easy consensus can lead, over time, to poor decisions.”
Therefore, even as Abba Kyari was a hardworking man, a good friend to his close associates, a good father to his children, a good husband to his wife, a loyal servant to the President, and a gentleman in the society; common sense dictates that he was overly naïve. His much-touted loyalty to President Buhari was not only a naked nescience, it was also a clear case of blind following. It was a loyalty at the nation’s peril.
This failure explains why the true history of the late Kyari ought to include a chapter devoted to the fact that more Nigerians rejoiced over his death than the few who mourned him. The history deserves to mention that the degree of glee that trailed his demise had not been witnessed since the death of Sani Abacha, the maximum dictator, who ruled the country from 1993 to 1998.
Kyari’s case, a death from Coronavirus, was even more ironic. Despite the excruciating effect of nationwide lockdowns intended to mitigate the pandemic, many were celebrating his misfortune, with some openly praying, wishing that the COVID-19 could become a regular phenomenon, if only it could continue to claim the likes of Abba Kyari.
Some members of the inner caucus of the ruling party were not left behind. The Kano State Commissioner of Works, Mu’azu Magaji, could not hide his excitement when he wrote that the passing of Abba Kyari is a welcome breeze for the Nigerian people. The First Lady, Aisha Buhari, could not imagine anything more befitting than to pray that Allah could forgive Mr. Kyari’s sins.
The truth is that the name, Abba Kyari, by his actions or inactions, is widely seen as a taboo among the Nigerian masses. This notion accounts for why one of his most ardent adherents, the governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, did not hesitate to disassociate himself from a story making the rounds that the governor was planning to immortalize the late presidential aide.
May the soul of Mallam Abba Kyari rest in perfect peace. I also pray that no Nigerian President is ever blinded with Mr. Kyari’s type of loyalty. May the Almighty grant President Muhammadu Buhari the wisdom to recognize the genius of critical opinions. I pray that he can truly change to become the best President some of us had hoped he could become.
•Ogbonnia, 2019 APC presidential aspirant, writes from Ugbo, Awgu, Enugu State and can be reached on Twitter @ SKCOgbonnia