Buhari needs another “Abba Kyari”

By Bunmi Makinwa


Abba Kyari

Those who admired late Abba Kyari, former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, praised him loud and clear. And those who hated him have resoundingly castigated him and his actions. The tributes reflect public perception and feelings about a person who stood out as the key figure of the administration.

Perhaps more than anyone in government, late Kyari defined the Buhari government and carried out its mission seriously and correctly. The tributes reflected this much.

As an un-elected official, he was uncharacteristically well known without making public appearances; unusually famously labelled and categorized by the public without saying much; and generally attributed superior authority and great influence by all including the spouse of his principal.

As Nigerians wait for the choice of a possible next chief of staff, several names are circulating. No matter the guesses and suggestions, one issue that looms largest is that Kyari served Buhari as the president wanted to be served. Kyari consistently spoke for and interpreted the president to all who he came across. Kyari’s appointees served during his principal’s first and ongoing second mandate, unless he chose not to keep them.

Still relying on the tributes, the conclusions are, without prejudice, that Kyari ran the government and the country very well for Buhari. The president confirmed his confidence in Kyari by reappointing him during the second mandate. The president needed Kyari, perhaps more than Kyari needed him.

Given the conclusions above, the next chief of staff will have to be another “Kyari” – meaning a Kyari-like personality. He does not have to be a look-alike in physical and material ways. But he must be similar to the former chief of staff in mind, spirit and temperament.

Some key characteristics of Kyari that Buhari will seek and prioritize in his choice of the next chief of staff are as follows and you should consider them as you weigh your interest in the job:

The health problems of Buhari impose certain physical limitations on his activities. The presidency is not a part-time job, and it places great physical burden on the occupier of the highest office. It is not publicly known whether the health conditions impair other faculties of the president. No matter the facts, the president must be shielded and cushioned from formal and informal demands of the office that may jeopardize his health. The new chief of staff must manage, deploy, arrange the presidency in name and style of his unseen and absent principal.

Very good educational background is important. Whilst what was studied may count for little, attendance of notable educational institutions is critical. The candidate’s former colleagues and mates will form a band of supporters that testify to his strengths, character and personality when he was in school, no matter how irrelevant such testimony may sound relative to today’s realities.

In all choices of key positions in government, families and friends are prime choices. Occasionally well-known people make the grade. Others when appointed to important positions must keep perpetual social distance from the president. And such people will act only within the wisdom of the known but unwritten rules of loyalty. Critics and advisers who do not share prevailing visions must never be allowed any merits.

All defence, security, and intelligence posts are made with hundred per cent “cultural sensitivity”. The appointments are important in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency. They are useful to reduce corruption, but only as defined internally.

The work of running the presidency is hard and demanding. The candidate should be on top of all issues no matter how it appears in public as if he is not. Hence appearances must be a cool exterior whilst interior is boiling with tactics and definite agendas.


President Buhari and Abba Kyari in happier times (image courtesy State House)

The candidate must seek no publicity and obvious attention. The more the silence the better the options that can be applied as the situation demands. Do not show your hand quickly. Even when there is a lot of noise, maintain a poker face and stay impassive. Distance is important from the public. The political campaign has stopped the day the results of elections were announced.

Have a lot of room to wiggle. The space to take a stand or make a u-turn on issues and decisions grows bigger the longer the silence by the presidency. At times, the issues will simply disappear, no matter how loud the noise is. Know how to buy and use time.

The fewer the people with whom there is any social or political interaction the better. The candidate will not mount the soap box readily, or accept to have the klieg lights turned on him. It violates the silence and detached demeanour. In fact, stay within the friends-family-and-well-known others’ circle unless it is absolutely essential. When public interaction or statements are required, be brief. Curt the soap box and lights only when it can lure the unwary and divert attention. Or do it when there is too much pressure that the costs of not appearing in public may cause irreparable damage.

Be wary of politicians, all politicians. Even those within your own party. Let them stay divided if it happens. The longer they fight amongst themselves the easier it is to use them to attain set purposes. Keep in mind that they have served their important objectives already by getting the votes or doing whatever was necessary to win elections. They also have prices and interests. Know them well.

Nigerians will always revolve around ethnic groups and regional alliances. Know the country and its peoples, and make very good use of these fleeting conclaves. They are valuable resources to exploit for the vision and agenda of the presidency.

There is no national interest wherever you look, but it is important to pretend that it is the only reality to which the government is committed, and unwavering.

There are the media and their sponsors. Know them. Almost every story and article is either from our own people or from their own people. Their own people relentlessly sponsor attacks against us. Be aware. Read and study their ways. Enemies are enemies and they will pay dearly when we strike, in our own time.

Be persuasive and eloquent with your friends, not the masses. Your friends will talk with conviction on your honesty, integrity and incorruptibility. The masses will deride you anyways.

Using the criteria above, President Buhari is seeking the right candidate for the most powerful office.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

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