Abba Kyari’s life of service

Abba Kyari, a man who lived a life of service, died last week, literarily on his feet serving Nigeria, a country we now know from outpouring of emotions, he loved with passion. He had contracted the dreaded corona virus in faraway Germany where he had gone to negotiate power generation contract with Siemens. Without knowing he was infected, his last outing was presiding over a board constituted to prevent the spread of the deadly virus in Nigeria.

Oh death the leveller, before whom “sceptres and crowns must tumble down; on the dust be equal made”, if only your fresh harvests could know what friends and foes alike think of them after death especially in our country where mourning often takes the form of elaborate celebration of both legacies of great deeds and repellent misdeeds, perhaps departing would have been less agonizing.

While alive, Kyari, according to the media which possess awesome power to create and reduce celebrities to nonentities, saints to fiends, symbolized everything that was wrong with Nigeria: dysfunctional federal centre, resistance to fiscal federalism, the stumbling block against restructuring, Fulanisation and Islamisation conspiracy theories etc. He was the punching bag for disgruntled and marginalized Nigerian ethnic nationalities.

With the president’s directive that public officials, ministers, elected governors, ambassadors, top career civil servants and National Assembly members must pass through his Chief of Staff, those who regarded Abba Kyari as the de facto president held him responsible for injustice, lopsidedness of appointment, instability and social imbalance in the country.

He was a victim of many unproven allegations including alleged N500m MTN bribe and the commercialization of the Boko Haram insurgency war following his alleged stoppage of military arms procurement already approved by the president. Kyari never defended himself. Neither did anyone defend him. The media did not even try to investigate.

It only became obvious after his death last week that neither Nigerians nor the media that could not agree on the date of his birth knew anything about an enigma called Abba Kyari. Channels TV claimed he was born in 1952, TVC 1949, and Leadership 1948 while Punch said he was 81 years old! Despite being very conspicuous as a former managing director of UBA and an editor of defunct Kaduna based The Democrat and chief of staff to the president in the last five years, he remained anonymous until his death in the service of the nation.

But one man who knew Kyari intimately is President Buhari, his principal and buddy of 40 years. Unveiling his friend last week, Buhari, in a tribute titled “TO MY FRIEND, MALLAM ABBA KYARI, told Nigerians that Kyari who he said “was made of the stuff that makes Nigeria great was the very best of us”. He said unlike his detractors, Kyari “never sought elective office for himself. Rather, he set himself against the view and conduct of two generations of Nigeria’s political establishment – who saw corruption as an entitlement and its practice a by-product of possessing political office.”

And admitting by inference for the first time that the buck stops at his table, President Buhari had said of his “loyal friend and compatriot for the last 42 years, working, without fail, seven days each and every week”, Kyari acted forcefully as a crucial gatekeeper to his presidency. With dependable and loyal gatekeepers like Kyari, those who describe the president as ‘Baba go slow’ can now understand why a President whose style of administration is “delegation by abdication”, was sometimes missing in action or went asleep at some critical periods such as during the herdsmen’s mindless killing across the middle belt region or an attempt to illegally establish RUGA colony in Benue State without the consent of the governor.

It must also be observed that Kyari was un-obstructive. Operating in complete anonymity, he did everything his own way. He even chose where to die, by opting for First Cardiology Consultants, a biosecurity-compliant facility, Ikoyi, an approved COVID-19 centre instead of making himself centre of attention in Lagos State or the federal ministry of health battling with increasing number of COVID-19 patients.

Abba Kyari was also a process man. If there was non- compliance with President Buhari’s directive of “strict observance of the social distancing rules as prescribed by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), safe hygiene practice as advised by relevant local authorities, that was not his own making as that happened after his death.

And if he was not buried according to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control guidelines, a big concern for Abuja residents, Kyari was not responsible for what happened after his death. In any case Dr. Mohammed Kawu, acting Secretary, Health and Human Services of FCTA has taken responsibility by assuring Nigerians that mourners who were not well kitted would be rounded up for isolation so that necessary test could be conducted on all of them to ensure they do not contaminate others.

With Kyari’s death, his detractors including leaders of ethnic nationalities such as Afenifere, Ohanaeze, the Middle Belt Forum, party members, ministers and social media terrorists, our insensitive, self-serving National Assembly members will now have to look for a new scapegoat. He had waged his last battle against the National Assembly when he wrote them a letter over their 17 days paid leave ostensibly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 only to refuse to be screened at the airport on their return from Corona virus-invested Europe and USA.

With Kyari’s death, the war is over. Many have now seen the light. The president’s wife, Aisha who led the crusade to free her husband from a cabal allegedly led by Kyari has offered her sympathies to the Kyari family and prayed God to forgive his sins. For Lawan, the Senate President, Kyari “was a man of deep convictions and courage, who understood his role and performed it with uncommon dedication” and for Femi Gbajabiamila, his counter-part in the Lower House, “Nigeria had lost a patriot in the person of Kyari”.

For Obasanjo “Abba Kyari’s death must be painful to Buhari” while Tinubu, Obasanjo’s sparring partner, wants Buhari “to take solace in the fact that he died in harness, in the service of his country,”; Atiku was “saddened by the death of Buhari’s Chief of Staff,” while Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, described Abba Kyari as “a forthright, seasoned and remarkable administrator”. For Malami, the “death of Kyari, a paragon of virtue, patriotic citizen, flung him into deep pain and agony”. Even the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) believes “Kyari sacrificed his life in service to motherland” while the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) spoke of “passion and integrity of a patriot who wished nothing but progress for his country”. Wike who described Kyari “as a patriot, trustworthy, humble and caring leader”, believes “he contributed immensely to the development of the country”.

Others who are celebrating Kyari in death include Atedo Peterside, the ANAP Foundation COVID-19, Soludo Chukwuma, James Ibori, Adamawa’s Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, the leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the president of African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, OPEC Secretary General among many others.

With his celebration by erstwhile political detractors and the Nigeria media that once demonised him, just one week after death, Abba Kyari was probably a man greatly misunderstood man by Nigerians.

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