Abba Kyari and the politics of new Chief of Staff?


THE death of Malam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari has once again opened another round of struggle in the administration.Kyari, often referred to as “the red cap chief” died in a private hospital in Lagos after being declared COVID-19 positive. With underlying illnesses, he could not win the battle against coronavirus.

During the about five years he held sway, he fought many battles with some other aides and appointees of his principal. Most of the battles were fought in cold blood.

With his exit, President Buhari is faced with another “crisis” of selecting his new Chief of Staff. Anyone close to the President will know that the situation at hand presents one of those scenarios the President had tried to avoid because of the political backlash that is associated with it.

The President has been accused of being clannish and even described by some of his critics as a religious bigot who only surround himself more with people of his ethnic extraction and Islamic faith.

The position of the Chief of Staff goes beyond political considerations because the person to occupy the position that was made very popular and powerful by the late Mallam Kyari must not only be conversant with the direction of the government, the person must also be a known and intimate person to his boss.

Some critics have said that there is going to be internal crisis between the first family under the control of the First Lady, Dr. Aisha Buhari and the alleged cabal within the Presidency in the choice of who becomes the Chief of Staff. While the members of the kitchen cabinet of the President described as the cabal would want to have firm control in the choice of Malam Kyari’s successor, the First Lady would not want a repetition of what happened before when she bitterly complained that her husband’s administration had been hijacked by a cabal.

Despite the view and interests of anybody, President Buhari is the person that has the final say in this matter. He might decide to retain his pattern of selecting his personal aides from his clan, tribe or religion.

He might also decide to surprise Nigerians by being ethnic conscious and move outside his northern zone to choose his Chief of Staff. One thing that is paramount in the choice he will make is that he needs someone that not only knows the mission and vision of his administration, but also one that is an embodiment of uprightness who will tell him the true state of affairs.

Already, some personalities have been mentioned as possible replacement of Malam Kyari.

Babagana Kingibe
One of the names that has appeared prominently is Ambassador Babagana Kingibe. He is a diplomat who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 1995, Minister of Internal Affairs from 1995 to 1997, Minister of Power and Steel from 1997 to 1998; and Secretary to the Government of the Federation from 2007 to 2008. He has been acting as chief of staff since Kyari left the scene.

Some have argued that his choice may not get the blessings of the first family as he is viewed as another strong-willed character that would wield a big influence on the President, if selected.

Adamu Adamu
Another person that his name has also been mentioned as a possible replacement of the late Chief of Staff is the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu. He is said to be an inner member of President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet and one that has an unfettered access to the President. For some Adamu does not belong to any group in the presidency and is seen as a one man cabal.

Hameed Ali
Another name that has featured prominently is the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (retired). It was rumoured that he was the President’s choice in 2015 before the equation changed.

Ali was a patron of the Presidential Campaign Committee set up by the First Lady in the 2019 election. This presupposes that he is a close member of the first family.

But one of the huddles that he might face is his uncompromising stance. He, like Adamu Adamu appears to be a one man squad that could hardly succumb to manipulations

Yahaya Ahmed
Another name that has also been mentioned is Alhaji Mahmoud Yahaya Ahmed, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, under the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan. Although, it’s not yet clear the characters behind the Bauchi state born politician, some analysts have said that he may not be trusted by power brokers in the present political configuration.

Senator Abba Ali
Senator Abba Ali is also considered as one of the very good hands for office of the Chief of staff to the president.

Senator Abba Ali is an educationalist and a politician. He was a principal of schools, Chairman local government and senator in 1979.

He’s a strong voice in the northern political strategic structure.

As a senator in 1979, he helped to harmonize the usual frosty relationship between the legislature and the executive.

Senator Abba Ali presently, is a non legal practitioner in Federal judicial Service commission and Chairman African NEPAD.

In July 2019, President Buhari approved the constitution of the 13-member National Governing Council of the African Peer Review Mechanism APRM, naming Senator Abba Ali as its Chairman and Princess Gloria Akobundu as Secretary of Council.

Also from Katsina, Abba Ali is a former classmate of the President and his close friend.

The name of the governor of Kaduna State featured prominently as a possible replacement for the late Abba Kyari before the 2019 presidential election. But whether there is any consideration again of the Kaduna strongman is left for Mr. President alone to decide. The governor has just recovered from the COVID-19 disease. It is not clear if he will leave the governorship of Kaduna, the northern political capital for the CoS office, if considered.

Ibikunle Amosun
Should the President decide to look outside his ethnic sphere, former governor of Ogun State and the Senator representing Ogun Central Senatorial District of Ogun State, Chief Ibikunle Amosun, is one of those that may be selected.

Some have argued that Amosun is a family friend of the Buhari’s and could fit in well as a replacement for the late Chief of Staff

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