A Prayer for Chief of Staff, ‘General’ Abba Kyari

Mallam Abba Kyari

Bamidele Olaniyan

One of the key challenges of governance in Nigeria and the rest of Africa has been the failure of different agencies of government to operate with cohesion. Since the return to democracy in 1999, the Nigerian public sector has appeared to Nigerians as a visionless conglomerate with disparate units and organs working at cross purposes. It is often widely considered to be peopled by individuals that have only one goal: “grab as much of the national cake as possible.”

The above continues to stifle the seamless distribution of the ‘dividend of democracy’, with the Presidency, the political arm of the public sector, coming against a backlash of criticisms and angst from Nigerians over the state of the nation.

Nigeria has witnessed bizarre and comical incidents from the Presidency over the years. From multiple positions on similar issues to unclear directives on key policies, the drama was endless. More often than not, the decisions that emanated from the Presidency were likened to being akin to the Biblical case of “The hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob”. Nigerians were just not certain of what or whom to believe.

Essentially, the operations of the Presidency rest on the shoulders of the Chief of Staff. The occupant of this position should be the force driving strategy, performance and good governance in Nigeria. Even though the office of the Chief of Staff to the President has been in existence since our return to democracy in 1999, the nation has struggled to have a unifying and visionary individual man the position.

Having overcome banana peels that claimed previous Chiefs of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari now has another opportunity to raise the bar of governance. Former Chiefs of staff balked at the enormity of the role; failing to provide a shield and wise counsel to the Number One on critical issues. They would fall prey to unending political maneuvering which always left unassailable consequences. Kyari should immediately move to control the narrative emanating from the Presidency to pave the way for cohesion and collaboration.

Kyari’s role is akin to that of a General in the Army. The troops look to their general for vision, strategy and stability. Even the Kings in ancient Kingdoms looked to their generals for insight, guidance and strength. President Muhammad Buhari needs ‘General Abba Kyari’ to inspire a new direction in managing the dynamics of governing the world’s most populous black nation.

There’s no doubt that Kyari and his handlers have to place high premium on bringing stability to the Presidency. The principle of ‘one Presidency’ cannot be overemphasized. Many reports and commentaries have described Kyari as being “taciturn and introverted”. ‘General’ Abba Kyari will have to shed the garb of docility and protect the Presidency from the whims of “power grabbers and political influencers”.
There are myriads of issues that need the urgent attention of the President. How these issues are presented in the right order of priority, importance and relevance should be the focus of Kyari.

President’s Buhari’s second term is by extension Kyari’s platform to inspire the emergence of a Presidency that is much more than fighting corruption; a Presidency that is focused on rallying all Nigerians behind a common goal. Nigeria’s well-being can only be guaranteed when we begin to build strong institutions that are empowered to critically address business, leadership, governance as well as all the issues that tend to divide the nation along ethnic lines. ‘General’ Abba Kyari, the ball is in your court. We pray that you will rise to the occasion.

–––Olaniyan, a good governance advocate is based in Lagos