THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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At the risk of parodying Fredrick Douglas’ empathic appreciation of Abraham Lincoln’s inability appeasement two racial tendencies, few presidential Aides in the corridors of Aso Rock power have been the victims of fiercer denunciation than President Buhari’s trusted Chief Of Staff, the late Abba Kyari. He was assailed by treacherous political insiders not content with holding the short end of the governance stick; he was assailed by opposition political outsiders violently nostalgic about their golden past time; he was assailed by self-aggrandizing revisionists bent on a radical reordering of the subsisting geo-political and socio-economic order of things; he was assailed by dissolute terrorizing irredentists singing secessionist tunes and beating the drums of war in the guise of diligent pursuit for ethnic self-determination; he was assailed for being unquestioningly loyal to his Principal; and he was most bitterly assailed for availing himself as his Commander-In-Chief’s indefatigable body armor –taking the shorts from both enemy and friendly fires.
Not even Major Hamza El-Mustapha, the ruthless, ‘killer’ Chief Security Officer, CSO to the late Military Tyrant General Sani Abacha, attracted half as much odium (for his de facto role in advancing that Junta’s anti-people and anti-democratic agenda), as did Buhari’s late Chief Of Staff, Kyari, merely for doing his Chief Of Staff job as diligently as the textbooks of Master-servant relationship recommend. Even some of us journalists had excused El-Mustapha’s sins with the advocacy that he was the quintessence of the diligently loyal Aide who was justified to use any necessary means to secure his Principal. And we still, in fact, praise even the obnoxious ‘legend’ of Abacha’s ‘infamous’ defender-in-chief, namely his Minister for Special Duties, the late Wada Nas as one of the best examples of Principal-Aide-relationship.
Plus, even us, journalists -so called ‘watchdogs’ of the society- have always arrogated the professional right to take political appointments as ‘media advisers’ to both badly-behaving democratic leaders or even to democracy-usurping military tyrants, without the slightest prick of journalistic conscience. We are free, temporarily, to assume lapdog roles and to professionally play devil’s advocates even to mind-numbingly-thieving elected governments. We publicly defend their larcenies and their mis-governance, grab as much hay as we can while the sun shines, and when the bazaar is over, we return to our news rooms unscathed and unblemished. In fact with a toga of righteous abandon, we applaud ourselves as we resume the moral high ground as watchdogs of the society. The loudest anti-Kyari journalists today, would still have had no qualms accepting an appointment as Media adviser to the same Chief Of Staff. That is just how rotten we can get!
And what was Abba Kyari’s offence? None of his inveterate haters proudly had the plain-dealing devil’s barefaced villainy to admit that Kyari’s offence was simply that the man whose jugular they have been battling to get a grip at, namely Buhari, trusted Kyari to the marrows, and that Kyari too, was unquestioningly loyal to and protective of his Principal. If Kyari –like the President’s naively-self-destructing spouse, Aisha- had also occasionally laid bare the chink in the armor of his embattled Principal for attack, he would’ve been as ‘good to go’ a ‘patriot’ as Aisha had always been whenever her disgruntlement manifested in imprudent husband-lynching activism that give Buhari’s enemies the verve for their next schemes.
They would never have been courageous enough to admit that their unwarranted rumbling was actually not about Kyari; but about Kyari’s one-of-a-kind feline Principal, Buhari, a cat with a medley of nine illusive lives, and that in fact his late Chief Of Staff was the issue only because he made himself knight marshal in the way of getting at the jugular of the President. And so to justify hanging the Kyari-dog, a bad name had to be given to it. So they said that the Chief Of Staff had constituted himself into a one-man ‘cabal’ controlling the rudder of the ‘ship’ of state and that he was sadistically steering the nation into deeper uncharted waters. They said that owing to Buhari’s infirmity of body and of mind, Kyari was the de facto President and Commander-In-Chief obtaining signatures from a ‘demented’ President to query and to suspend, to hire and to fire, and to approve and to award.
This, they said explained the ‘controversial’ presidential directive issued to the effect that all Ministers thenceforth should see the Chief Of Staff IN LIEU of the President, when in actual fact what the directive ideally said was to see the President THROUGH his Chief Of Staff. And now they said Kyari had finally succeeded in ‘caging’ the President, so that he had turned Buhari into a Xerox-machine of presidential signatures which he exclusively harvested for use in directing, by default, the affairs of the State. Ironically what they failed to logically reconcile was the claim too that they had made, to the effect that the same Kyari who had the President’s mojo to do as he pleased, was also in an unending battle of supremacy with the National Security Adviser, NSA Babagana Monguno. The NSA was the only Kyari-arch enemy that the Media had mock-heroically praised as the one for whom Kyari could not produce a presidential signature. Meaning that the whole story about the late Chief Of Staff being de facto President or the President being unaware of events around him, was a ruse.
Although others again had said that he was not a one-man ‘cabal’ all by himself, but that he was rather a the second of a two-man ‘cabal’ of himself and the President’s uncle, Mamman Daura; and that it was at the footstool of this powerful duo that a mentally-infirm Buhari un-cognizably subjugated, -and prompting his ‘concerned’ wife several times in the past to raise alarm that her husband was being held hostage by ‘special interest’. And although Aisha herself had not specifically alerted to anything particularly earth-shaking other than that she said her husband was being influenced not to reward party loyalists who had contributed to his victory, the whole damn occasional Aisha-tantrum allegedly was a manifestation of the occasional anguish of a grossly underfunded –many said un-funded- ‘First Lady’.
But it was recently we began to hear that not only was Kyari not the one-man ‘cabal’ himself or even a member of the ‘cabal’, but that he was, instead, the cult’s veritable cat’s paw or what Shakespeare would describe as its ‘Johannese-factotum’, the human tool used by the more eminent bona fide members of the ‘cabal’ such as Mamman Daura, Kingibe, Samaila Isah Funtua etc, to pull their political chestnuts out of the fire of a lame Presidency headed by a ‘do-nothing’ Buhari with an occasionally hyperventive wife angling to throw spanner in the works.
Every anti-Kyari gossip at home and abroad claimed that they had Aso Rock sources telling them both the character and exploits of this three-faced ‘cabal’ administered by Kyari; yet even posthumously we are yet to know if Kyari was himself the ‘cabal’, or a member of it or, rather its errand man. Plus we are told that –for all his famed influence- Kyari could not even get away with collecting from MTN a paltry 500 million naira bribe when personal Aides of a Diezani alone under Jonathan were buying $80million yachts and it was as though they had merely bought a keke napep. Kyari’s traducers said that he was brought before a ‘visibly angry’ Buhari in penitent genuflection for a presidential dress down.
And it was around this tales-by-moonlight that the anti-legend was told of a Kyari in the garb of a contrite Robin-Hood lambasted, ironically by an infirmly-minded President who was not supposed to cognize actions around him let alone be troubled by their consequences. Again, ironically, they did not say whether Buhari’s anger was in condemnation of Kyari’s moral turpitude for taking a bribe or that it was in remonstration of his self-abasing condescension for collecting so little. Because, we remember that they had also alleged that in addition to being his Principal’s paradoxical servant-exploiter, Kyari was also Buhari’s man Friday and that he collected bribes and kickbacks for his mentally non-cognizing President.
Or they will tell you that Kyari who allegedly had at his disposal the entire contract-awarding machinery of the Federal Government, had duped his own relative N29 million on a failed contract award promise. Meaning, ironically again, that the same Chief Of Staff who doubled as de facto President, and who controlled the ‘fats’, treasures and endowments of the land, and one who could dip his hands in the nation’s exchequer without due process, ironically was also so destitute he had to fleece his unsuspecting relatives ten and two pence to get by. ‘Idan ma’fadi wawa ne’, the Hausas say, ‘tau ma’jiyi ba wawa ba ne’! Meaning: ‘If the teller of a tale is a fool, the hearer of it must not also be foolish’. It is either kyari was the de facto president and therefore had everything at his disposal or he was a church-rat utility Chief Of Staff who had to nibble around the lean pockets of his unsuspecting relatives to make ends meet; and if so, then such a one could not have been your problem –whatever that was.
Needless to answer the question that of recent they ask: ‘what are Kyari’s legacies as Chief Of Staff? Because Chiefs Of Staff help their principals create legacies. They do not have special legacies of their own. And since they said that Kyari was the de facto President, it is preposterous then to ask: ‘what are his legacies?’ Every legacy of the Buhari Government, logically, is Kyari’s. If you insist that on his ‘cabalistic’ shoulders rested the Government, dare you not then deny that Kyari was the cause of the Buhari legacies, -and that is no matter how few of those legacies you are willing to admit there are.
By the way, it is needless proving those legacies especially to bigots so deeply eaten by ‘popular prejudice’ that even when –in the nearest future- they should drive on the 2nd Niger Bridge, they’ll deny that it exists!